Imus Blew it Twice

Would Don Imus’s fate be different if he’d apologized right away?

If you screw up, fess up fast. That’s the rule.

Imus said his racist crap (stuff I heard in the ’50s and ’60s, come on) a week ago Wednesday. “Nappy-headed ho’s” about the Rutgers womens basketball team. The next day, on the air, he treated his screwup lightly, wondering what’s the big deal was about “some idiot comment meant to be amusing.”

It takes a little while for light to seep in. One of the most important services any of us can provide our clients is to penetrate the insular world of people who think alike and are too afraid of noncomformity to challenge one another. Somebody around Imus needed to say “You said what?” He apparently needed help understanding what an offensive fool he’d become.

A day later, it was too late — people were outraged, understandably, and possible remedies for Imus and his employers became limited to severe options.

Had he said right away, right after saying that crap, “Oh, man, that wasn’t me, that wasn’t funny, I’m so sorry to perpetuate that idiot stereotyping,” or something, would it have helped? Or even the next, day, say he’d played it back in his head and realized how inhumane and hurtful his lame attempt at humor was. But it took him two days to apologize, and then he couldn’t apologize enough to save himself.

Would he be behind the mike today if he’d jumped on his own mistake? What do you think out there?

BTW, Barack Obama’s calling for Imus’s firing and saying Imus’s words show the harmful stereotyping that burden his two daughters makes the transgression more clearly understandable, more personal than political. And that’s a pretty good way for a leader to behave (I’ve had an Obama ’08 bumper sticker on my car for months). Flaps like this, where someone says out loud what a lot of people are thinking, reveal where we really are as a society and help us surface the dark tides many still feel — and maybe help us understand and change things. Maybe.


11 thoughts on “Imus Blew it Twice

  1. Kelly Groehler says:

    Imus is apologizing for who he is. Rightly so, but self-flagellation and profuse apologies don’t change his character.

    Browse the comments from JL’s previous post. More people are saying what they think – but are they really thinking when they speak? But outrage isn’t the answer, either – action is. Turn off the radio; drop the stock. Take away their relevancy and their checks. It’s unfortunate, but it’s where it’ll hurt the most.

    Imus and Anne Coulter pretty much embody that which has prevented American culture from evolving. We’re so much better than this, but why can’t we get there?

  2. Cindy K says:

    Imus is a jerk.

    It seems as though we’re missing the epicenter of the problem – gangsta rappers and the recording industry. They’re getting a free pass from all of us. Wonder why.

  3. Dave Jackson says:

    Beyond Imus’ own delay in responding, how about the “test the wind direction” actions of his networks? His two-week suspension, rather than outright firing, forced advertisers to seal his fate. Imus’ network partners come out of this looking as bad as he does.


  4. Malaprop says:

    Check out the Dick Cavett commentary in today’s Times.

    Don’t read this as a defense of Imus by any means, but just as “we get the government we deserve” don’t we “get the media we deserve”?

    Rush, Imus, Coulter, others of that ilk have huge audiences apparently. Advertisers want the audience, so they basically subsidize what is often pretty darn close to hate speech. (Great comment by someone quoted in the Times I think. “If the FCC won’t adjudicate this, the market will.” ) So apparently the masses tune in, amused by the dangerous provocation and just hoping hoping hoping somebody goes spectacularly over the edge. … Hey, I think I just figured out why NASCAR racing is so popular.

    I’ve been really amused by the notion that Imus is going to “change his style” in the wake of this debacle. Don Imus morphs into Ira Glass. That would be interesting.

  5. Imus screwed up. I’m on to a separate issue: Who is Al Sharpton to be calling for Imus’ head? He’s still on the radio and regularly on TV despite his “special” comments about Jews — unless I’m just naive and that’s another one of those urban-legend, over-inflated “Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet” stories.

  6. Lurker says:

    This is too much! Do any of you listen or watch Don Imus. He may not be a genius, but he is an intelligent human being who rubs shoulders with some of the country’s best and brightest individuals. Does he have his own views? Of course he does. Did he go to far when he slipped up on air in an obvious blunder? Absolutely. This guy is not living some hackneyed racist lifestyle. When his one remaining lung gives out he’ll likely gain access to his Heaven because of all the good he’s actually done with the and his faith in people. His opinions may seem louder or be more public because he has a stage that gives him access to masses of people. But one mistaken comment doesn’t make him a racist. Which one of us hasn’t had a synapse of thought or utterance of some derogatory comment about a class of citizenship and then thought, “Oh, I shouldn’t think/say that.” Seems to be humorists tend to find themselves on the hot seat more frequently because it IS the nature of their work. To walk that fine line, to challenge thinking, to prompt reaction.

    He blew it. Apology accepted, Imus. Let’s move on.

  7. jmaustin says:

    We do exactly get the media we deserve. CBS Radio and MSNBC would have simulcast paint drying, opera or the House of Lords if it pulled the audience numbers Imus did. After a suitable period in the wilderness, somebody will be willing to give him a job if he wants one and – if he pulls big numbers again – he will be back.

    One of the things I like least about capitalism is that it encourages us to equate economic accomplishment with other forms of achievement. There is no exchange rate between wealth and morality.

    – Jon Austin

  8. Susan says:

    At the risk of sounding a little naive, I was surprised that Imus got fired. He’s an antiquated old man and there are plenty of “shock jocks” who say racist, sexist, demeaning things just like him.

    I personally don’t care if I never see his curmudgeonly, wrinkled, old face again on television or hear his right-winged banter. Bring on Howard Stern and the half naked women who parade endlessly around him in his studio to cat calls and sexist slurs. Now, THAT’s not damaging society in the least, right?

  9. Where did forgiveness and “people who live in glass houses shoudn’t throw stones” go? I guess some things are just unforgiveable, huh?

    As someone who speaks in front of an audience pretty regularly, I say about five things a minute I wish I hadn’t said. Anyone else ever regret saying something?

    What the Imus affair really shows, as was pointed out by Mike above in his comment about Al Sharpton, is that there is no lack of self-righteousness in the world.

  10. patrickmcgee says:

    Fess up when you mess up is wearing out. it was effective when it was original, but when the media started analyzing how a celebrity constructed an apology offensive, the magic turned into an old trick. The best defense, of course, will remain avoiding the mess in the first place. Easier said than done.

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