Fall of Imus

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Media Matters gets a well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

Behind the Fall of Imus, A Digital Brush Fire - WSJ.com
At 6:14 a.m. on Wednesday, April 4, relatively few people were tuned into the “Imus in the Morning Show” when Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women's basketball team as “nappy-headed ho's.”

Ryan Chiachiere was. A 26-year-old researcher in Washington, D.C., for liberal watchdog organization Media Matters for America, he was assigned to monitor Mr. Imus's program. Mr. Chiachiere clipped the video, alerted his bosses and started working on a blog post for the organization's Web site.

As a free speech absolutist, I'm slightly ambivalent about the whole dustup, though racist talk has no place on the public airwaves. Imus has a long history of saying inflammatory one-liners: that's why so many advertisers underwrote his show, right? Oh, wait, P&G had no idea what Imus said in previous years, they only payed attention to viewership numbers. Or so they claim.

Mr. Imus, who didn't respond to repeated calls seeking comment, had for years been making outrageous and frequently crude remarks about risky subjects such as race, sex and gender, a style that millions of listeners had embraced. The media executives and advertisers profiting from Mr. Imus's popularity stood by him as protests occasionally surfaced. They usually subsided after a few days.

Senior NBC executives arrived at work on Wednesday to a flood of advertisers clamoring to pull their money from “Imus in the Morning.” General Motors Corp., American Express Co., and GlaxoSmithKline PLC all followed P&G's lead. American Express's CEO Kenneth Chenault, an African-American, made the decision personally on Tuesday morning, says a spokeswoman for the financial giant.

At Sprint Nextel Corp., CEO Gary D. Forsee heard about the incident and agreed the spots should be pulled. Sprint employees had lobbied for the move, including members of an African-American Sprint employee group called the Diamond Network, says spokesman Chris Doherty. Sprint publicly confirmed its decision Wednesday.

Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of North American vehicle sales, service and marketing, had been an occasional guest on Mr. Imus's program, appearing as recently as last Thursday. Over the years Mr. LaNeve had arranged for GM to donate vehicles to Mr. Imus's ranch for sick children. On Tuesday, as advertisers were beginning to pull out, GM said it had “no plans to make any changes at this point.” A day later GM changed its mind. Yesterday, Mr. LaNeve and another top marketing executive decided to drop the ads altogether.

Kudos to Media Matters for bringing national attention to the incident. Perhaps one of the myriad inflammatory remarks the vulgar pig-boy Rush Limbaugh utters will catch media attention with the same resonance.

In fact, Media Matters posted this yesterday:

On April 11, NBC News announced that it was dropping MSNBC's simulcast of Imus in the Morning in the wake of the controversy that erupted over host Don Imus' reference to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” The following day, CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves announced that CBS -- which owns both the radio station that broadcast Imus' program and Westwood One, which syndicated the program -- has fired Imus and would cease broadcasting his radio show. But as Media Matters for America has extensively documented, bigotry and hate speech targeting, among other characteristics, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity continue to permeate the airwaves through personalities such as Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Michael Smerconish, and John Gibson.

Fire 'em all - let them start their own radio network of racist assholery. If I were an advertising manager for any show that broadcasts these Rethugs, I'd be a little nervous.

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1 Comment

I'm torn about the firing too. Not because it wasn't justifiable, but Imus was hardly the worst perp in this regard, and at least he balanced his locker room schtick with huge swaths of uninterrupted--and at times important--chit chat with politicos and members of the pundit class. Others with ZERO redeeming qualities (Beck, for instance) get away with racist quips daily. Of course Beck's audience is tiny compared to Imus's.

Will firing Imus make radio even more boring by eroding the likelihood DJs will take risks on air? Or will it be a positive long-term.


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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on April 13, 2007 9:53 AM.

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