I said yesterday that I haven’t heard Imus traffic in overtly racist stuff over the past few years, but Imus’ history is clear, as Dwil points out today in his Whitlock takedown (more below) and as is clear from the damning transcript from Sixty Minutes about which Bob Herbert wrote this morning. Furthermore, as Bryan Burwell, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch told Jim Rome on Tuesday, Imus’ producer Bernie McGuirk, who is unashamedly racist, has gotten off scott-free in all this. And, Imus is, of course, responsible for whatever McGuirk, or Sid Rosenberg or anyone else on the show has said in this vein over the years – it’s Imus’ show.
I mention this because it makes the body-of-work vs. single-bad-act defense non-sensical.
As I am sure most of you know, NBC has pulled the plug on Imus’ MSNBC simulcasts. And, so no one misses the point – this was the market at work. Sponsors started pulling ads, and next thing you know…The government didn’t force this decision, and unless a relevant group in the market-place had raised enough of a stink about the content of a show, this wouldn’t have happened. I am emphasizing this point because there’s been so much effort to characterize as pernicious the “interference” of the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (about which I will have LOTS to say below). But, they have no power to shut down a show other than their ability to persuade and signal to relevant actors in the market place that supporting a particular product, in this case, Imus, might no longer be worth their while. I don’t personally believe that the market should be the arbiter of all values in our society, but that’s a premise that most people in the world of sports commentary take for granted and never question. So, I think it’s fair to ask – why is such an exercise of marketplace power out of bounds now?