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Hannity

Free Speech and Imus Fallout

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," April 13, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Our top story tonight: Imus is off the air.

Some say he is the victim of his own words, but tonight others are asking if he will only be the first victim of a new movement to control what broadcasters say on the airwaves. Who's next, Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz? Maybe even little old me.

Joining us now with more on these chilling developments, civil rights activist Dick Gregory, Bo Dietl, who is a frequent guest on the Don Imus radio program, and radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa on my radio flag ship in New York, WABC.

Bo, you are friends with Imus. When's the last time you spoke with him?

BO DIETL, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: This afternoon, a couple of hours ago. You know, I've been doing the show about 20 years since I retired from the police department. And, Don has become — I don't say it lightly. He's a friend of mine. He's a tough, tough — what's that word, cantankerous —he's like one of those tough — yes, one of those things, too. He's a tough guy. And it's not unusual to be in the middle of a conversation, and he'll hang the phone up on you.

HANNITY: Is he surprised?

DIETL: Yes. You know, what — let's be honest about it. What happened here was CBS dropped the ball on this whole thing, because Bernie was on there, we had Sid in Florida. I listened to it that Wednesday morning. It rolled on.

He didn't intentionally want to say something against these young ladies. And, believe me, the victims are these 10 young ladies that went to the national championship. If he could have thought what he was saying in a million years, Don Imus would never have said it, because he's the furthest thing from a racist.

But what happens now is there's nobody running CBS Radio. Joel Hollander left a week and a half prior. Nobody's running the ship. All of a sudden, he's doing all kinds of things, instead of having a news conference, which CBS should have, had him apologize initially. Then, Al Sharpton, whose bright idea — I come back from the Bahamas, and he says, "I'm going on the Al Sharpton show." I said, "Don, why? What reason?" He just came out of the woods with the other one.

HANNITY: Let me to Curtis. Curtis, you have had many battles with Al Sharpton over the years. We've talked about his comments, "diamond merchants", "white interlopers." I have a tape — I played it on my radio show today — where he uses the n-word multiple times, calls the mayor of New York a whore. He says white folks were in caves when we were building empires. He talks about, "Greek homos." He says a lot of awful things, and yet he is going to lead the effort to fire him. In a sense, his career has been allowed to go on.

CURTIS SLIWA, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Oh, and as you know, I call him Al "Slim Shady" Sharpton. It's always shady about him. Look at the double standard. All those things you said are correct, but the worst thing he's ever done was the Tawana Brawley hoax, perpetuating it. And that went on for years, dividing the races...

DIETL: Destroyed Pagones.

SLIWA: Destroying Steven Pagones' life, and never has apologized.

HANNITY: Freddie's at 125th, Crown Heights.

DIETL: There's blood there. There's blood there, the 125th Street, the young man that got killed up there? What was that all about?

SLIWA: And he has a habit of appearing on hip-hop and rap shows. The hip-hop, rap crowd calls him Reverend 911, the hip-hop minister. He never chastises them for the use — in fact, you listen to a rap, hip-hop station, they use the word "ho, ho, ho" so much I think it's Santa Claus on the air.

HANNITY: We're going to get back into this. We'll play you a little bit of it later.

DIETL: Well, no, wait a second. He's cleaning it up. He just said him and the other Rev. are going to clean it up.

HANNITY: But he also went out, and he was very specific. He said, Dick Gregory, this is only the first round. Others like Imus are guilty. First of all, Dick, welcome back.

DICK GREGORY, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Thank you.

HANNITY: Do you agree that he [Don Imus] should have been fired? And do you think Al Sharpton, who's been able to go on with his career, using the n- word, we have all the tapes of him, do you think that's appropriate? Should he not have accepted Imus' apology and allowed him to make good on this?

GREGORY: Before we get to that, I'm one of the few people that refuse to use the word "n-word." The word is nigger. And I think America is mature enough to deal with all the problems we have. If someone said, "What did Jesse Jackson say to aggravate the Jews?" He said Heimie-town. They don't say "h." And one day, would the Jews be silly enough to let some Germans who sorry for what Hitler did change the word "concentration camp" to the c-word and swastika to the s-word?

HANNITY: What?

GREGORY: America is mature enough to deal with all our negativities.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Well, we have — Dick, it's Alan. Welcome back to our show. You were on my radio show last night. I pointed out, you wrote a book with that n-word as the title, and you dedicated it to your mother, and said, every time they use that word now, they'll promote my book.

So the interesting thing about maturity — by the way, I just want to get back to you about this Al Sharpton issue. — It's not about Al Sharpton. And Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have paid a price, because neither of them — let me just finish my thought here and give you a chance to respond — have been viable candidates. They've run for office. Jackson's, as Geraldo here pointed out last night, presidential run in '84 was destroyed by the Hymietown remark.

SLIWA: No, it wasn't.

COLMES: Yes, it was. His presidential ambitions were over at that point. Al Sharpton never became a serious candidate, either for mayor of New York or any of the national office, because of the language he's used.

SLIWA: OK, so let's say they are the caustic part of the adversarial people who are inquisitors against Don Imus. The person who emerged was Barack Obama. He is not a Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton, who said, if anyone on my staff used that kind of language, they would be fired. Do you know who his number-one supporter is financially? David Geffen, owns Interscope records. Wait a second...

COLMES: All right, this is not what this is about.

SLIWA: Wait a second, Interscope records.

COLMES: You're changing the topic, though.

SLIWA: Eminem, Timbaland used the n-word 48 times. And Hillary used it to accept all their money!

COLMES: You want to use this as a club to go after Sharpton and after Jackson and after Democrats and after Hillary...

HANNITY: Double standards.

COLMES: ... this is about Don Imus, and this is about free speech.

DIETL: This is about CBS Radio dropping the ball. How about CBS Radio has this guy on a show with me, a board member named Bruce Gordon from the NAACP, saying that he's going to fire Imus. He's a board member. He's not management. I told Les Moonves, how can this guy be talking against Don Imus? He doesn't run the company.

Number two is, they bring my friend, Jesse, and my friend, Al, to the boardroom of CBS and discuss about firing Imus yesterday with these two guys. I mean, this is a little bit...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: Dick Gregory, I don't like, whether it's Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton on the left or whether it's Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson on the right telling me or anybody else what's appropriate. I don't like the left or the right or any special interest group dictating to anybody in the media what's appropriate or not. What do you say?

GREGORY: Well, I think, first, when you get into the type of shock that went on for about eight days with the whole world looking — this was not just national — I mean, this country has never been honest enough to talk about the racism and the sexism until there's a crisis.

COLMES: But was this racist? Was Imus being racist by what he said, in your view?

GREGORY: No, I don't believe it. I don't believe it, and I've said that. I believe if Imus and Bernard took a lie detector test and said, "Are you a racist?" And they said, "No," I believe they would pass it. Now, if they took a lie-detector test and said, "Was there something more behind this than what the world thinks?"

COLMES: What do you think is behind it?

GREGORY: I think it's moving to XM Radio to break his contract.

COLMES: He did this on purpose to break his contract?

GREGORY: A lot of people do things on purpose.

COLMES: You think this was planned? If you hear the tape, it's obvious he's just riffing, talking off the top of his head. He didn't plan this.

GREGORY: I know, I watched him. I was a friend of Lenny Bruce, right? And I know when I'm around some hip white dudes, and they are two of the hippest white dudes in America, and I'm not about to believe that a 60-something-year-old white, hip man, ex-drug addict, ex-alcoholic — we used to call them "be-boppers" — need to hear some young, snotty-nosed punk say "nappy-headed hos," and that's what he heard. I'm not buying that in no shape, form or fashion.

HANNITY: Dick, stay right there. We're going to come back. We'll pick up this debate in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLMES: And we now continue with more on the Don Imus controversy with civil rights activist Dick Gregory, frequent Imus guest Bo Dietl, and radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa.

We just talked about how you talked to Don...

DIETL: One second. I like this Dick Gregory, man.

COLMES: He's legendary.

DIETL: He's cleaner than the board of health.

COLMES: Exactly right.

GREGORY: Oh, cut it out.

(LAUGHTER)

Stop it.

COLMES: Now, look, Bo, you've talked to Imus. You talk to him every day. I know you're a good friend of his. What's going to happen? What do you think — what does he want at this point?

DIETL: You know what? It's from one of the most powerful, influential people in this country — we all know had the senators all lined up, the chairmen of boards of corporations, he had power. He could make and break a lot of people. He makes books number one on the best seller list. Hre's the deal. All of a sudden, from that power, to have that taken away, you've got to give him some time to like simitate, because it was at a boiler point when you get that power. Now, all of a sudden, you don't have the microphone anymore.

COLMES: The word you used was "simitate"?

DIETL: Well, like a pot of water. So what happened...

COLMES: You and Sliwa, between the two of you...

(CROSSTALK)

DIETL: Well, you know, Sliwa and I, we go way back. But I'm going to tell you the truth. I really believe — and everybody says, oh, satellite radio, satellite radio — I don't think Imus would do satellite radio. I think the mainstream radio will be back. Your sponsors are going to come back. It's just too much of a person that's left in him. He's a great interviewer. He's a very smart man. And I really think he's going to be back.

COLMES: You know, the sad part about this Curtis — you're a competitor, but I know that you don't wish him any ill. In fact, you're upset about this as much as anybody else is. He never has an opportunity now to redeem himself, unless, of course, someone else hires him, to get back on the air, to do as he said he would do, which is change the tone of his show, and actually do the thing which, you know, he would not be able to then rectify and move forward. He doesn't have that opportunity now.

SLIWA: Well, you know, as Sean knows, we broadcast from the same station. Although Sean is national, like Imus, I'm just local. I benefit the most by Imus leaving the marketplace, at least in New York, because we pick up a lot of the Imus listeners.

HANNITY: Big time.

SLIWA: But it was wrong, absolutely wrong. And let me tell you something: The president, chairman of CBS and Viacom saying he was doing it because he's concerned what the children listen to, what young people...

COLMES: They weren't listening.

SLIWA: He owns MTV! He owns BET! That's nonstop garbage coming out of their mouth, ho this, ho that.

COLMES: Plus, kids were not listening to Imus, though.

SLIWA: Exactly.

HANNITY: Let me go back to Dick Gregory, if I can. Dick, we're raising the question — for example, the people that were leading the charge here, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, they, over the course of their careers, have been involved in outrageous instances. We know that they've said outrageous things. I raised them before. Al Sharpton himself has used the n-word. He said "diamond merchants." He's used the "white interloper term." Jesse Jackson once admitted to spitting in people's food because of their race, and he said the word Hymietown. But they were forgiven. Their careers went on. Why wouldn't they accept his apology?

GREGORY: I think, eventually, this is going to see forgiveness. You see, if I committed a crime — and I'm not saying this was a crime — if I committed a crime, after the trial, before I'm sentenced, that's when people come and tell you what a wonderful person I was. And I think, as Bo said, it's going to take some time, and it's going to — but let me tell you something that's different that we seem to be missing...

HANNITY: But wait a minute. But you're sort of missing the point about Reverend Jackson and Sharpton. I'm going to ask you a question. Is there a double standard here, for considering all the things that they have said?

GREGORY: When it comes white folks' turn, there's always a double standard when it comes to us, OK?

HANNITY: Well, is there? You're saying white folks?

GREGORY: I did say white folks. That's what I said.

HANNITY: I'm listening. I'm listening.

COLMES: And he's a white folk.

HANNITY: But I'm saying, is it a fair question? A lot of people are saying, wait a minute, who are they to be the moral authority here, based on the incendiary events they've been involved in?

GREGORY: They're the moral authority because of the African-American community. And we got the say thank God for Cathy Hughes, for Dr. Epay Williams when they come together.

Now, let me tell you, I've been out here a long time. This is the first crisis I've witnessed in America where the voices is lower. I've been to meetings. If they had meetings today with over 3,700, nobody was screaming, nobody was yelling. Why?

Because we have black outlets we used to didn't have. We have black radio, where the black people can hear people that they know are talking.

HANNITY: Well, I will tell you this. I have instances of very prominent African-American hosts that have said outrageous things just like Don Imus, and I don't hear people calling for their firing.

Bo, I want to ask you this question. There was, what, a three-hour meeting last night. The press wasn't allowed in.

DIETL: The ladies, the ladies.

HANNITY: The Rutgers basketball team, they came out and they said just wonderful things. They accepted his apology. What did he tell you went on in that meeting?

DIETL: That it was very emotional, that people were crying, Deidre — I mean, it was a lot of emotion. It went on for three hours. And you know what? They didn't decide what to do until today. They actually voted whether they're going to accept the apology.

HANNITY: And they did.

DIETL: Now to go back with this, when this thing happened, all of a sudden, I started getting calls. I talked to Floyd Flake who beat me for the United States congressional seat, who happens to be one of the great African-American leaders in this country, I believe. And then I talked to some ministers from New Jersey and bookers people over there from Newark.

We had a conglomeration of guys ready to go to jump on top of this thing and utilize what he said to fix it and make better from it, instead of ripping apart and throwing him off...

COLMES: And that's what's so sad...

(CROSSTALK)

DIETL: You know what's sad? He's not there. And all we listened to was Sharpton and his buddy there, and we could have made this thing better. And they benefited from it.

COLMES: And the irony is, Bo, that the team forgave him today, and he doesn't have — CBS hasn't. And MSNBC hasn't.

DIETL: And he's out of a job, and we have nothing there.

COLMES: We thank you, Bo. Thank you very much, Curtis. And, Dick, thank you. Nice to see you again.

DIETL: I like this show, I want to come back!

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