Monday, April 16, 2007

Post-Imus Termination Debate Continues

Media pundits, social commentators, politicians and average Americans continue to weigh in on the fallout from former radio talk show host Don Imus' comments against the Rutgers University women's basketball team. The decision to terminate Imus came as a welcome development among the groups that had urged MSNBC and CBS to remove him from the air. It has sparked a long-overdue national conversation about hate speech but several questions remain unanswered.

"Washington Week" host and former New York Times reporter Gwen Ifill posed one of the most obvious questions yesterday during a rountable on NBC's "Meet the Press." She correctly asked host Tim Russert and Times columnist David Brooks to explain their repeated appearances on Imus' program despite his long history of racist, sexist and homopobic comments. Russert, rather uncomfortably, deplored Imus' comments but also expressed sadness for the former talk show host and his family. He also candidly admitted Imus' program generated "political discussions you don't hear anywhere else." Imus clearly provided an attractive forum for many politicians -- former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, U.S. Sen. John McCain and former Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry have all appeared on his show -- celebrities and others. But the question remains as to why these public figures seemed to overlook Imus' history of irresponsible comments for their own personal or political gain.

Imus once categorized Ifill as a 'cleaning lady' during an on-air commentary. Yet she rightfully challenged her colleagues to explain their passive support of his comments each time they appeared on his show. These questions are certainly uncomfortable to answer. Yet, answers to these queries are an essential part of the national conversation on the continued tolerance of racism, sexism and homophobia that must continue to take place in light of Imus' comments and his termination.

1 comment:

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