As corporate sponsors race to drop MSNBC’s “Imus in the Morning” show (in fact MSNBC just announced it has dropped the show as well) after host Don Imus’ offensive comments, it should be clear that mean-spirited ridicule is not an equal-opportunity sport.
Even after apologizing to the predominantly African-American women on Rutgers’ basketball team who he’d called “nappy-headed ho’s,” Imus defended himself with an old argument, that by offending people of every race and creed, he cannot be called a bigot: “This program has been, for 30 or 35 years, a program that makes fun of everybody.”
Indeed, Imus has taken pride in getting away with crude and boorish put-downs. Looking back fondly on a particularly nasty rant against Hillary Clinton last May, he recently declared: “I never admitted it when I went down there and got in all that big jam, insulting Bill Clinton and his fat ugly wife, Satan. Did I? Did I ever say I was sorry for that?”
Being an equal-opportunity jerk is no defense. It may not be fair, but abusive comments against certain groups can end your career, simple as that, while jabs at other groups don't raise such a stir. Rule of thumb is that the more oppression a group historically has endured, the more off-limits it is. (Maybe that’s not so unfair after all.)
Best advice is to avoid vicious, hateful rhetoric altogether – even if you make your living as a jokester. Just ask Michael “Kramer” Richards.
- Jon Harmon