Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don Imus Sparks More Outrage

Don Imus is at it again! The outspoken radio talk show host sparked his latest outrage last week with his racially insensitive categorization of the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." Imus has repeatedly apologized for his comments but both NBC News and CBS Radio yesterday suspended his show for two-weeks.

This man has a long and documented history of charged comments against underrepresented groups. He famously joked the New York Times had let 'the cleaning lady cover the White House' in a pointed reference to now "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer" Senior Correspondent Gwen Ifill. Imus also sparked outrage among lesbian and gay advocacy organizations last year with his description of "Brokeback Mountain" as "Fudgepack Mountain" during an on-air exchange with MSNBC personality Chris Matthews. These sophomoric attempts at humor, and others like them, only serve to generate attention for themselves along the same vein upon which conservative commentator Ann Coulter and others have built their careers. NBC News and CBS Radio are correct to suspend Imus but his latest insult plays into a much broader phenomenon.

Imus is only the latest of a laundry list of commentators, politicians and celebrities -- former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Grey's Anatomy co-star Isaiah Washington and others -- whose comments have sparked controversy. These public figures apologized almost immediately afterwards in a self-serving attempt to quell outrage and condemnation in an exercise of personal repentance. The real issue this phenomenon raises, however, is the fact these comments are a reflection upon the society that continues incubates these racist, sexist and homophobic attitudes in the first place. Imus' comments are certainly not a surprise to those who have been in his comedic cross hairs throughout his career. He should certainly be held to account. But the real challenge is how society can use this incident as an opportunity to remedy its long-held prejudices. This work will certainly take much more effort than a self-serving statement of repentance.

No comments: