Shocked Jock

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NEW YORK radio host Don Imus is an equal-opportunity insulter. He called noted African American journalist Gwen Ifill a "cleaning lady." He called a columnist at the New York Times a "quota hire." He's labeled Vice President Cheney a "war criminal." But none of those comments has landed Mr. Imus in as much hot water as the offensive, racist and sexist remarks he made last week about the women's basketball team from Rutgers University.

IMUS: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and --

McGUIRK: Some hard-core hos.

IMUS: That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm gonna tell you that now, man, that's some -- woo.

The McGuirk quoted above is Mr. Imus's equally offensive producer, Bernard McGuirk, who has a long list of repugnant comments that go back years.

Why would anyone appear on this program and legitimize this kind of lowest-common-denominator banter? "Imus in the Morning" has been a must-do on the media circuit for politicians trying to prove they have the common touch, authors touting new books, and journalists, including some from The Post Co. No doubt the millions of people who watch and listen to Mr. Imus every morning are a big draw for them. The show is broadcast on WFAN-AM in New York, is distributed by CBS radio to 70 stations around the country and is simulcast on cable television by MSNBC.

At first, Mr. Imus tried to brush off the incident as "some idiot comment meant to be amusing." Mr. Imus then apologized on his show Friday and on other shows yesterday, saying, "I'm a good person who said a bad thing." He then took his mea culpa tour to "The Al Sharpton Show," where the Rev. Sharpton called on Mr. Imus to resign his radio perch throughout their two-hour interview. "Don't you think I'm embarrassed?" Mr. Imus asked. "Don't you think I'm humiliated?" We're more interested in how the Rutgers basketball players feel.

MSNBC and CBS Radio have suspended broadcasts of "Imus in the Morning" for two weeks, starting next Monday. Whether Mr. Imus stays on the air at WFAN is a matter for his employers and his conscience. But those who bask in the glow of his radio show ought to consider whether they should continue doing so. After all, you're judged by the company you keep.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company