Holding Court With His Greek Chorus

Rita Papazian
Norwalk Citizen-News April 12, 2007

Okay, so MSNBC and CBS Radio are suspending the syndicated "Imus in the Morning" radio show for two weeks. The corporate decision follows Don Imus' mea culpa media tour this week, in which the I-Man attempted to make nice following his abominable racist remarks against the Rutgers University women's basketball team. He referred to the women as "nappy-headed hos."

During his repeated apologies, Imus called his remarks "stupid... insensitive idiotic and ill-conceived." He said he "did a bad thing" but is "a good person." In his own defense, Imus continues to cite the good he has done in raising millions of dollars for his cattle ranch in New Mexico where children with cancer can go for a brief stay.

Al Sharpton, who has led the charge for Imus to be fired, cites other incidents of Imus using the federally regulated airwaves for racism and sexism. He said the two-week suspension is "too little, too late." Imus' suspension came five days after his remarks, following a groundswell of criticism.

Imus said the suspension is appropriate and he will serve with dignity. He also said that the phrase he used in discrediting the Rutgers women was one that "originated in the black community." In response, Sharpton said, "We are against the degrading by blacks and we should fight all use of it."

Political pundit James Carville said, "I can defend Imus as a person, but I cannot defend what he said. I am sickened by what he said."

Jesse Jackson said, "This is a free-flow of bigotry." He said the media needs to be desegregated. This week, Imus said he will add a black person on his show.

Columnist Clarence Paige called Imus a "serial apologist." He noted that Imus has a history of racist remarks. Paige said, "When are we going to understand that it hurts people?"

Personally, I am one who knows how it hurts when you are the target of Imus' crude remarks. A few years ago, when I was a correspondent for the Connecticut Post covering Westport, I wrote an article about Imus' name appearing on the town's property tax delinquent list. He had bought a house in town and, as it turned out, a bank error resulted in the delinquency. Imus used my news article as fodder for his shtick on his morning radio show. His personal attack on me continued, and then it was repeated on his "Best of Imus" shows, and people thought it was another similar incident. Throughout his verbal tirade, his favorite word for me was "skank." This was not humorous to me. But as Imus repeatedly noted this week, this is what he does. He has a comedy show. I never could see the humor in his racist and sexist remarks, especially when I experienced such remarks directed at me.

Because Imus' show is syndicated, my name was broadcast throughout many regions in this country. I am the mother of three adults working in professional careers. One of my children received a telephone call from a friend who asked, "Why is Imus talking about your mother?"

I wonder if Imus finally gets it. Does he now realize that racist and sexist remarks are not funny to minorities? I stopped listening to Imus after I became a target. I saw his morning show in a new light. There he is holding court with this Greek male chorus laughing at everything he says. It's just another version of the old fraternity animal house.

Imus should read Raina Kelley's article "Let's Talk About Race," which appeared in Newsweek on Dec. 4, 2006, following comedian Michael Richards' meltdown at the Laugh Factory. In the article she says, "Racism thrives in the dark, and it can't help oozing out sometimes when we are angry, or drunk, or desperate to win So it's come to this: only comedians will name our fears Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Sarah Silverman and Dave Chappelle make people laugh by saying out loud what we're scared to acknowledge we might even think."

It remains to be seen whether or not Imus will continue to be, as Paige said, a serial apologist. Maybe some good can come from this. My feeling is that any good that comes from this will come from the dignity of the members of Rutgers women's basketball team, who have called Imus' "hos" statement "reprehensible and disgusting."

Let's hope for a full court press against all racism and sexism in this country and let the Rutgers women lead the charge.

Rita Papazian is a free-lance journalist who has covered issues extensively. E-mail can be sent to her at ritapap@comcast.net.



Copyright 2006 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.