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.