Syndicated talk radio show host Don Imus had his television show dropped by MSNBC April 11, a few days after he made an on-air racial remark about the Rutgers University girls’ basketball team. While MSNBC initially issued Imus a two-week suspension, mounting pressure for a dismissal from civil rights and women’s groups – as well as the public - was heeded. Imus’s remarks, while perhaps intended as a joke, were extremely offensive and inappropriate. MSNBC was justified in dropping his show because Imus demonstrated a serious lack of character that conflicted with his role as a network icon.
Imus’s remarks are all the more tragic when considered from the perspective of the girls on the Rutgers team. Because of Imus’s statements, public focus has been shifted away from their remarkable season and placed instead on the comments of a morning radio show personality. The Miami Student editorial board regrets that the team’s hard work and winning season has been overlooked in the news media because of such unfounded comments.
Additionally, while Imus’s comments have been strongly and rightly criticized because of their racist bent, the inflammatory remarks of Rev. Al Sharpton have done little to alleviate the tension and improve the situation of the actual victims in this case. Sharpton has been outspoken in the matter from the beginning, going so far as to reject Imus’s apology. Rather than seeking to resolve this issue with the interests of the basketball players in mind, Sharpton has shamelessly used the situation as a vehicle for self-promotion.
Imus has paid a heavy price for his most recent racist rant and he does deserve a chance to redeem himself and rebuild his reputation. Yet there are some indications that he has previously made derogatory racial and ethnic remarks. If this is not an isolated incident, but rather reflective of deeply held beliefs, the question should be raised of whether the public can expect similar comments in the future.
Ultimately, the controversy over Imus’s remarks boils down to the issue of media responsibility. His comments served to lower the level of public discourse, hurt a group of people without cause and jeopardize the reputations of his employer and coworkers. By pulling their advertisements from his program and dropping his show, Imus’s sponsors and network have demonstrated that his racism will not be tolerated – as well it should not be.