Note: This post was scheduled to be published tomorrow morning, but after learning via CNN.com that Imus has now been suspended for two weeks, I’m posting it now.
Last week on his radio show, Imus in the Morning, host Don Imus made some cruel, stupid, and insensitive comments regarding the Rutgers University Women’s basketball team. ESPN.com carries an Associated Press recounting of the comments:
“That’s some rough girls from Rutgers,” Imus said. “Man, they got tattoos … .”
“Some hardcore hos,” McGuirk said.
“That’s some nappy-headed hos there, I’m going to tell you that,” Imus said.
Imus has since apologized twice over the past five days, adding today that “…because the climate on this program has been what it’s been for 30 years doesn’t mean that it has to be that way for the next five years or whatever because that has to change, and I understand that.”
Despite two public apologies, some including Al Sharpton are still calling for Mr. Imus’ retirement or firing.
So let’s take a moment to consider the concept of “grass is greener” or “shell game” politics, as I think the Imus case represents a fine example. In this case, Imus made some decidedly inappropriate, unkind, hurtful comments. Those who see clear public relations profiteering from the situation- namely, Mr. Sharpton- then launch into action, ready to take two tacts. One, if Imus stands by his comments (or explains them as a joke), his opponent will then demand whatever course of action hasn’t happened- in that scenario, an apology.
But since Mr. Imus did offer an apology, the shell game continues, with his opponents such as Sharpton now demanding something else- in this case, an outright dismissal.
This shell game of never ending consequences for public relations gain is just one small, insignificant reason why Mr. Imus should decidedly not be fired. The larger reason is that he has now twice publicly apologized for these unwise comments.
Personally, I’d prefer to see somebody like Mr. Sharpton- who has inflicted actual damage on America’s race relations for over 20 years- be the subject of such furor…again. That is, if anybody still takes him the slightest bit seriously.
UPDATE: Some people still take Mr. Sharpton seriously despite his history, as Imus’ radio program has just been suspended by both CBS Radio and MSNBC television for two weeks (see link at the top of this post). While this is yet another conciliatory step on Imus’ behalf, it won’t likely do much to deter Mr. Sharpton, as it should be beyond obvious by now that his aim is not to extract amends, but instead to further amplify his own persona.