Radio jock Don Imus' comments last week regarding the Rutgers women's basketball team were deplorable, there's no arguing that.
However, the notion that he should quit or be fired over those remarks is questionable.
While I'm not defending Imus for comments — not worth repeating here — during a segment on his radio show, I am a little confused over the outrage coming from the likes of the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and several more who want the man fired, including The National Association of Black Journalists.
Sure, the above-mentioned individuals and groups have spoken out against gangsta-rap stars and the record labels that profit from such "art" — where rap stars refer to women as much worse on a regular basis in music marketed to impressionable young consumers — they never persist to the point where they say Snoop Dog or Diddy or Jay-Z or Russell Simmons should be fired.
Never. And why is that?
And notice how most of the ire about the Imus incident is directed at Imus himself, and not his longtime radio producer Bernard McGuirk. Is that because McGuirk — when he went on to call the game "jigaboos versus the wannabes" — was quoting from Spike Lee's "School Daze," and any uproar directed at McGuirk would be an indictment on one of the country's leading black directors?
I guess we'd have to go to the film archives and excise that scene and speech from all future printings of the film, and a nationwide call to burn any existing copies would be initiated. We'd have Spike Lee VHS bonfires at Blockbusters everywhere.
Imus might be a loud-mouthed jerk — and he most certainly should be punished with either a fine or a suspension, or both — but to be fired would be such a double standard as to only be described as reverse racism.
Sharpton, on his radio show Monday, commented in his opening monologue that what makes Imus' remarks even more deplorable is the fact that he said them on a "mainstream" radio program that features the likes of senators, presidential candidates and evening news anchors.
Is that to suggest that Don Imus should be more responsible than a rap artist or the people who profit from rap music that prominently features mysogynistic lyrics?
For Imus' part, he appeared on Sharpton's radio show Monday, and did not try to defend his remarks. He admitted that what he said was not funny and was wrong.
Sharpton told him to his face that he should be fired. Maybe he should be, but let's face the real facts here. The only thing that will get Imus fired is a decline in ratings, and thus a decline in advertiser revenue for both MSNBC and WFAN radio, the CBS-owned station that produces his daily program.
And until the marketing and proliferation of hate ceases to be profitable, its purveyors will stay employed and in the lap of financial luxury for many more years to come.
It's only a matter of time before Howard Stern's porn stars and lipstick lesbians make their way back to terrestrial radio, as the raucous duo of Opie and Anthony have done after they were banished to unregulated satellite radio airwaves only to make a triumphant (read: profitable) return recently.
To wit, some of the funniest moments in both of the above-mentioned shows are the ones that push the envelope right up to that tipping point, where you can't believe your ears.
The irony is hate is entertaining. It's funny, and Imus has made a long, successful career from it. It's been a long time since the world of big media was Mr. Roger's neighborhood.
And I'm not talking about Eddie Murphy's racy (and racist) "Saturday Night Live" take on that neighborhood either. Then again, his was much funnier, wasn't it?