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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 71/No. 17      April 30, 2007


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‘We speak up for all women’
Widespread outrage forces firing of
radio host over racist, sexist comments
(lead article)
Reuters/Mike Segar
Members of Rutgers women’s basketball team at April 10 news conference in Piscataway, New Jersey, with athletic director Bob Malcahy at podium. The players’ statements to the media turned the tide against notorious radio talk-show host Don Imus.

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey, April 14—In face of widespread outrage over antiwoman and anti-Black comments by notorious radio talk-show host Don Imus, CBS Radio canceled his show April 12. A week earlier on the “Imus in the Morning” program, he had called members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy-headed ho’s” and his cohost Bernard McGuirk called them “hard-core ho’s.”

When the controversy erupted, CBS, trying to salvage the lucrative show, initially announced that Imus would be suspended for two weeks. The radio host issued public apologies several times, as he has after similar incidents in past years. The program brought in $20 million in annual revenue for CBS and a salary of $10 million a year for Imus.

As public pressure increased, however, capitalist politicians, media personalities, and newspapers joined the growing calls for his dismissal. Major advertisers such as General Motors and Procter & Gamble pulled their sponsorship of the show. A few protests took place, including a rally by several hundred students at the Rutgers campus here.

An April 10 press conference by members of the Scarlet Knights basketball team—eight of whom are Black and two white—helped put the final nail in the coffin of “Imus in the Morning.” The Rutgers students, who had won prominence by advancing to a national championship game, condemned what Heather Zurich called Imus’s “degrading comments.”

Matee Ajavon said they were speaking out to “show the world that we’re worth more and we can’t be bashed for our gender.”

Essence Carson, junior forward and team captain, said, “We finally speak up for women, not only African American women, but all women,” and noted, “It’s about women across the world.”

In response to defenders of Imus who argued that some rap musicians use degrading language against women, Carson said, “I know that rap, hip-hop, and music of that genre has desensitized America and this world to some of the words that they choose to use in their lyrics.” But, she said, “it doesn’t make it any more right for anyone to say it. Not only Mr. Imus…. It doesn’t make it right if you’re African American, Caucasian, Asian, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it’s wrong.”

Imus’s 30-year-long show has been characterized by his derogatory remarks against Blacks, women, Jews, gays, and others. He has referred to Black sports columnist Bill Rhoden as a “quota hire” and to the New York Knicks as “chest-thumping pimps.” In 1998 he said he had hired his cohost Bernard McGuirk to perform “nigger jokes.” He has labeled Jews “money-grubbing bastards,” and Arabs “ragheads.”

Imus, a liberal whose program has attracted figures such as TV journalists Tim Russert and Cokie Roberts as well as Democratic politicians John Kerry and Barack Obama, had previously gotten away with his bigoted insults by issuing apologies.

This time, however, he met a sharp response.

“Just growing up in a society as a 20-year-old, I've seen a lot of things. I've seen things happen to women and I've heard about things that happen to women,” Carson said at the April 10 press conference. “You don't get too many opportunities to stand up for what you know is right.” She added, “We’re glad to have that opportunity.”

The day after the news conference, cable TV network MSNBC announced that it would no longer simulcast Imus’s show. The next day CBS Radio, his primary employer, cancelled the program.
Related articles:
Letters: Firing of Don Imus

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