Was it really nine years ago? What have I been doing with my life? Bob Herbert dug up an old 60 Minutes transcript (Times Select), and it ended Don Imus’s television career.
In a “60 Minutes” interview with Don Imus broadcast in July 1998, Mike Wallace said of the “Imus in the Morning” program, “It’s dirty and sometimes racist.”
Mr. Imus then said: “Give me an example. Give me one example of one racist incident.” To which Mr. Wallace replied, “You told Tom Anderson, the producer, in your car, coming home, that Bernard McGuirk is there to do nigger jokes.”
Mr. Imus said, “Well, I’ve nev — I never use that word.”
Mr. Wallace then turned to Mr. Anderson, his producer. “Tom,” he said.
“I’m right here,” said Mr. Anderson.
Mr. Imus then said to Mr. Anderson, “Did I use that word?”
Mr. Anderson said, “I recall you using that word.”
“Oh, O.K.,” said Mr. Imus. “Well, then I used that word. But I mean — of course, that was an off-the-record conversation. But ——”
“The hell it was,” said Mr. Wallace.
This isn’t a controversy over free speech. Don Imus can say what he wants. He can make racist remarks if he wants to. He can hire a guy specifically to do nigger jokes. What he can’t do is pretend he’s not a racist if he does those things. You often hear people say that they don’t know what is in someone’s heart. That’s true. But you can come close to knowing if they hire a guy to do nigger jokes.
The issue isn’t really Imus’s cold heart. Imus is a philanthropist in his own way. You’ll hear many people talk about the good work he has done helping children with cancer. This is about something larger. It’s about an incestuous school of insiders…journalists, consultants, and politicians…that think nigger jokes are cute…that feel no need to disassociate themselves from them.
You can see them…Oliphant and Carville and Barnicle and Gregory…wringing their hands about the fate of Don Imus. They know they have to distance themselves from Imus over the Rutgers thing…but they don’t want to be cut-off forever from the I-Man. It’s a club. A club for cool kids. A club where it doesn’t matter if you’re married to Mary Matalin or you’re married to James Carville…it’s all part of the same thing.
“So…Imus did a bad thing…he hired a guy to do nigger jokes and then the guy did nigger jokes for the next, like, fifteen years. It was a disgrace. But…he’s not a bad guy. And, besides, everyone is doing it. Look at Rap Music. Look at South Park. What’s one little mistake compared to that stuff? Huh? Maybe CBS won’t totally shit-can him. I mean, doesn’t anyone believe in redemption anymore?”
David Gregory is filling in for Imus in the Morning on MSNBC this morning. He is practically pleading with every Afro-American he can haul into the studio that they have mercy on his great pal Don Imus. He told Jesse Jackson that he was forgiven for calling New York ‘Hymietown’ twenty years ago. I must have missed the forgiveness. He told Sharpton that he had been forgiven for the Tawana Brawley incident (also 20 years ago). Funny thing…I haven’t forgiven Sharpton for that…never will…and don’t except too many other people that lived in or around New York City at that time will either. Sharpton makes me laugh because he is a really funny guy. But I’ll never forgive what he did to race relations in the 1980’s.
I’ll never forgive Robert Byrd for being a member of the Ku Klux Klan, for filibustering civil rights legislation, and, more recently, talking about ‘white niggers’. I don’t care what he says about the war. He can never atone for his sins…not in this life. But I never got in bed with race-baiters like Sharpton and Byrd…so I never felt disappointed by them. I’m glad they are both behaving like decent human beings lately. That’s great. Good for them.
What David Gregory and the rest of the cocktail frankfurter set don’t understand is that there is a whole big wide America out here that isn’t white, isn’t straight, isn’t male, isn’t Groton-Harvard educated, and isn’t a fucking tool of the people they ostensibly cover.
Hey, I’m a white guy that grew up in Princeton. You think I don’t know your type? Hell…I am your type. I know all about nigger jokes from people like you.
This Imus controversy is about Beltway self-satisfied, elitist, wankers telling nigger jokes to each other on the public airwaves like they are the locker room at the Augusta National Golf Club. Oh yeah…not just nigger jokes, but jokes about women being whores, and gay men being faggots.
They fricking did this for years. Politicians would come on and talk some shit about nothing, in a typical smarmy Finemanesque way, then Bernie would call someone ‘the cleaning lady’, the sports guy would call Patrick Ewing an ape, someone else would make a joke about money-grubbing Jews, another would talk about cornrows, bitches, and gold teeth. Throw is some watermelon and fried chicken jokes…
And no one is supposed to care.
And that’s the story because none of these guests did care. They didn’t care when Clarance Page stopped appearing on the show. They didn’t care that Imus had no black guests other than (political commentator for Fox News, guest professor at Vanderbilt University, chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council and vice chairman for Merrill Lynch) Harold Ford Jr..
There are no progressive voices in their little club. There’s no one around to say, “Hey, calling student-athletes ‘nappy-headed hos’ is not acceptable.” There’s no one around to say, “Invading and occupying a foreign country on trumped up intelligence is a bad idea and immoral.” Why? Because Groton-Harvard educated people have been doing this shit for years. They feel entitled to put other people’s children into a meat grinder to defend their god-given right to do whatever the fuck they want to do. And while they’re fighting and dying, they’ll call them niggers and deny them basic health care.
It’s disgusting to watch these white men on my teevee wringing their hands about how the I-Man is getting screwed. They know they’re complicit. They don’t want to face up to their own indifference, they’re own greed, and their own privilege. First it was poor, poor Scooter Libby. Now it’s poor, poor Don Imus. Same shit…different scandal.