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On the October 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, responding to the National Association of Black Journalist's Eric Deggans' assertion that former MSNBC host Don Imus is "returning to the air essentially without fully apologizing for what he actually did wrong," co-host Alan Colmes said that Imus "did apologize" and went on to say: "The team that he allegedly insulted -- I would say 'satirized' -- they accepted his apology. Why can't you?" When Deggans asserted, "What he did wrong was build a 25- to 30-year broadcasting career on humor that's racist and that exaggerates stereotypes," Colmes responded, "Well, that's what satire is."
Colmes and Deggans were discussing recent reports that Imus will be hired to host a nationally syndicated radio show on WABC in New York.
As Media Matters for America documented at the time, on the April 4 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, Imus referred to the Rutgers University women's basketball team, which included eight African-American and two white players, as "nappy-headed hos" immediately after the show's executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, called the team "hard-core hos."
Earlier in the Hannity & Colmes segment, when Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women's New York City chapter, said that Imus is "a bigot and a racist ... and a misogynist," Colmes asserted, "He's not a bigot and a racist," and added: "He's a satirist. He's doing humor. He's doing satire."
Later, Deggans said, "This is about a 25- to 30-year history of cracking these kind of jokes," and claimed that Imus "admitted in an interview with 60 Minutes that he had a producer on his staff to make n-word jokes." Co-host Sean Hannity replied, "Yeah, but jokes. Jokes. You may not like the humor." Hannity then asked, "Should Chris Rock, who says far worse on a regular basis -- have you ever come out and demanded that he be taken off the air?" When Deggans noted that "Chris Rock is not a news and information person," Hannity said, "He's a comedian."
From the October 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
COLMES: Sonia, let me start with you. Why not give him a second chance? What's your objection to putting him on the air?
OSSORIO: It's not a decision I would have made.
COLMES: Why not?
OSSORIO: ABC, we'll see if it works out for them.
COLMES: But why not?
OSSORIO: Because, you know, he's had 30 years to be on the air. He's been a bigot and a racist --
COLMES: He's not a bigot and a racist.
OSSORIO: -- and a misogynist.
COLMES: He's a satirist. He's doing humor. He's doing satire. He takes pokes at everybody.
OSSORIO: A lot of people don't find it humorous anymore.
COLMES: How long is the right amount of time?
DEGGANS: He was basically off for a few months -- he was basically off for a few months. He negotiated a very lucrative end to his contract with CBS Radio, and now he's returning to the air essentially without fully apologizing for what he actually did wrong.
COLMES: Well, first of all, he did apologize. He went on Al Sharpton's show and apologized. Al Sharpton accepts him back. Jesse Jackson accepts him back. The team that he allegedly insulted -- I would say "satirized" -- they accepted his apology. Why can't you?
DEGGANS: I think Don Imus hasn't really apologized for what he's done wrong. What he did wrong was build a 25- to 30-year broadcasting career on humor that's racist and that exaggerates stereotypes.
COLMES: Well, that's what satire is. But you call it racist --
DEGGANS: There's examples going back 15 years, 20 years, where he's called Gwen Ifill, who was then with The New York Times, a cleaning lady. He called another person of color who was an official a quota hire. He's called Howard Kurtz from Washington Post a "beanie-wearing, hook-nosed Jew." I mean, he's used the kind of humor that has been abandoned by other --
COLMES: He also goes after people from the South, on Oklahoma, Okies like he is. He goes after everybody. That's his act. Everybody knew that was his act. They knew that was his act when they hired him. It was in his contract. If they decided to act on letting him go because of those things, he ought to get a warning, which he didn't get, which is why he got a settlement.
And, again, what about the free marketplace? You don't like that kind of humor, you don't find it humorous, don't tune out [sic]. Other people have the opportunity to hear what he's got to say if they choose to listen. If advertisers choose to support it, and if ratings will substantiate his appearance, what's wrong with that?
DEGGANS: That's the mistake that you're making, is that you're boiling this down to one comment. This is not about one comment. This is about a 25- to 30-year history of cracking these kind of jokes.
HANNITY: You keep repeating it, but --
DEGGANS: He admitted in an interview with 60 Minutes that he had a producer on his staff to make n-word jokes. I mean, this is a longstanding--
HANNITY: Yeah, but jokes. Jokes. You may not like the humor.
DEGGANS: This is a long standing history.
HANNITY: Wait a minute. I was watching Chris Rock over the weekend. Should Chris Rock, who says far worse on a regular basis -- have you ever come out and demanded that he be taken off the air?
DEGGANS: First of all, Chris Rock is not a news and information person.
HANNITY: He's a comedian.
DEGGANS: Secondly, there's a difference between when somebody is inside a group and they make a joke about that group and when somebody is outside of a group. If you look at "The Daily Show" and you watch Jon Stewart...
HANNITY: Oh, so if you're inside -- OK.
DEGGANS: ... he makes jokes about being a Jewish man that somebody who's not Jewish could not make. There's a difference.
HANNITY: Eric, the person that Don Imus made most fun of was Don Imus. The next person he made the most fun of -- and even kiddingly called his wife a ho -- was his wife, his own family, the people on his own show. So it wasn't applying a double standard here, but I find it interesting that you're willing to give Chris Rock a pass.