On Imus, McGuirk said that "bitch" Clinton will "have cornrows and gold teeth"

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

On the March 6 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, executive producer Bernard McGuirk said that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) was "trying to sound black in front of a black audience" when she gave a speech on March 4 in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" civil rights march. McGuirk added that Clinton "will have cornrows and gold teeth before this fight with [Sen. Barack] Obama [D-IL] is over." Earlier in the program, in reference to Clinton's speech, McGuirk had said, "Bitch is gonna be wearing cornrows." McGuirk also said that Clinton will be "giving Crips signs during speeches." The Crips are a Los Angeles-based street gang.

Later, host Don Imus brought up McGuirk's prior impersonations of African-American poet Maya Angelou asking, "[W]ho was that woman you used to do, the poet? ... We used to get in all that trouble every time you'd do her." As McGuirk launched into the impersonation, Imus said, "I don't need any more columns. Come on." But Imus did not stop McGuirk, who delivered his impression in verse:

McGUIRK: Whitey plucked you from the jungle for too many years

Took away your pride, your dignity, and your spears

[...]

McGUIRK: With freedom came new woes

Into whitey's world you was rudely cast

So wake up now and go to work?

You can kiss my big black ass

While it is unclear which specific "columns" Imus had in mind, columns have appeared in New York's Newsday and The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, deriding the program for its treatment of Angelou.

Newsday's Les Payne reprinted a letter from black students at Villanova University to Imus' wife, Deirdre, in an April 23, 1995, column. The letter called McGuirk's impersonation of Angelou "highly offensive." A May 30, 1996, column in The News & Observer described another exchange involving Angelou:

As the show's resident racist, Bernard allows Imus to remain above the fray. When he wants to.

For instance, they recently discussed poet Maya Angelou, who said she no longer watched "Jeopardy" because the TV show seldom had black contestants.

The reason for that, Bernard opined, is because "Jeopardy" doesn't recruit contestants in prisons or have an affirmative action recruiter. Imus' response? A feeble, insincere "Stop that."

Despite these prior protests, McGuirk's MSNBC.com bio touts his Angelou impersonation, describing him as "the program's quick-witted on-air contributor" and "the voice and creator of such recurring characters as the famous Cardinal O'Connor, The Champ, and Maya Angelou."

In 2000, the program's treatment of African-Americans also drew the ire of Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page. Appearing on the show, Page asked Imus to pledge to "cease all simian references [to] black athletes" and "references to noncriminal blacks as thugs, pimps, muggers, and Colt 45 drinkers." Imus responded, "I promise to do that." Page went on to ask that Imus put "an end to Amos 'n Andy cuts, comparison of New York City to Mogadishu, and all parodies of black voices," at which point Imus said, "I think Bernard should be doing this." As co-host Brook Gladstone noted on the August 18, 2001, edition of National Public Radio's On the Media, Imus' pledge "was inevitably and immediately broken."

Further, a June 7, 2001, article in New York's Daily News explained that Imus had fired sports announcer Sid Rosenberg because, according to the article, Rosenberg had "called Venus Williams an 'animal' and said it was more likely the [Williams] sisters would be featured in National Geographic than in Playboy, adding that his remarks were not racist, just 'zoological.' " As Media Matters for America has noted, MSNBC apologized in 2004 when Rosenberg said that Palestinians were "stinking animals."

The Daily News article quoted Imus as saying, "Things are said on this program all the time that are inappropriate and in poor taste" and that "it's an attempt to be humorous, not a serious analysis of someone's status." Imus added, "If we make fun of Maya Angelou because she sounds a certain way, that's fine." However, the article also quoted Imus as saying that Rosenberg's comments were "just a moronic thing to say."

As Media Matters has noted, McGuirk has referred to Obama as having "a Jew-hating name." McGuirk also directed the phrase "Besa mi culo," which loosely translates to "kiss my ass" in Spanish, at Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), whose mother is Mexican.

From the March 6 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning:

IMUS: They're trolling for votes on the bridge in Selma. But this -- but her affecting this Southern accent. Do you -- I mean, how does no one find that just repulsive?

CHARLES McCORD (co-host): And it was bizarre. It was weird.

McGUIRK: She's really trying to sound black.

IMUS: Pardon me?

McGUIRK: She's trying to sound black.

IMUS: I mean it's just -- I --

McGUIRK: Bitch is gonna be wearing cornrows before --

IMUS: I mean, you just can't make it up, can you?

[...]

McGUIRK: She's just trying to sound black in front of a black audience. As opposed to sounding Southern. She was pandering.

McCORD: You think?

McGUIRK: She'll have cornrows and gold teeth before this fight with Obama is over.

IMUS: Oh, my God, I mean --

McGUIRK: She'll be giving Crips signs during speeches.

IMUS: That's crazy, isn't it?

McCORD: Yes.

IMUS: What do you have, Lou [Rufino, program engineer]? Let me hear what you have.

RUFINO: I think it's the beginning of the first thing they have, but I could play it again.

McGUIRK: "I don't feel no ways tired."

IMUS: It sounded like she was --

ROB BARTLETT (regular contributor): Esther Rolle from Good Times.

IMUS: Or who was that woman you used to do, the poet?

ALL: Maya Angelou.

IMUS: Yeah. We used to get in all that trouble every time you'd do her.

McGUIRK: That's right.

Whitey plucked you from the jungle for too many years

Took away your pride, your dignity, and your spears

IMUS: I don't need any more columns. Come on. But, I mean, that's --

McGUIRK: With freedom came new woes

Into whitey's world you was rudely cast

So wake up now and go to work?

You can kiss my big black ass

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Don Imus
Show/Publication
Imus in the Morning
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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