Imus Steps In It Again With Race Comment Controversy

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Yes, he has been back on the airwaves. And now, so is a new racial comment controversy swirling around radio talk show host Don Imus that some suggest is somewhat akin to one that got the broadcast radio talk show giant into hot water and forced to do a series of mea culpas and booted from his CBS radio and MSNBC morning gigs. Imus is insisting people are truly twisting this out of context and distorting his actual meaning. File this one in your Here We Go Again File:

Just months after returning to the airwaves with a pledge to mend the wounds caused by his racist and sexist comment about a women’s basketball team, Don Imus is again drawing fire for injecting race into his radio show.

During an on-air conversation Monday about the arrests of suspended Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones, Imus asked, “What color is he?”

Told by sports announcer Warner Wolf that Jones, who used to be nicknamed Pacman, is “African-American,” Imus responded: “There you go. Now we know.”

The exchange came six months after Imus’ return to work on a new show on WABC-AM following his firing from MSNBC and CBS Radio for making a racially and sexually charged comment about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. When he returned to work, Imus gave a lengthy on-air apology and pledged to use his new show to foster an open dialogue on race relations.

And so a firestorm started to break. And Imus is reacting with a I-never-dreamed-people-would-take-it-that-way comment. The AP reports that he insisted he was only trying to “make a sarcastic point”:

Imus resurrected his radio career six months ago with a pledge to mend the wounds caused by a racist and sexist comment he made about a women’s basketball team.

On Tuesday he said he was following the spirit of that promise by calling attention to the unfair treatment of blacks — in this case the arrests of suspended Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones.

“What people should be outraged about is that they arrest blacks for no reason,” Imus said Tuesday. “I mean, there’s no reason to arrest this kid six times. Maybe he did something once, but everyone does something once.”

He called the flurry of criticism surrounding the comments “ridiculous” and said that his program’s cast is now more diverse than ever — and includes a black producer and two black co-hosts, a man and a woman.

“How insane would I have to be? What would I be thinking?” Imus wondered aloud.

Fair enough. This could conceivably what be what happened — that his critics were lying in wait and sprung saying this was another example of his insensitivity on race. And if you listen to Imus, sarcasm is one of his key verbal tools.

His problem is that, due to to his past comment, readers, listeners and critics read/hear his comments and judge for themselves what he “really” meant based on how they reacted to the last controversy. Was it a blatant sign of racism? Or twisted by some to mean that when he meant the opposite?

But larger issue is this.

Just as former President Bill Clinton has seemingly been unable to grasp early 21st century politics with its new magnifying glass role of You Tubes, the non ending news cycle, blogs examining and writing about every breath or eyebrow shift of anyone in politics, Don Imus seems unable to grasp the new info and PC context in which he now operates.

Politicians and broadcasters can’t assume anymore than what they say won’t be heard — and also interpreted — WAY beyond their immediate audience, whether it’s said to an audience of one reporter or at a fund raiser, or their show. They need to think what they say and make it crystal clear so others understand what they say. Politicians who use code words aren’t going to find it as easy to do it under the radar anymore.

With You Tubes, weblogs and a highly competitive mainstream news media racing to stay the leader in covering the latest controversy (and perceived controversy, or potential controversy) it’s no longer the fact that in effect what’s said in politics or on the airwaves is similar to “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

It’s more like “What happens will get out immediately on the Internet and in constant news cycles and reporters and bloggers will be asking for people who might have been impacted for it for their opinions.” If there are evident seeds of controversy in an assertion, chances are in the 21st century that that controversy will snowball.

Meanwhile, despite Imus’ assertion that he was actually defending Jones, Jones indicated to a reporter that he was not exactly pleased by Mr. Imus’ comments:

Jones told the Morning News: “I’m truly upset about the comments. Obviously Mr. Imus has problems with African-Americans. I’m upset, and I hope the station he works for handles it accordingly. I will pray for him.”

If Imus’ sponsors are upset, Imus might want to try a few prayers, too…

6 Comments

  1. I guess I should say, BigMedia will be throwing Obama some bones in this manner when idiots like Imus do what they've always done: racial slurs

    Expect to see these types of news reports circulating more and more until September 1st. Expect to see shocked and saddened black people responding to such a problem. Expect to see more articles, like yesterday's, about american slavery and the like. We all know the story of how blacks suffered, but little facts of how they were sold by other blacks in Africa to white slavetraders for serious gold will remain out of the light. The last thing BigMedia want so do is remind us of how elite (black) African statesmen back in the day sold other black people to get rich. That the original torture camps for slaves were in Africa before they ever boarded a white ship for the New World. The issue of how slavery originated is a bit more complex that most people want to accept. Also the fact that there was white slavery too escapes everyone's attention; and asian slavery and native american slavery. It's more about rich people exploiting poor than skin color exploiting skin color.

    These Imus-stories help Obama's utilization of his absent father's race to further his political career. You have to cut him a little slack, being raised in a caucasian household, being schooled in an Ivy-League school and being the richest campaigner in US history, he needs to prop himself up with a little “ghetto imagery”. He needs to portray the angst of the american negro slave descendant who struggled growing up in a ghetto from abject poverty against all odds and into the strong and Kingesque candidate he “is” today.

    I haven't been to many slums in Hawaii, but I guess I'll have to take his word for it.

    Don't forget the other side of the racist-coin, the side where someone uses skin color to promote themself without merit. Whites and minorities both do this nowadays. Barack Obama, the dark-skinned caucasian, beat down fellow progressive minority candidates in Chicago with frivilous litigation over petition signatures to exterminate their hopes at running so he could run unopposed for Senate. And he effectively removed voter choice from (disenfranchised) thousands more minorities by running unopposed. He went on in full audacity in that race to run on a platform of….of…”standing up for oppressed minorities.” You'd think that running for president instead of doing some radio show would merit more media coverage of that type of audacious behavior.

    But alas, we'll have to wait until after the August convention vote to formally knock Hillary out of the way before the GOP reveals this most repulsive-to-date aspect of the Obama factor.

    Why is this important? If that needs explanation then no amount of explaining will suffice.

  2. Silly Sill said:
    “We all know the story of how blacks suffered, but little facts of how they were sold by other blacks in Africa to white slavetraders for serious gold will remain out of the light.”

    In the ineterests of fair treatment , I intended to read the comment all the way through, looking for kernels of ratonality amid the nonstop ranting. This sentence, however, immediately put a halt to following through on my intention.

    I can only conclude from your reasoning that the role of gender bias in Hillary's campaign can be pooh-poohed in the light of sexism in countries like Saudi Arabia.

    Good going. You've just destroyed a major basis for empathy that your heroine Hillary might have hoped for.
    I'll return to just scrolling past nonsense in the future.

  3. Joe's angle on the Imus flap seems to be that if someone's words are misinterpreted, it's his own fault.
    That sounds too much like carte blanche for rumor mongering and the dispersal of baseless allegations as some form of truth.
    I don't see how that can be reconciled with the pervasive accusations that the MSM and opinionators are guilty of shallow, unresearched snap judgments.

    Granted that public figures would be well advised to realize that nothing is off limits as grist for the outrage mill, However, taken a bit too far, such caution could land us in a strange new world, where all that was safe to say consisted of robotic, politically pretested and attack proofed statements. Flesh and blood people would no longer be allowed on the scene.

    Instead, I think that reporters and commentators should be held responsible for the propagation of 'video-clip' moments that distort and, sometimes, completely reverse the meaning of the words.
    If reporters have no other role than to record, then why do we need them? The recording part can be accomplished without human intervention.

    Journalists, reporters and commnetators have, or should have, a role that is larger than being recording machines. It's their job, or should be their job, , to research the subject and provide the context needed for the public to interpret the words as properly as possible.

    Having read up a little on Imus's background with minorites (why is that not mentoned?) I think that this having been a racial slur is the least credible interpretation, by far.

  4. I do not believe dude said anything wrong. His comments to me seemed like he expressed disgust in the fact that Adam Jones was arrested 6 times, and that maybe it was because he was African-American.

  5. Whenever Imus makes the news for saying something I always think the exact same thing.

    Don't feed the troll. He's just desperately seeking relevance.

  6. McCain-Imus 2008!

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