In a report on CBS' decision to fire radio show host Don Imus over a racist and sexist remark, KDVR Fox 31 aired the comments of Colorado media personalities who either disagreed with Imus' dismissal, defended him, or deflected the criticism from him. The report ignored Imus' long history of incendiary racial remarks.
During the April 12 broadcast of KDVR Fox 31's News at Nine O'Clock, a report on local reaction to the firing of radio talk show host Don Imus over a comment he made about the Rutgers University women's basketball team failed to note Imus' long history of inflammatory racial remarks. While Fox 31 reported that "Imus' firing was a big topic on all the local radio talk shows" and that there was "a lot of discussion" and "no shortage of opinion" on those shows, the reports showed only clips of radio hosts either defending Imus, disagreeing with his firing, or diverting the focus of his offensive comments onto "black comics and artists."
As Media Matters for America first noted, Imus called the Rutgers players "nappy-headed hos" on the April 4 broadcast of his show. On April 11, NBC News announced that MSNBC, which simulcast Imus in the Morning, was dropping the program. The following day, the show's producer, CBS Radio, fired Imus.
During its report, Fox 31 aired a clip of Newsradio 850 KOA co-host Dave Logan of The Ride Home in which he stated, "I think what Don Imus said was wrong, completely wrong," but also asserted, "I don't think he should have been fired."
Fox 31 then aired footage of 630 KHOW-AM co-hosts Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman debating "whether the firings would impact others in the media, like comedians and hip-hop artists," according to Fox reporter Marianne Martinez. During the segment, Caplis downplayed Imus' comment, asking, "What about those cases where you have black comics and artists who say horrible, despicable things about women, including black women, labeling them as hos and bs?" Silverman responded, "Comedy is a different thing, and Lord help this country if we're going to have the comedy police."
Caplis' observation about the language used by "black comics and artists" echoed Imus' own defense, noted by Media Matters, that the slur he used "originated in the black community." He stated: "I may be a white man, but I know that ... young black women all through that society are demeaned and disparaged and disrespected ... by their own black men and that they are called that name." Rev. Al Sharpton objected to this defense, saying, "We have said that we are against the degrading that is done even by blacks. ... Wherever he says this originated from does not give him the right to use it."
The Fox 31 report ignored the long history of racial, misogynistic, and bigoted remarks on Imus' program. As Media Matters has documented:
- On the March 6 broadcast, 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."
- On the February 2 broadcast, McGuirk claimed that Obama has "a Jew-hating name."
- As the Forward newspaper reported in a December 8, 2006, online article, Imus referred to the "Jewish management" of CBS Radio as "money-grubbing bastards" on his November 30 broadcast.
Additionally, as Colorado Media Matters noted, an article in the July 18, 2000, edition of The Village Voice reported that Imus referred to former Defense Secretary William Cohen as "the Mandingo" and to his African-American wife as "a 'ho." According to a March 27, 2004, Boston Globe article, " Mandingos ... are members of a group of West African people. 'Mandingo' is also the title of a 1975 movie in which a black male slave is paired intimately with a white female slave master."
A May 26, 2000, article (accessed through the Nexis database) in The Washington Post reported that "sometime around 1995, when the New York Times hired African-American journalist Gwen Ifill to cover the White House, Imus reportedly said: 'Isn't the Times wonderful? It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.' "
Colorado Media Matters also noted that on the July 19, 1998, broadcast of CBS News' 60 Minutes, Imus reportedly admitted to reporter Mike Wallace that McGuirk was on his show "to do 'nigger' jokes" and admitted to using the word "nigger" himself.
From the April 12 broadcast of KDVR Fox 31's News at Nine O'Clock:
RON ZAPPOLO (co-anchor): Don Imus is now off the air. CBS Radio following in the footsteps of MSNBC and canceling the controversial radio talk show host's show.
KIM POSEY (co-anchor): That firing being felt on local airwaves. Fox 31's Marianne Martinez is live with more.
MARTINEZ: Well Kim, Imus' firing was a big topic on all the local radio talk shows. Opened up a lot of discussion, and of course there was no shortage of opinion.
[begin video clip]
CAPLIS: Imus fired.
MARTINEZ: It's the topic ...
CAPLIS: Our lines are jammed. Instant messages exploding.
MARTINEZ: ... taking over the airwaves. Radio talk show hosts in town ...
LOGAN: CBS follows suit, and they have fired Don Imus.
MARTINEZ: ... weighing in on CBS' decision to take Don Imus off the air for making racially insensitive remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team.
LOGAN: I think what Don Imus said was wrong, completely wrong, and he should have apologized and, and should have been suspended and maybe even a couple of other things, but I don't think he should have been fired.
MARTINEZ: On 850 KOA, Dave and Lois spent the better part of their show on the issue. And while they differed on some aspects, both agreed CBS should have taken action more quickly, not one week after Imus made the comments.
LOIS MELKONIAN (co-host with Logan): When the advertisers step in and pull out, that, that's what makes a big difference.
MARTINEZ: On the Caplis-Silverman show ...
CAPLIS: Dan and Craig, 630 KHOW.
MARTINEZ: ... the hosts debated whether the firings would impact others in the media, like comedians and hip-hop artists.
CAPLIS: What about those cases where you have black comics or artists who say horrible, despicable things about women, including black women, labeling them as hos and bs.
SILVERMAN: Comedy is a different thing, and Lord help this country if we're going to have the comedy police.
MARTINEZ: Different opinions on several topics. Today's firing spurred debate on issues from race to language.
[end video clip]
MARTINEZ: Now Imus did meet with the Rutgers team tonight. No word on exactly what was said. Imus' replacement for now -- his wife. Back to you.
POSEY: OK, Marianne Martinez -- live tonight in Denver.