I have never been a fan of Don Imus. I don't like his show. I particularly have disagreed with some of his political points of view in the past. I don't like the way he makes fun of people. In short, I confess that I simply do not like him. However, the fact that I don't like him gives me no reason to call for his removal from the airwaves. Like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, both radio talk-show hosts with whom I vehemently disagree, Imus has every right in the world under the first amendment to have a show on the public airwaves and to say anything he wants. I am an ardent defender of the first amendment. I believe freedom of speech is the bedrock freedom of our society in America. This includes everything from political disagreeements to calling political leaders various names in mocking humor.
However, I also believe that freedom of speech entails a certain level of responsibility. If you are speaking to an audience of millions, you need to show some wisdom not only in what you say but also in how you say it. If you are going to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre, you'd better be prepared to accept the consequences if people get hurt in the rush to get out.
Which brings me back to Don Imus. On his show last Wednesday morning, he made fun of the Rutgers University Women's basketball team by saying first:
"That's some rough girls from Rutgers," Imus said. "Man, they got tattoos ... ."
He then followed up that comment with: "That's some nappy-headed hos there, I'm going to tell you that."
Finally, his producer Bernard McGuirk said, made reference to a Spike Lee movie and characterized the game as being between the "jigaboos and the wannabees."
Here's where the consequences come in. This is nothing short of hate-filled, racist speech. It is not tolerated except in the very sleaziest of places in our society such as Klan meetings, and back room conversations in the South (or North for that matter). And, so I believe that Don Imus and Bernard McGuirk ought to be summarily fired for this outburst. Other radio talk show hosts have been fired for less. I don't care how popular Imus is. I don't care how much money he makes for CBS Radio. I believe these comments are totally unacceptable for the public airwaves.
For a complete video of the episode last wednesday see this link: