Imus Producer Bernard McGuirk Speaks Out

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," April 26, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Welcome to "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Alan Colmes.

And we get right to our top story tonight. The controversy that led to the dismissal of Don Imus began with this exchange on his radio show with his producer, Bernard McGuirk.


DON IMUS, FORMER RADIO HOST: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos.


IMUS: Those are some nappy-headed hos, I'm going to tell you that right now. Oh, man, that's some — woah. And the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute, you know, so — kind of like — I don't know...

MCGUIRK: A Spike Lee thing...

IMUS: Yes.

MCGUIRK: "Jigaboos vs. the Wannabes," that movie that he had.

IMUS: Yes.


COLMES: Well, Imus' former producer and the man heard on that tape, Bernard McGuirk, joins us now for his first exclusive interview since the controversy began.

Bernie, very good to see you again.


COLMES: You, I and Imus worked together at WNBC a number of years ago.

MCGUIRK: We certainly did, a number of years ago. Absolutely. And I want to apologize, Alan, for characterizing you as we do on the program, insult people, characterizing you as looking like a ferret in a suit.

COLMES: No, it's badge of honor honestly.

MCGUIRK: I want to apologize.

COLMES: To be mentioned on Imus' show is a bad of honor.

MCGUIRK: And, by the way, I apologize for not wearing a tie tonight. I mean, if John McCain can announce for president in a sweater...

COLMES: Well, you know what? I'm glad you came with material. That's great. So what happened?

MCGUIRK: Well, you heard what happened. I mean, we were...

COLMES: From your vantage point, what happened?

MCGUIRK: Well, first of all, I want to just say that I'm here to represent myself. I do not in any way speak for Mr. Imus, who, by the way, conducted himself with dignity and class, one of the few people, along with the Rutgers basketball team, the women there.

COLMES: Who, by the way, forgave him, in spite of the fact that his corporate masters did not.

MCGUIRK: His corporate masters and some of the other, you know, the terrorists out there. You know, the mob.

COLMES: Right. Well, we'll get into that, but I'd love to know, from your perspective, how this all came down?

MCGUIRK: Well, I mean, we were just — we were having a discussion on the air, as you heard. And, again, the context is comedy. It's not a serious sports discussion show nor is it "Meet the Press." You know, it's all fun. I mean, that's what we do. We dwell in sort of locker room humor. That's what we did, anyway.

COLMES: And you've been doing it for 35 years, that kind of a show.

MCGUIRK: Doing it for 35 years, and nobody took the brunt of some of the savage humor more than Mr. Imus himself. And so, as I was the bald- headed stooge and he was, you know, pardon my language, a scrotum-faced old dope or whatever it was, and that's just the kind of — you know, in that realm that we dwelled, you know, we would do politics and all of that. But that was one element of the program. So this conversation came up, as you saw, and you just played the tape.

COLMES: At the moment that that happened, now — you actually said the word "ho."

MCGUIRK: That's right. I did say the word "ho." And, again, you know, I mean, it's not a word that people in radio and in the pop culture do not use. You know, it derives from the hip-hop community, and we appropriated it. You know, we're trying to be — or I was trying to be cool.

By the way, I came from the streets myself. I grew up in the South Bronx in a housing project. I drove a taxi at night in the ghettos and Yonkers and the Bronx. And that was my language. My language is a street language. So I'm not some, you know, rich, white kid from the suburbs trying to sound — you know, that's what I did. I spoke that way. I could roll this way, that way, whatever.

COLMES: At the moment that happened, the moment that those few words got said, was there any sense, "Oh, no, this was a mistake"? Or was it only later that this kind of mushroomed and became something other than what it was at the moment that it took place?

MCGUIRK: Well, I think it took off. Mr. Imus apologized and, you know — but then, of course, Al Sharpton got involved. You know, he picked up — he dusted off his bull horn.

COLMES: But what I'm trying to get — at the moment that that took place, though, was there any sense, "We've gone too far"? Or was that not a thought at that moment?

MCGUIRK: At that particular moment, no, no, not at that particular moment. That wasn't — because, again, we engage in this type of humor all the time. And, you know, we have people like, say, renowned authors Mary and Carol Higgins Clark. They would come on the program, and we would refer to them as the Higgins Clark hos, you know, for fun. They'd come on, they'd laugh about it.

So the use of that word — and it's so prevalent in today's society, and it doesn't mean, you know, a woman who is, you know, promiscuous. It's just a pejorative, slang term for a woman. Unfortunately, and, you know, I didn't get the memo that it was elevated to the status or lowered to the status of the n-word. I hadn't gotten the memo thus far.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Bernie, by the way, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on.

MCGUIRK: Thank you, Sean. Thanks for having me.

HANNITY: Appreciate you being here. He apologized. Now, in light of all that's happened, you know, what do you think about what you said in this thing? You've been fired.

MCGUIRK: Well, again, I'm here just to speak for me. And I think, obviously, it was wrong. I mean, I've been doing the same sort of stuff for years, for 20 years. And, you know, I was getting pretty much patted on the back, and encouraged, and re-signed, and re-signed with raises. I had just signed a long-term contract with them. And everything was great. And, you know, the type of humor we engaged in was similar to the Trump-Rosie exchange, animals, fat slob, pig, comb-over creep...

HANNITY: You guys had a few names for me over the — or Imus did ovBarack Obama was getting too much press or something, when somebody jumped in to do that, to get his face. But, you know, then that's when it started to take off in a mob frenzy, in that direction. But before the apology, absolutely, anger was legitimate. The apology was appropriate, and that was fine, you know?

HANNITY: You never spoke publicly about this in any way?

MCGUIRK: No, I didn't, no. No, I haven't.

HANNITY: Do you think you should have apologized to the girls? If you had an opportunity — you have an opportunity now.

MCGUIRK: I would have, sure. I mean...


HANNITY: You can now. Do you want to say anything to them?

MCGUIRK: I apologize. You know, I have a daughter who's an 11-year- old girl. She plays on a basketball team. And if anybody characterized her directly as, you know, the h-word, you know, I'd kick their teeth in, you know, if I saw it happen in real time.

You know, but we dwell in a world of comedy, ridicule. And at that time, it was just an abstract group of women. Of course, in retrospect, that wasn't the case. But, you know, and, again, so the apologies, all of that legitimate and necessary.

But, again, then, afterward, it took on a mob frenzy, a media frenzy. And you had Al Sharpton, who, you know, is the kind of guy who would park in a handicap spot or, you know — this guy all of a sudden is leading the charge, this guy who'd bring a wheelchair to an amusement park so he could jump the lines, because it's all about him. And he...

HANNITY: Well, let me ask you about that, because we were just — in the background, we're showing some of Al Sharpton here. When Imus, in your view, when he went on his radio show — and I confronted him, I recently had a debate with Al Sharpton — really seemed to be begging for forgiveness. And he said it not once, but twice on his radio show, said it was wrong that I did that. I'm sorry. It was hurtful. And I want an opportunity to make this right. And Sharpton wouldn't accept the apology.

MCGUIRK: Right, well, Sharpton — well, first of all, I'm not here to talk about Mr. Imus. He did his thing. He held his head high. And, you know, you can't say enough about, again, the class that he exhibited, alongside the girls of the team.

But Sharpton, of course, you know, being the classless clown that he is, you know, just used the situation, in my humble opinion, to further his own goals, to further himself. And I don't know. The media treated him like he was Nelson Mandela, for God's sakes, you know, without asking him about his past inflammatory comments, this sanctimonious skunk. I mean, you know, he said some horrible things, which you've confronted him on, or you did so last Friday, but nobody else did. They treated him, again, like he was somebody.

COLMES: All right, we're going to take a quick break.



HANNITY: Reverend, in the case of Don Imus, I think you missed an opportunity. And let me say for the record, I don't like Don Imus. I like Curtis and Kuby. I don't listen to Don Imus. I think what he said was deplorable. I think it was despicable. I think it was racist, Reverend.

But he got down on his knees — let me finish. Hang on a second. Let me finish. He got down on his knees, and you're a reverend and a Christian, and he asked you for forgiveness. Now, this is why I think the reverend ought to have given it to him: because of your past.

THE REVEREND AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: You and Sliwa say a lot of things I don't agree with. But if you don't stand on the radio and say it, I have nothing to do with it. We're talking about the use of advertisers. And nothing you claim I said — and most of that, I didn't — had nothing to do with the use of airwaves and advertising.


HANNITY: That was a clip from last week's debate between the Reverend Al Sharpton and myself during his National Action Network conference. We continue with Don Imus' longtime producer, Bernard McGuirk.

You know, he said a lot of outrageous things.

MCGUIRK: He did.

HANNITY: He talked about diamond merchants, white interlopers, white men were in caves when we were building pyramids, Greek homos, all of these things. His career is — and he ran for president.

MCGUIRK: And the white interloper episode with Freddy's market actually led to people's deaths.

HANNITY: In that particular case. Does it now, in retrospect — and this was during a slow news period; this was the news — in retrospect, do you feel angry that this is a double standard, in terms — and especially the fact that it was the Reverend Al Sharpton leading the way here?

MCGUIRK: Absolutely. As I said before, I feel strongly about that, that it's a double standard. And, I mean, we didn't — nobody ever got the memo. They are pop culture terms that I employed that caused me to be dismissed from this company, this company that — you know, they caved to this guy with that record. They acted sort of like the Neville Chamberlains of broadcasting. I mean, they appeased, really, this terrorist here. And it's just — you know, they're almost like free speech surrender monkeys, to borrow a "New York Post"...

HANNITY: Let me ask you this. You were fired. Tell us the story about this. And, interestingly, you had recently just signed a five-year contract. You've used the terms hos how many times in the past?

MCGUIRK: I've used it, as I said before, we've used it — it's just almost — we've used it. We've appropriated it from the popular culture. I mean, if it's morning radio, we're up against, you know, Howard Stern. It's not Garrison Keillor on NPR. Yes, we've used it in the past. I've used it as Cardinal Egan put on the hat and do the bit, be Jesus, to the tune of "My Wild Irish Rose," "My Wild Irish Hos."

HANNITY: Do you want to put the cap on when...


HANNITY: ... the Federal Express box?

MCGUIRK: Oh, but it's true. And, you know, I mean, again, it was all applause. Name of the father, son, the Holy Ghost — aye, man, in the pine box, we want the most, be Jesus. You know, and it was all great stuff. And it was all OK when they're making fun of the Catholic priest altar boy scandal, you know, all that was good.

HANNITY: But we've been saying this all these years, and now you get fired after signing a new contract. How were you told? And what are your plans now? And will you sue CBS?

MCGUIRK: Well, I obviously — I can't speak about that. I mean, I was let go pretty unceremoniously. You know, I received a FedEx package and a terse, one-page note, with no explanation. But, you know, as far as the plans, you know, that's all to be seen, Sean. That's all to be seen.

HANNITY: All right, let me ask you this...

MCGUIRK: But don't forget, though, the milieu that we dwelt it, the morning radio world. I mean, we're very self-deprecating. It was rough.

HANNITY: And in his case, when he added the words "nappy-headed," in that sense — but he did apologize. See, look, I will say this. In my humble opinion, he seemed very sincere, very contrite.

MCGUIRK: Of course he was.

HANNITY: He seemed like he wanted to make it right. He was fired from both jobs when he went to meet with the Rutgers women's basketball team. They accepted his apology.

MCGUIRK: Absolutely. Sure.

HANNITY: I think, considering they were the ones that were the target of the comment, that should have been the end of it.

MCGUIRK: At that point, it was — you know, in my humble opinion, it was all about Al Sharpton. I mean, it got to that stage where they pretty much acquiesced, and surrendered, and appeased Al Sharpton.

COLMES: Speaking of Sharpton, let me ask you this. Look, I don't like — I don't want Al Sharpton on the left or Jesse Jackson on the left or, on the right, I wouldn't want Falwell or Robertson or those guys, I don't want anybody deciding who says what. And as you say, the game keeps getting changed. How do we know what word is acceptable and what word isn't acceptable? It's a gray area that changes on the daily basis. You referred, though, to Sharpton as a terrorist. Do you mean that?

MCGUIRK: Well, I'm just saying — you know, I mean, I think he terrorized — it seemed like — you know, I viewed it from the media perspective, from watching it on TV and reading the paper, as you guys did. It seemed like he terrorized some broadcast executives, that they were, you know, sort of in a fetal position under their desk, sucking their thumbs on their BlackBerries, trying to coordinate their response to him. And, you know, it just seemed that way. I mean, you know, I don't know exactly what went on, but it just seems that way.

COLMES: Would this have happened if Joel Hollander were still at CBS? Would if it have happened if there was not a power vacuum? Because they were between managers, it seemed, and what do you think?

MCGUIRK: I don't know. I don't know. But, I mean, I really have no way of knowing. That could be. But, clearly, you wouldn't want be in a foxhole with some of these — you know, whoever made these decisions. I don't know who it was.

COLMES: You know, I keep hoping — and I mentioned this to you in the break — that some or a couple of executives might say, "You know what? We overreacted. It was the moment. We got impassioned. We really should reconsider this, and let's bring these guys back, and let's all have this dialogue," because with Don Imus and you at the center of this dialogue about race, that's a much more powerful way to address all this happening.

MCGUIRK: No question. I think what happened ended up being very divisive. It wasn't helpful in furthering any sort of, you know, harmony. I think that there are a lot of people that are angry out there. And I think it was counterproductive the way it was handled, and so I agree with you, 100 percent, obviously.

COLMES: And now you've got JV and Elvis, also CBS properties, who are suspended because of a bit that they did. I wonder if you're closely following that and if you have strong feelings about what should happen in that situation.

MCGUIRK: Well, no, I mean, it's like the off-quoted anti-Nazi German pastor who said, you know, first, they came for the Communists, but I wasn't a Communist, so I didn't say anything. Then they came for the Jews, but I'm not a Jew, I didn't say anything. Then they came for the Catholics, but I'm a Protestant. Then when they came from me, there was nobody to speak.

COLMES: Niemoller, that was the guy.

MCGUIRK: Niemoller, right, exactly. And it's the same thing. It seems to be a slippery slope. And, by the way, you know, I'm proud of the work that the show did, that Mr. Imus did, for his ranch, and for advocating wounded veterans causes, and increasing the benefits for them.

COLMES: See, they didn't look at the totality of who he is and what he's done.

MCGUIRK: And charity work. I mean, you know, he was in the middle of a telethon for his ranch for kids with cancer and sudden infant death syndrome and all that stuff. The totality and the context was just apparently glossed over, you know?

COLMES: Have you talked to Don? Have you talked to Imus about this? Have the two of you discussed this?

MCGUIRK: Well, that's between me and — I'm here to discuss to myself, to be honest with you, Alan, so, you know, you can't...

HANNITY: Let me ask you this. I want to just examine the use of this word "ho," which, you know, recently now we've had a debate over rap music in the culture.

MCGUIRK: That's correct.

HANNITY: And, you know, bitches, and hos, and the n-word, et cetera, et cetera. I confronted Al Sharpton. He called the former African- American mayor of New York the n-word and a "whore," and his career went on.


HANNITY: And he ran for president.

MCGUIRK: And he got treated like royalty on these various...

HANNITY: Every presidential candidate is now begging for his endorsement.

MCGUIRK: That's right, including Hillary Clinton, who took $800,000 from Timbaland...

HANNITY: Timbaland, three weeks ago.

MCGUIRK: ... whose music is sprinkled with ho, b-word, the n-word, the — all kinds of degrading — so what are we talking about here?

HANNITY: Well, then that raises the question. You know, are we now at the point — has the bar changed so much that there's no room for any ethnic jokes? Explain how the rules have changed, considering you just signed a contract, and you had said this for years.

MCGUIRK: Exactly. Well, you know, I would like to know. Again, I never got the memo when the h-word was elevated or lowered to the level of the n-word, but I think it's a horrible thing for this country where we can't — people can't poke fun at each other, you know, and just joke around, and, you know, have a good time without fear of being, you know, hammered by the P.C. police or lose your livelihood over it.

HANNITY: But you used a lot of examples, the things you guys said to each other a daily basis. Let me give you an example. Like, I listened to Rosie O'Donnell, and I want Rosie to have free speech. I didn't like what she said, her conspiracy theories about 9/11. I didn't like when she said radical Christianity — I'm a Christian — is the same as radical Islam in this country. She seems to get a pass, too, on all that. She made fun of Asian-Americans. She still kept the job at ABC.

And why is it that we're sort of selective moral outrage? No outrage about Sharpton. Not that much outrage really about Rosie. She doesn't get fired.

MCGUIRK: I'd like to know the answer to that myself. I mean, apparently, you know, the media is going to indulge a guy like Sharpton. They wait for him to pick up his — like I said, dust off his bullhorn, and come out, and they cower, I guess. I mean, I don't think she should have been fired, by the way.

HANNITY: Me neither. I don't think anybody should have been fired.

MCGUIRK: They're going to let her contract elapse and then, you know, take it from there. But to fire somebody...

HANNITY: Let me ask you this. You have a lot of newsmakers on your show on a regular basis, the Tim Russerts of the world, Joe Bidens of the world, the Chris Dodds of the world, a lot of politicians, John Kerry. Very few seemed to support you, but yet they were aware of the humor that was involved in the program. Are you mad at any of these folks?

MCGUIRK: I don't want to get into that. And a lot of them did support us afterwards.

HANNITY: A lot of them didn't.

MCGUIRK: Well, I can name a bunch right now, McCain, Giuliani, Lieberman...

HANNITY: They all did? Kerry?

MCGUIRK: Kerry, so a lot of them did. But am I mad at them? I don't harbor any animosity. I mean, I'm just a guy out there with a family who just all of a sudden was just shaken up, you know...

HANNITY: I want to go back to your background. You grew up in, you said...

MCGUIRK: I grew up in the projects in the South Bronx.

HANNITY: ... projects in the South Bronx.

MCGUIRK: The James Monroe houses in the boogy-down South Bronx, as we say.

HANNITY: So, in other words, strong language — let me put it that way — was not new to you in your life.

MCGUIRK: Not at all.

HANNITY: I've spent a lot of time with you tonight. You know, what you kept saying to me over and over again was, "We wanted to bash everybody." And, by the way, and Imus would shoot at me, not that I care, or, you know, Alan or any of us.

MCGUIRK: We based everybody and anybody, including ourselves, including the network we worked on.

HANNITY: So you used to get to made fun of a lot.

MCGUIRK: MSNBC, their slogan should have been, "We report, you decide not to watch."


The biggest thing on MSNBC was Rita Cosby's butt. I mean...

COLMES: Oh, come on.


MCGUIRK: I'm giving you an idea.

COLMES: We have to ask you to leave now.

MCGUIRK: That's the kind of — you know, there's many, many, many other examples, because, I mean, we made fun of southerners.

COLMES: He would make fun of his own background.

MCGUIRK: Southerners, right.

HANNITY: He'd make fun of himself.

COLMES: And he's from Oklahoma. He's from...

MCGUIRK: Exactly. The Daytona 500 was the In-breeders Cup. I mean, it was just — but everybody laughed.

COLMES: You'd make fun of him, as you point out.

MCGUIRK: People laugh at that stuff. The P.C. police are here, and they shut it down. You know, I mean, people need laughter in their lives.

COLMES: First of all, I hope you reunite with Imus some place where you can all have another home and a platform to continue doing what you were doing and then have this dialogue. But here's what concerns me. Even if you had continued on CBS and MSNBC, would there have been such a monkey on your back in that you would be worried about, "What do I say? Can I do this? Can I do that?" Or would it have automatically been a much tamer show because of what you had gone through?

MCGUIRK: Well, a hypothetical, I mean, sure, we would have been more, you know, more judicious in our use of street slang, no question about it. But, you know, I guess, perhaps, it would have — of course we would. I mean, whatever the conventional rule is, we would follow it, of course. I mean, nobody uses the n-word. You just don't do that. But b's and hos, I mean, we're just try — what am I going to say, dames?


MCGUIRK: You know, those are some tough dames, man. What am I supposed to do?

COLMES: Like "Guys and Dolls."

MCGUIRK: I mean, we're competing in a marketplace. I mean, and everybody got it. The Dixie Chicks, they were the Dixie Pigs. Madonna was a two-legged yeast infection.


MCGUIRK: I mean, being with Madonna was like putting on one of Shaquille O'Neal's sneakers. It was rough.

COLMES: A day's going to come — you're going to work again. Imus, we hope, works again. We hope he comes back. I hope he does.

MCGUIRK: Absolutely.

COLMES: Would you not say those kinds of things next time you're in such a venue?

MCGUIRK: You mean call Rosie O'Donnell Rosie O'Donuts and things like that?

COLMES: Or some of the jokes you just did.

MCGUIRK: By the way, we used to say about Imus, when he brought his wife, "Well, what is it? Take Your Daughter to Work Day?" You're asking me...

COLMES: Would you do that kind of material again?

MCGUIRK: I would do anything that wasn't over the line. I wouldn't, you know...

COLMES: But how do you know where the line is? That's the issue.

MCGUIRK: I would monitor it closely, and I would seek the counsel of the powers that be.

HANNITY: Cardinal O'Connor or Cardinal Egan?

MCGUIRK: You know, I mean, that's the thing. The Irish people — you know, I mean, we savaged them. You know, I mean, how do you pick out an Irishman in the hospital ward? Just look for the guy blowing the suds off the bed pan, and stuff like that. I mean, people laugh at that stuff, though. I mean, they don't go out and, you know, look to try to get you fired.

But, I mean, those things have been said, is what I mean, just, you know, as an example. And that realm and that context, some other things were said. And, occasionally, obviously, we went over the line, apparently. So, you know, I mean, who knows? Who knows...


COLMES: What do you want to have happen now? What is your hope that happens now? What do you want to see happen?

MCGUIRK: What is my hope?

HANNITY: Get back to work.

MCGUIRK: Well, I hope that Al Sharpton's blow dryer falls in the — no. No. No. What do I hope? I hope everything...

HANNITY: I think you learned. You just monitored yourself.


COLMES: See, right there you stopped yourself from doing something.

MCGUIRK: We go back to where we can — everybody can relax, and everybody can have fun, and we can poke fun at each other, and not take it too seriously. Everybody's got to lighten up. And that people in the radio community and broadcast community don't take this sitting down, because it is a slippery slope. It can happen to you, so stand up for, you know, what's right.

COLMES: Absolutely.

HANNITY: All right. I hope you get back to work soon.

MCGUIRK: Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: Thanks for being with us. Appreciate your time.

MCGUIRK: Pleasure. Thank you so much.

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