Media figures continue to describe Imus firing as "lynching"

››› ››› ANDREW IRONSIDE

Discussing the firing of syndicated radio host Don Imus on the April 15 edition of the syndicated program The McLaughlin Group, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan asserted: "Imus said a stupid thing, he and [former executive producer Bernard McGuirk] did, two words for about three, four seconds in the morning. They apologized and apologized and apologized and asked for forgiveness, and two Christian ministers, [Revs. Al] Sharpton and [Jesse] Jackson, acted like lynch-mob leaders." In reference to Imus' calling the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos," Buchanan later claimed: "Imus was lynched because he was a white male who said it."

As Media Matters for America documented, Buchanan wrote in his April 13 syndicated column: "Imus threw himself on the mercy of the court of elite opinion -- and that court, pandering to the mob, lynched him. Yet, for all his sins, he was a better man than the lot of them rejoicing at the foot of the cottonwood tree."

Buchanan was not the only media figure to describe Imus' firing as a "lynching." Discussing Imus' handling of the controversy in his April 15 New York Times column, Frank Rich wrote: "And perhaps even Don Imus himself, who, while talking way too much about black people he has known and ill children he has helped, took full responsibility for his own catastrophic remarks and didn't try to blame the ensuing media lynching on the press, bloggers or YouTube."

Also, talk-radio host Michael Smerconish wrote in his weekly column: "Ah, but the floodgates are now open. The cyber-lynching by faceless, nameless bloggers of talk-show hosts like me has begun."

In his column, Smerconish also defended comments he made while guest-hosting the November 23, 2005, broadcast on Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly. On that program, Smerconish complained about the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority's decision to provide a designated prayer area at Giants Stadium, a decision made after five Muslim men were observed praying near the stadium's main air duct during a New York Giants football game. Smerconish claimed: "I just think that's [the men's public praying] wrong. I just think they're playing a game of, you know, mind blank with the audience. And that they should know better four years removed from September 11."

Defending his claim, Smerconish wrote in his April 15 column: "When five Muslim men in attendance at the Meadowlands in September 2005 for a Giants-Saints game that was also a Hurricane Katrina fund-raiser, with George H.W. Bush in attendance, saw fit to pray in an area near food preparation and air duct work, I think it was a case of mind blank. That's a form of terrorism in itself."

From the April 15 edition of the syndicated program The McLaughlin Group:

JOHN McLAUGHLIN (host): Question: Who bears the responsibility for the ordeal these college students went through? Pat Buchanan.

BUCHANAN: First and foremost, Mr. [Mike] Nifong, the district attorney who went after them [the Duke University lacrosse players] and prosecuted them when mounting evidence showed that the charge was not only false but absurd.

But secondarily, these young men were really tried and convicted and lynched in a narrow court of public opinion down there in Raleigh, on their campus, by some professors, by some racial hustlers and others. And on cable TV, John, by a rush to judgment that they were guilty of a horrible crime when it turned out to be another Tawana Brawley situation.

[...]

BUCHANAN: Let me say this. Imus said a stupid thing, he and Bernie did, two words for about three, four seconds in the morning. They apologized and apologized and apologized and asked for forgiveness, and two Christian ministers, Sharpton and Jackson, acted like lynch-mob leaders. This was an example of real hate, John, real hate in America, but the hate was not from Imus, it was directed at him. There was no forgiveness. It was un-Christian -- it was un-Christian and un-American.

[crosstalk]

CLARENCE PAGE (Chicago Tribune columnist): Pat, if this was the first time forgiveness would be appropriate -- forgiveness would be appropriate if this was the first time, but it wasn't the first time.

BUCHANAN: Did he deserve to be lynched, then?

PAGE: He was fired back in the '70s and went back to Cleveland and worked his way back up the food chain.

[crosstalk]

BUCHANAN: OK, he made mistakes --

[crosstalk]

ELEANOR CLIFT (Newsweek contributing editor): Excuse me, he was not lynched. He was a victim of the modern America, where if the advertisers don't think you're selling and you're not marketable, they pull the advertising. It happens every day to lots of people.

[...]

BUCHANAN: Let me tell you something. This term "nappy-headed hos" comes out of the ghetto, it's slang, it's ugly stuff, it's terrible to women. It is constant on African-American radio. Imus was lynched because he was a white male who said it. That's why.

PAGE: He applied those words to the Rutgers women's basketball team --

BUCHANAN: They accepted --

PAGE: -- they were -- that was a cheap shot


BUCHANAN: They didn't ask for his head.

[crosstalk]

PAGE: That's why the country was outraged.

[...]

McLAUGHLIN: If a national plebiscite were held today, would it say that Imus should go or Imus should stay?

BUCHANAN: I think a couple days ago they would have said maybe he should go, but I think there's a tremendous backlash. There's the feeling that the guy asked for forgiveness and they hung him.

McLAUGHLIN: And he's good at what he does?

BUCHANAN: He's great at what he does. He's one of the best in the business.

McLAUGHLIN: And he can get anybody to talk -- has he contributed to the public policy?

BUCHANAN: He's not only contributed to the public policy, his show is the best morning show on the air.

From Frank Rich's April 15 New York Times column:

It's possible that the only people in this whole sorry story who are not hypocrites are the Rutgers teammates and their coach, C. Vivian Stringer. And perhaps even Don Imus himself, who, while talking way too much about black people he has known and ill children he has helped, took full responsibility for his own catastrophic remarks and didn't try to blame the ensuing media lynching on the press, bloggers or YouTube. Unlike Mel Gibson, Michael Richards and Isaiah Washington, to take just three entertainers who have recently delivered loud religious, racial or sexual slurs, Imus didn't hire a P.R. crisis manager and ostentatiously enter rehab or undergo psychiatric counseling. "I dished it out for a long time," he said on his show last week, "and now it's my time to take it."

From Michael Smerconish's April 15 syndicated column:

Only Imus knows for sure what was on his self-admittedly drug-damaged mind when he said those things. His apology sounded sincere. I myself do not believe he said something racist per se. It was a reach for a cheap laugh, not something said to be injurious to the Rutgers women.

Ah, but the floodgates are now open. The cyber-lynching by faceless, nameless bloggers of talk-show hosts like me has begun.

Individuals who hide behind the anonymity afforded by the Internet are seeking to squelch the First Amendment right of people whose identities are readily known and who, unlike their cowardly critics, put their names and credibility on the line each and every day on matters of public concern. Left unconfronted, it is a dangerous practice in the making.

The very day Imus was fired at CBS, I was alerted to a posting on Media Matters for America, a sophisticated Web site instrumental in stoking the flames for Imus' departure. The posting, titled "It's not just Imus," identified me as one of seven talk-show hosts in America who bear observation:

". . . [A]s Media Matters for America has extensively documented, bigotry and hate speech targeting, among other characteristics, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity continue to permeate the airwaves through personalities such as Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Michael Smerconish, and John Gibson."

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