Imus’ apology not enough this time

Don Imus had this to say about his offensive remarks:

“If I wanted to offend somebody,” Imus said, “I would have let you know, but I wasn’t trying to offend and I’m sorry.”

The quote could’ve been something that Imus had said while apologizing for his boneheaded and racist remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. It would’ve been some sort of reconciliation for a swallow remark with little sensitivity to minorities.

But that quote wasn’t the result of the fallout from his comments on college women’s basketball. Actually, it was a statement that Imus had read over the air in November 2006 when dealing with the Asian American community.

Back in November, the topic on hand dealt with a story about obesity in China. Despite sidekick Charles McCord’s best efforts, Imus predictably delved into controversy and stupidity, asking whether anyone had ever seen a “fat Chinaman.”

“I know this sounds bigoted – I’m not – but have you ever seen a fat Chinese man? Chinaman?” Imus said. And, despite sidekick Charles McCord’s best efforts to subdue Imus, he again said, “60 million fat Chinamen.”

Perhaps more offensive about Imus’ statement was that he didn’t seem to grasp the meaning and offensiveness of the word. Either he didn’t know or didn’t care that it was offensive, because the next day, he lashed out at “idiot lawyers” who had given him a book surveying offensive terms.

Clearly, six months later he hasn’t learned his lesson. After all, how could someone in six months undo what they’ve been doing for the past 30 years?

Of course, you couldn’t have expected him to. For someone who has been calling presidential hopeful Barack Obama “the young colored fellah,” his comments on the Rutgers women’s basketball team par for the course.

Unlike last time, Imus is trying a different defense. As he puts it, he was merely making “some idiot comment meant to be amusing.”

Intent has nothing to do with it, Mr. Imus. The problem is your behavior, which time and time again has been overlooked by WFAN and MSNBC. He’s been allowed to trample on minorities for decades now while his bosses have looked the other way.
Not this time.

Imus was suspended yesterday for two weeks by his bosses, and, with any smart decision making by the leaders in the corporate offices, he will be out even longer.

The great thing about our country is that we are given the power of free speech. If Imus wants, he can stand on 42nd and Broadway and scream his bigoted remarks at the top of his lungs. And in this case, my hypothetical is appropriate, considering that’s where he belongs. The best thing about free speech is that his employers are free to punish him how they deem fit. (My suggestion – Suspend him until the Rutgers women’s basketball season opener, and have him broadcast his show live in his return from suspension.)

Perhaps Imus is really sorry for his comments. Maybe he really is the “good person” that he tried to show during an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday. As he puts it, he is a tireless contributor to charities for inner-city youths and everyone is capable of making mistakes from one time to another.

But given his track record, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to assume that the apology is more directed at saving his career than true regret. It’s probably also fair to assume that his everyone-should-loosen-up attitude penetrated to the depths of his true feelings than the full-out apologetic tone that followed after the story became a national albatross.

Moreover, human beings are painted in shades of grey. Nothing is ever black-and-white when it comes to these sorts of issues. It’s possible to be a racist, a sexist, a homophobe and a philanthropist at the same time. Giving money to charities should never be an out for being a fool.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Imus withstand this hit to his career and continue on as if nothing happened after his two week suspension is over.

But there’s something different about this recent revelation. Unlike his previous comments, specifically the one geared toward Asian Americans, “nappy-headed hos” seem to offend on a much broader scale. Within the span of a minute, Imus gained detractors among the African American, gay, and female community – three minorities who have made significant strides in the past 40 or so years that Imus has been on air. (Recently, Title IX celebrated its 35 anniversary.)

Furthermore, his comments speak to what his show has deteriorated into. On a superficial level, the discussion was about women’s sports. As you delve deeper into his comments, his show has really become a sport in and of itself. The “sport” at hand is trying to deride as many minorities as possible without suffering any of the consequences.

But, this time, in the game of censorship chicken that Imus has been playing for so many years, someone has finally blinked.

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