Guests: John Ridley, Bob Kohn, Joan Walsh, Bo Dietl, Steve Adubato, John Ridley, Paul Waldman, Bill Maher, Kim Serafin, Cecily Knobler
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight, breaking news, NBC fires one of the most powerful media figures in the world, Don Imus, the announcement coming at the top of NBC‘s “Nightly News.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: Good evening. There is breaking news to report tonight having to do with radio morning show host Don Imus, whose show is simulcast on our cable network, MSNBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: In a statement, NBC News had this to say about the firing. Quote, “This decision comes as a result of an ongoing review process. It also takes into account many conversations with our own employees. What matters most to us is that the men and women of NBC Universal have confidence in the values we‘ve set for this company. This is the only decision that makes that possible.”
Now, the bleeding that started a week ago with these statements led to a very public hemorrhaging throughout today. The Federal Communications Commission announced they were going to start investigating the talk show giant, and some of the biggest companies in America said they would no longer be doing business with Imus‘ show, GM, Spring Nextel, GlaxoSmithKline, American Express, Ditech.com, T.D. Ameritrade, Staples, Bigelow Tea and Procter & Gamble all pulling their support for Mr. Imus.
But perhaps the unkindest cut of all, those big-name guests that made Imus as much as he made them, well, they started defecting today, vowing to never again appear on his show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don‘t want to be an enabler for the encouraging in any way of the kind of programming that results in the unbelievably offensive statements that were made just a few days ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Now, since Monday, Don Imus has been fighting to save his reputation. Looking haggard on the show this morning, this is what Don had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And I don‘t want this to be the final thing I do in what has been a remarkable career. And I‘m a good and decent person, and I don‘t have to—for example, I don‘t need a “Come to Jesus” moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Well, he got one tonight. So with NBC pulling the plug, will CBS follow suit? And is this a firing—is it a result of political correctness, media hypocrisy, or was it simply the right thing to do? We‘re going to have guests throughout the hour, and they‘re going to be reacting to this breaking news that‘s sure to ignite a fierce debate in the coming days on race, hypocrisy and hip-hop, a lot of things.
But let‘s start right now by bringing in our expert panel. John Ridley—he‘s a frequent commentator on National Public Radio. He‘s also a screenwriter. John Walsh—she‘s the editor-in-chief of Salon.com. And we also have Bob Kohn. He‘s the author of the book “Journalistic Fraud.”
John, let‘s start with you. I want you to listen to what Al Sharpton had to say just a few minutes ago, his reaction to the news that Don Imus had been fired by NBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: The cancellation of Don Imus‘ show by NBC was the right thing to do. I think that it sends a clear message that the airwaves should not be used in a blatant display of the attempt to commercialize and mainstream sexism and racism. It is our hope that CBS will do the same.
It is really sad that in 2007, that we would even have to deal with this kind of issue. You would think that we had learned these lessons long ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: John Ridley, Al Sharpton says it was the right thing to do, that we‘ve all learned valuable lessons. Do you agree?
JOHN RIDLEY, SCREENWRITER AND COMMENTATOR: Is it the right thing to do, and have we learned valuable lessons? I think when you talk about mainstreaming the dehumanization of women, you can turn over to MTV right now and see the same thing in rap videos and things like that. So I—I think that when—what he‘s saying in general doesn‘t quite hold water. And I think that the Imus situation is the Imus situation, but when he‘s talking about commercializing the demonization of women, getting rid of Imus hasn‘t done a thing.
And I think the unfortunate thing, when Imus or when Isaiah Washington or when Mel Gibson say these things, you get big news that burns hot and burns out very quickly, but the root causes of these things—look, Don Imus, from what I‘ve seen of his show, is not the wittiest guy in the world. I don‘t think he popped out of bed one morning with the phrase “nappy-headed hos” that he just coined out of nowhere. He heard it somewhere, and we got to wonder where older white men are finding these kinds of phrases.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Joan, it‘s very easy to figure out where he hears these phrases. They‘re permitted throughout society. I mean, Viacom, that owns CBS, also—you know, I mean, they own MTV. There‘s so much trash. And I can say this, and I know you this as a mother, but as a father of three kids, there is so much garbage that is so demeaning and so destructive to young women, black women, white women, Asian women, you can understand why Don Imus and a lot of people are saying this is awfully selective. I mean, when are we going to start worrying about what African-Americans are saying about African-American women?
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Well, I think African-Americans are worrying about what African-Americans are saying. I think there‘s been a longstanding debate in the black community about the misogyny of rap music. I mean, if you go back to that old Tupac song, where he calls out Delores Tucker for her crusade against misogyny in rap music—this is not something that the black community isn‘t paying attention to. Maybe enough isn‘t being done, but you know I think...
SCARBOROUGH: Well, wait. Wait. But hold on—I don‘t understand.
I don‘t understand.
SCARBOROUGH: Why don‘t we hear Civil Rights leaders calling for record company executives to be fired who hire these punks that go out and talk about abusing women, raping women, calling them “hos,” calling them whatever they‘ve been calling them since 2 Live Crew in 1990. And you know, big media companies have made millions and millions of dollars off of misogynist, mainly African-American misogynist young males going out, saying the most horrific things about black women. Why is it...
SCARBOROUGH: ... this old man talks about “nappy-headed ho,” to whatever, and suddenly, everybody‘s shocked and stunned?
WALSH: Oh, come on, Joe! Do you think he‘s out there...
SCARBOROUGH: No, you come on, Joan!
WALSH: ... partying at night—no! Do you think he‘s out there partying at night with Snoop Dogg and (INAUDIBLE) Come on! Maybe he heard it from rap music, but I don‘t think Don Imus is like a product of rap culture or the black community. This is a man who feels comfortable talking around “nappy-headed ho,” and if it wasn‘t that, it would be something else.
SCARBOROUGH: But the question is...
WALSH: And I think to blame black men...
RIDLEY: ... why does he feel comfortable?
SCARBOROUGH: Wait, wait, wait!
WALSH: I don‘t know why he feels comfortable, and I...
RIDLEY: Can I jump in here? I mean, the problem is, you know, I can‘t say how many times when people want to start a conversation with me, they say something like, you know, I love hip-hop, or I love rap music. And...
WALSH: Well, that‘s ridiculous. It‘s disgusting.
RIDLEY: It is ridiculous. But when you look at the media—look, the vast majority of the black image that‘s put out there is hip-hop and urban. I ant to say something. There‘s nothing wrong with that intrinsically, any more than there‘s anything wrong with showing NASCAR. But can you imagine if almost every time that you saw a white person on mainstream television, it had to do with NASCAR or “The Beverly Hillbillies”? And the idea...
WALSH: It would get very old.
RIDLEY: It would get beyond old, but that‘s the way it is for us. And the idea that all of our culture then gets to have this bleed-down where a 65- year-old white man, whether he really thought he was making a point, whether he thought he was being sarcastic, or whether it just bleeds into the culture to the point where he can say this—and then we have this kind of reaction. Of course, it‘s wrong what he said, but I think it‘s equally as wrong—you don‘t see the level of protest over the video “hos” and the things that are put out there on BET or MTV or wherever.
WALSH: Rappers did not invent misogyny. Rappers did not invent...
RIDLEY: Listen, I‘m not...
WALSH: ... these images...
RIDLEY: I‘m not...
WALSH: ... of black women.
RIDLEY: It‘s not about inventing it!
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second!
RIDLEY: But wait a second...
SCARBOROUGH: You know, (INAUDIBLE) hold on. And I‘ll let you talk, John, but no, rappers did not invent misogyny, they‘ve just made millions and millions and millions of dollars off of it, and you...
WALSH: And so do white record company owners.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second! And white record company owners and people like you and “The New York Times”...
WALSH: Excuse me?
SCARBOROUGH: ... and “Rolling Stone” and “Spin” over the past 15 to 20 years apologize...
WALSH: People like me?
SCARBOROUGH: ... for them—yes! You‘re apologizing for them right now! You should be every bit as shocked and stunned about what goes on with hip-hop music and what goes on MTV as you are...
SCARBOROUGH: ... about what Don Imus is saying!
SCARBOROUGH: But this is very selective for you, Joan!
WALSH: ... don‘t speak for me.
SCARBOROUGH: I am speaking for you!
WALSH: No, it‘s not. I have...
WALSH: Well, don‘t. Let me speak!
SCARBOROUGH: Do you think rappers -- - do you think rappers should be fired, Joan?
WALSH: I think some...
SCARBOROUGH: From the record labels.
WALSH: I think some rap music is really reprehensible. I think there have been protests. I think there should be more protests. I personally speak to my daughter about it. I personally turn off the radio. I personally don‘t buy that kind of music for her.
WALSH: But we‘re not talking...
SCARBOROUGH: And I—you know what, though, Joan...
WALSH: You know—listen, when...
SCARBOROUGH: I do the same...
SCARBOROUGH: ... my kids, but there are a lot of—there are a lot of parents—a lot of kids out there that don‘t have parents that do that.
WALSH: Listen, Joe...
SCARBOROUGH: And again, it has led to a destructive culture. And these teenage girls and my teenage daughter...
WALSH: It reflects a destructive culture.
SCARBOROUGH: ... my daughter, who‘ll be a teenager soon—it will be less of a destructive because you get a 65-year-old man off the air?
WALSH: That‘s not what I said. I said it reflects a destructive culture.
WALSH: It‘s part of a destructive culture.
RIDLEY: It reflects a destructive culture. My bigger issue is—the record company—no, Don Imus or rap music didn‘t invent misogyny. The problem is, is that we, as black people—why are we allowing these images to be, for all intents and purposes, almost the sole images of black people, or particularly black women, that are put out there? Or why do we perpetuate these things?
So I‘m not even suggesting that you get rid of all of it. You‘re not going to get rid it. You‘re not going to get rid of, you know, sexy women and things like that. And quite frankly, there‘s a level I don‘t want to get rid of all of it. But there is a part of me that says if we‘re going to put all of this energy in going after Don Imus, that doesn‘t solve anything. Are we surprised...
RIDLEY: ... that a crotchety old white guy...
WALSH: I think it does solve something.
RIDLEY: ... would say something like this? It doesn‘t solve...
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, God!
RIDLEY: This solves nothing. If this solves anything...
SCARBOROUGH: Give me a break!
RIDLEY: If it was going to be solved, it would have been solved with Michael Richards...
SCARBOROUGH: This is a tempest in the teapot!
RIDLEY: ... when he said what he said. It would have been solved in the 1960s, when we had our Civil Rights movement...
SCARBOROUGH: ... let me bring in Bob Kohn. Let me bring in Bob Kohn here. Bob, I want to make this completely clear. What did Richard Nixon say, “perfectly clear”? I think what Don Imus said was reprehensible. I cannot imagine using my airwaves to say such a thing. I can‘t imagine a 65, 66-year-old man doing that.
That being said that, I am stunned by the hypocrisy that I‘ve seen. So many—you know, “The New York Times” will praise and liberal critics will praise hip-hop artists, calling them—you know, saying that—you know, what are the phrases? They are the new poets of the street. You feel the energy and the rhythm of the streets coming out in hip-hop music. Of course, these are old white music reviewers saying it. And these are the same people now that, you know, write editorials for “The New York Times” talking about how shocked and stunned they are that Don Imus used a term—I want—you know what? I want to show you a Rosie clip right now, and then I‘m going to let you respond because Rosie says—is it not ready? You go ahead and talk, and then I‘m going to load up this Rosie clip...
SCARBOROUGH: But go ahead, Bob.
BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”: Yes, I‘d like to go back to the question as to whether NBC Universal made the right decision in discontinuing Imus‘ simulcast because I think that was purely a business decision, a straight up-and-down business decision. One of the things I heard earlier today was that General Motors and among other companies had decided not to advertise on his show. Well, when an organization is faced like that, they‘ve got to make some kind of decision like this.
It reminds me of Rupert Murdoch when he decided not to publish that O.J. Simpson book because of the public outcry. It was a flat-out business decision that he made. Regardless of whether something was right or wrong, I think these corporations really need to look at the bottom line, and that‘s their responsibility to the shareholders and that‘s how the executives act. So I really don‘t think it was a bad or good thing that NBC Universal did.
Now, on the other side of the coin, you talk about hypocrisy—I wouldn‘t want to use that word or characterize it as hypocrisy. You know, just a few weeks ago, the New York City Council I understand passed a resolution, a non-binding, unenforceable resolution that basically said that people in the city, no matter what ethnicity, should not be using the “N” word, OK, in public, on—in the media, et cetera.
And I think that was a recognition that everybody has a responsibility to care for the sensibilities and the sensitivity of using these words with other people, not just one particular ethnicity against another, but everybody has this responsibility. And I think if we keep it in that focus, you know, just calling people hypocritical is not going to really gain anything.
We have a lot of problems in this world, and if we just simply realize that we have to be sensitive to people, all of us, even on the rap videos, on BET, the things that are said on these programs that get into the culture doesn‘t help anybody. And I kind of agree with Ridley on that point.
SCARBOROUGH: And you know, it‘s not—and we‘re not talking about African-American women solely. It obviously gets into white culture. You pull the iPods of everybody on that Rutgers basketball team, whether they‘re African-Americans or whether they‘re whites or whomever they are, I‘m there are destructive songs in there...
KOHN: Yes. If you get those-
SCARBOROUGH: ... that demean women.
KOHN: Right. And if you get those words in your earphones all day long, you know, especially young kids, who might use these words without any racist meaning whatsoever, they might use the words and they might get kicked out of school or suspended.
SCARBOROUGH: And you know...
RIDLEY: But on another level...
SCARBOROUGH: No, you know what? And we‘ve got to go to break, but you know what? We keep talking about race, race, race, race, race. This has just as much to do with gender, gender, gender, gender, gender...
SCARBOROUGH: ... and how young women—and how young women in this culture, in our society, are just really—are really facing, I think, more challenges than ever before.
John Ridley, stay with us. Joan Walsh, Bob Kohn, stick around. We‘ll be right back.
And when we come back, how the media is covering the Imus story, and why is it that journalists are allowed to casually throw around the phrase that got the I-man kicked off cable?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, “REAL TIME”: Of course he should not be fired. People should not even be asked in this country to just disappear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re going to check in with Bill Maher, a man who knows how what you say can get you canceled.
Plus, we‘re going to talk to the man who had to break it to Imus that he was going to be in trouble. We are back...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IMUS: Part of the tragedy of this is that people had a right, everybody had a right to expect better of me, and it isn‘t that I should have known better, I did know better.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”: Oh, what a lovely offensive comment!
It‘s the kind of thing you never want to hear again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... quote, “some nappy-headed hos.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... “nappy-headed hos”...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... “nappy-headed hos”...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... “nappy-headed hos”...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... “nappy-headed hos”...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... nappy-headed whores...
STEWART: I believe that last gentleman didn‘t have his facts correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Boy, so offensive. Leave it to Jon Stewart. If what Imus said is so offensive, why‘s everybody in the media repeating it, and why did it take so long for people to react to what he had to say?
Our all-star panel is back with us, John Ridley, Joan Walsh and Bob Kohn.
John Ridley, let me go to you first. Last night, I told you what white America was telling me in red state America, and you kind of chuckled. But I think it‘s important for African-American leaders to understand that while white Americans won‘t come out and say this is just pure hypocrisy—they‘ll be quiet because they know that‘s the safe thing to do—so many of them are rolling their eyes, going, My God, I hear Dave Chappelle say much worse every time I walk through—you know, walk through the room and, you know, my kid‘s watching Comedy Central.
RIDLEY: Well, I...
SCARBOROUGH: So I mean, I guess that‘s what I‘m trying to say. There‘s an inconsistency, and in the long run, I don‘t think it‘s good for African-Americans that this sort of thing is blown up as big as it is.
RIDLEY: I think that—to me, look, Don Imus was asking for it.
He‘s been asking for it for a long time. Before this happened...
RIDLEY: ... I started looking into some things that he said, just—
I was on Media Matters, and I saw some of the things that he said. I was surprised—you know, When he called Barack Obama “that young colored fellow,” to me, that was crossing the line. So I‘m a little surprised it‘s taken this long for people to go, Wait, nappy-headed hos? This is—you know, this is too much.
I think what made the difference is that he was talking about young girls who are not in politics, who don‘t have a forum, who don‘t have anywhere else to go. And for me—and I was talking about this yesterday, Joe, that after you get past the race issue—you know, I‘m a father, too, and if somebody said this about my kids, that‘s when it becomes really, really painful. And I think that‘s where people, black, white or whatever, you go home and you look at your kids, and you think, If somebody said this, I‘d probably punched them in the head. And I think if Don Imus wants to take 10 punches in the head, I would welcome him back on television, no problem at all.
RIDLEY: If I could throw the first punch.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, if you could throw the first punch. You‘d have to
I‘m afraid you‘d have to get in line because there are a lot of people, black, white, whatever race, that would like to throw a punch at him. He‘s not been terribly kind to a lot of us.
Now, minutes ago, I asked NBC News president Steve Capus about the influence of Don Imus in the world of media and politics and the tough decision he had to make to cancel the simulcast on MSNBC. This is what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE CAPUS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENT: Look at the people who come on his program. Politicians come on there to announce that they‘re seeking the White House. Opinion leaders from all walks of life come on Imus‘ program. When he brings on Martina McBride, there‘s no question that that spikes sales of her music. There‘s an awful lot of people who come to that program both as guests and as listeners.
And this is a complex matter, as such. You know, there‘s an awful lot of very informative talk on that program and great dialogue. And a lot of us have been fans of the program for a long time. You know, I think this is—I say this is a complex matter because I believe that Don Imus is a good man. I really do believe that. And I look at all of the good that he has done through the Imus Ranch and any number—you know, autism, any number of different causes. And I absolutely respect the man for that, and I respect the standing that you so rightly described, Joe. I respect his standing in our industry.
But I also respect the voices that I‘ve been listening to. And when they say that this action needs to take place and that this time, he went too far, how can I make any other decision but this?
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you very much for being with us tonight. We greatly appreciate it, and I greatly respect the tough decision that you had to make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Joan, Steve Capus suggested that he had to get rid of Imus for a lot of reasons, but some of that had to do with what was going on inside of NBC. Do you think when African-American employees for NBC News started telling him that they were deeply offended by what Don Imus did, they had no other—he had no other choice but to get rid of him?
WALSH: I think there were many reasons he had no other choice, and that‘s one of them. I mean, the other thing that we‘re seeing, Joe, is a real—a lot of soul-searching about how white the media is and that, you know, African-Americans are put in this terrible position of being, you know, often the only one having to speak about this, and that‘s why I think it‘s been important that white people, that people of all colors, men, women, speak up about it.
But I think the other thing that you were getting at with your—in your comments there are why I think you and John are giving Imus—you‘re letting him of too easy because he did have this amazing industry cachet. And you know, people came and kissed the ring, and they announced their presidential candidacies on his show. He was a mainstream media figure with this shadowy side as a shock jock.
And until you‘ve got Snoop Dogg hosting “Snoop Dogg Country” or, you know, Young Jeezy doing the drivetime show in the morning, talking to John McCain, I don‘t think you can really be blaming this on hip-hop culture. Hip-hop is a broad cultural phenomenon among youth. We can debate it all we want. I have a hard time with a lot of it. But it still doesn‘t have the influence of a Don Imus. It just doesn‘t And so I...
RIDLEY: I completely disagree. You look at how pervasive...
WALSH: All right.
RIDLEY: ... hip-hop music is. Sixty percent of the buyers of hip-hop music are white.
WALSH: Are white. Absolutely.
RIDLEY: Are white. So you‘re telling me—lookit, when you see suburban moms who are driving in their tricked-out Escalades with bling-bling spinning wheel caps, when you see white kids in the suburbs with their pants pulled down and wearing chains, where did they get this from? Why—look, every aspect—since slavery, when white people started singing gospel music and jazz, I mean, we‘ve had an influence. And to say that hip-hop—and not in every bad way—you guys—you look at guys like Jay-Z, you look at P. Diddy—I mean, these guys have gone from being musicians to being entrepreneurs. So I‘m not in any way saying...
RIDLEY: ... all hip-hop is bad. But the idea that Don Imus, you know, just in a vacuum came up with “nappy-headed hos”—he came up with it because of the things that we‘re putting out there. And I want to be very clear, I‘m not saying...
WALSH: But is it...
RIDLEY: ... let‘s get rid of all of it, but we‘ve got to think about...
WALSH: If it wasn‘t “nappy-headed hos,” it would have been something else.
WALSH: He trashed Maya Angelou.
RIDLEY: He should have done (INAUDIBLE) Maya Angelou. He did “nappy-headed hos.” It wasn‘t something else.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, John, thank you so much. Joan, Bob, appreciate it. We‘ll be back with a lot more on Imus‘ firing with a regular on Imus, Bo Dietl. He‘s going to be here after the break.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re joined now on the phone by private investigator Bo Dietl. He‘s a regular guest on Imus and a friend of Imus‘.
Bo, you were with Don yesterday afternoon. How hard is he taking all of this?
BO DIETL, FREQUENT IMUS GUEST: Well, I mean, he is extremely upset. And the first thing I want to say, Joe, is you know, I don‘t think in any way I could condone - I don‘t think anybody can condone what was blurted out there, the two words. But I just feel as though, you know, what‘s happening with those two words, we can play upon it and we could build on it rather than destroy someone who was so powerful and did so many good things with the autism, with the veterans, with getting the veterans bill from $12,000 up to $250,000, building a hospital in San Antonio.
The other day, when he flew home from his ranch, he diverted his plan from New Mexico to Arizona to pick up a 6-year-old little boy who had cancer in his eye. He happened to be an African-American little boy, 6 years old.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, Bo, he has done so many things. And, you know, parents...
SCARBOROUGH: No, no, and I understand. And as a guy that‘s got a son that has a form of autism, I certainly understand better than most. And I‘ve known kids that have gone out to the ranch. He‘s made a great difference in all of their lives. Is he stunned by the reaction to his statements? I mean, he‘s apologized, it seems, 100 times already. But is he stunned by how big this has become?
DIETL: Absolutely. But I think that MSNBC reacted too fast. They made a decision. Why not wait until he goes and talks to the victims? The victims are these young ladies, these terrific champions that played for the national championship. Why can‘t we try to make them inspirations? And maybe possibly Don wants to do something with Rutgers College there for other children that go to that college?
SCARBOROUGH: Bo, is he still going to meet with the basketball team, even if he gets fired from CBS?
DIETL: I‘ll guarantee you he‘ll do that. And you want to know something? CBS, before they make a rash judgment the way NBC did, MSNBC, they jumped out there, and he had met with the head guy from NBC, and it was (INAUDIBLE) they should have given him the opportunity to meet with these victims.
Why can‘t we make these young ladies—they‘re the ones that were harmed by this. Why can‘t we make them inspirations for other children and show, out of something bad, Joe, we can make something great? We should be building on. Where did these words come from? You hear them in the schoolyard every day, in a high school. Males talk to the females like that using these garbage words, and they‘re on every music station you listen to. That‘s what it‘s all about.
SCARBOROUGH: Every music station. Bo, they‘re on every music station. They‘re on TV stations. Viacom, who, of course, owns MTV and Comedy Central, they have the n-word thrown around all the time. I think there‘s hypocrisy all over the place.
Hey, by the way, Bo, send Don Imus our best. We certainly don‘t condone what he said, but send him our best. And also tell, if he‘s really lucky, CBS will fire him, also, and then he can go work for XM and make about a hundred million dollars. I don‘t think Don Imus is going anywhere.
Thanks a lot, Bo Dietl.
Coming up here next, will there be fallout for Imus‘ frequent guests who never questioned his over-the-top rants? We‘re going to look at how they‘ve handled the situation next.
And later, Bill Maher has been in Don Imus‘ position before, yanked
from the airwaves for controversial comments. He‘s here to tell us why he
thinks Imus should have been allowed to keep his job. That‘s coming up
SCARBOROUGH: And lets bring into our conversation right now NBC News Senior Vice President Phil Griffin. And Phil, as the guy who oversees MSNBC, you‘ve had to deal with a lot of this over the past week. It‘s been a tumultuous week, but you talked to Imus today. What was his reaction?
PHIL GRIFFIN, NBC NEWS SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT: Hey, Joe. Look, he‘s not stupid. He knew what was coming. He saw the pressure. He knew that this had hit a nerve around the country. And I think he had pretty much come to expect that this was coming. So it wasn‘t much of a surprise.
SCARBOROUGH: So tell me, what was the final straw? We‘ve been hearing about all the sponsors that pulled their sponsorship of Imus and MSNBC “Dayside.” But was there a greater pressure from inside NBC, where you had African-American workers, reporters, journalists who were deeply offended by what Don Imus said? Regardless of all of the good things he did, they didn‘t want to work for an organization that had a guy like this as one of their most high-profile figures.
GRIFFIN: Well, honestly, I think it was everyone at NBC. I mean, the African-Americans, but then it was just about everyone. It was a very difficult situation. And, you know, I mean, people were upset. You know, a lot of them even knew Don. And they just knew that these words just reverberated around and cut deeply and hurt people.
They were about young college kids who had been at sort of the peak of their career. And it wasn‘t right. And they just couldn‘t come to grips with, you know, those words and keeping him on as part of NBC News and MSNBC.
And I think it was difficult for everybody. But I think that nobody could accept the fact that he said those words and then put him on every day. And we had to live with that.
And I think, first and foremost, what Steve Capus did was he reached out to the employees of NBC News, and he wanted to hear them. And I know Steve talked to a lot of people, but, most importantly, to people inside NBC. And he listened to them, and he made the decision. And I think everyone and NBC, even though it‘s painful to know that someone that we‘ve been around for 10 years who‘s been part of us, is no longer going to be with us, I think universally it‘s been praised within the organization.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Well, a tough day for you, a tough day for Steve Capus and all of NBC. Thanks so much, Phil Griffin. Greatly appreciate your time tonight.
GRIFFIN: You bet, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Lets get some more reaction to the firing. Still with us, John Ridley, a frequent commentator on National Public Radio. He‘s also a screenwriter. We‘re also joined by senior fellow at Media Matters, Paul Waldman, and MSNBC media analyst Steve Adubato. He‘s also a professor at Rutgers University.
Well, Paul, let‘s go to you first. Media Matters has been after Don Imus from the very beginning. Why the intense focus on getting Don Imus fired?
PAUL WALDMAN, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA: Well, look, this was part of a pattern. You know, if this had been the first time that he had said something like this, that would have been one thing. But the fact is, for a long time, Don Imus has been saying things on the air that were racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and, you know, ultimately I think that MSNBC did the right thing, because, as a television station, they have an extra responsibility.
You know, anybody can go onto the street corner and shout whatever they want to, even if it‘s distasteful. But if you are going to be a cable news network that has a commitment to journalism and has a commitment to your viewers, the bar has to be set a little higher. So I think that they made the right decision, because they‘ve got an obligation to set a certain kind of a standard and not to have this kind of stuff going out over their airwaves.
SCARBOROUGH: Steve Adubato, do you agree?
STEVE ADUBATO, MEDIA ANALYST: Listen, I can‘t imagine what those conversations were like. It is an incredibly difficult situation. But I have to say this: I‘m proud of NBC News. I‘m proud to be a part of this network. And I‘ll tell you why.
It has nothing to do with the fact that Don Imus has been anything other than a very talented, provocative broadcaster for many years. He‘s brought in money. He‘s brought in advertising revenue. To make the decision with this pressure that it was the right thing to do for NBC News and MSNBC, in spite of the fact that dollars will be lost, I agree with what Paul is saying. It has raised the bar, not just at this network, but for everyone, for the other cable news networks, for everyone who has someone who says outrageous and, in this case, horribly offensive things.
I have a feeling that a lot of other networks are uncomfortable now with what has happened, because now they have to do with the fact that we are not, quote, “in the gutter,” as many people want to believe that everyone in cable news is. The bottom line is, as tough as it was, I was not calling for Imus to be fired, even though I was disgusted by what he said and I was not supporting him. I‘m proud of what happened today, because I know it wasn‘t easy, but it was right.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, John Ridley—and I think we agree on this point—the only time Americans really focus on race is when an aging white man says something stupid or where there‘s a police beating. I remember Jimmy the Greek talking about breeding his slaves. And I sat there thinking, “oh, my God, could this guy be that stupid?”
Pretty soon there is the firestorm, and then the firing, and the weeping at Jesse Jackson‘s side. Why is that that‘s the only time we can talk about race issues in America, when it‘s these sort of tempest in a teapot?
JOHN RIDLEY, COMMENTATOR AND SCREENWRITER: Well, if I can say something really quick, I don‘t know that this was the hardest decision NBC had to make. To me, it‘s this Captain Renault kind of moment. I‘m shocked to find out that there‘s gambling going on in a casino.
The money‘s gone. All the advertisers have pulled out, almost all of them, so how hard is it to let this guy go now that the house has already been sold? You can‘t live there anymore.
ADUBATO: Oh, come on, you can‘t say that it was anything other than a difficult situation when you have a relationship with someone for so long who was tied to the network.
RIDLEY: Listen, if I had a relationship with my uncle, and he said something nasty about my kids, it‘s not that difficult not to invite him over for Thanksgiving anymore.
ADUBATO: I think it‘s a gross oversimplification and a bad analogy.
RIDLEY: Well, look, he‘s been saying these kinds of things forever.
When the money goes, suddenly they have this epiphany that it‘s wrong.
Let me go to what Joe asked me, however, about why it‘s these tempests in a teapot. I think it‘s actually unfortunate, because look at how many people of color that you‘ve seen on television talking about these kinds of things over the last 24, 48 hours, and we‘re going to disappear—hopefully I won‘t completely.
But for the most part, there are other issues that are affecting black America and, by extension, of course, all America. And I think it‘s unfortunate that we get hot and bothered purely about these moments of race, when if we actually had more dialogues about the things that we have in common, as opposed to our differences, we probably wouldn‘t be having these Don Imus moments or the Mel Gibson moments or Isaiah Washington moments if we actually sat down and talked about the regular things as opposed to the high and incendiary things.
ADUBATO: Maybe there‘s an opportunity, Joe. Maybe there‘s an opportunity to really talk about race now, because people are prepared for it. Vivian Stringer, the Rutgers basketball team, you know, the young woman, Essence Carson, when she spoke, black, white, otherwise, I was proud to just be connected to young people like that at Rutgers. And I‘ll tell you what, it‘s an opportunity.
SCARBOROUGH: Maybe there is an opportunity. I just hope that we look at everybody that‘s making racist, misogynist comments and hold everybody equally accountable. If we do that, then I think everybody will be served well.
Hey, John Ridley, don‘t worry. We‘re going to have you back every night if you‘ll come back every night. Thanks for being with us.
Steve Adubato, Paul Waldman, thank you so much for being with us. Coming up next, we‘ve got Bill Maher. He knows what it‘s like to be fired for controversial comments, and he‘s going to tell us why he thinks Imus should have kept his job. That‘s coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: Don Imus falls victim to his own words, but was it the right decision? Well, before Imus was canceled by MSNBC, I talked to comedian Bill Maher. He‘s the host of the hit HBO show “Real Time,” and he had his own show canceled, of course, by ABC five years ago after controversial comments he made about September 11th. And I asked Bill if Imus should have been fired.
BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME”: I‘ve known Don Imus an awfully long time. It was sad to hear him so broken. This guy was always about the swagger. Yes, sometimes he goes over the line. Hey, he‘s a morning disc jockey. He does 20 hours a week of live broadcasting trying to be funny. Comedians go where they think, where they sense, where they feel there‘s a joke. Sometimes it doesn‘t work. Twenty hours a week, year after year, you try it and never say once thing that‘s inappropriate.
You know, was his comment excusable? No, it‘s a terrible thing to say, but still to see this swaggering mustang broken like that, to me, it was just very sad. And of course he should not be fired. People should not even be asked in this country to just disappear, go away, because you made somebody uncomfortable for one second. Then turn the dial. Don‘t listen to him anymore.
I told him, your punishment is you‘re going to lose some black listeners. And that should be your punishment, but that‘s it. He‘s apologized over and over. If you apologized over and over, and then it‘s not accepted, then it‘s on the people who won‘t accept the apology, I think.
SCARBOROUGH: But why do people do that? Why do they apologize over and over and over again? And in Don Imus‘ case, like you said, this is a guy that always played by his own rules. And watching him on Al Sharpton‘s show, he looked like NBC‘s version of Trent Lott.
MAHER: I know. It disturbs me. And, look, I think if people would stop just trying to make him apologize and get onto—there are bigger issues, even in radio. I mean, morning radio has for a long time had a sort of racist tint to it. It‘s not just this show. It‘s Howard Stern. It‘s a lot of shows. White disc jockeys who sort of have this—you know, it‘s very sort of wink-wink, but it‘s there. If you want to make an issue of that, great.
If Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who I am friends with both of them, like them both very much, think they‘ve both done some great things, but to make this go on day after day, week after week, if this is the biggest problem they have, then the civil rights movement is in a lot better shape than I thought it was, because I think there are real issues they should be dealing with.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, and let‘s talk about comedy, because race plays such a huge role, and it‘s all about comedians been politically incorrect, not playing by the codes of everybody else. And when you had Chris Rock on your show, I remember you politely asking him about using the n-word. And he said, “No, Bill, I don‘t use the n-word. I say”—and then he actually said the word itself and then went on to rattle it off three, four, five times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: The thing about Michael Richards yelling (bleep) is like because he‘s such a cultural icon, so it‘s kind of like Fonzie screaming (bleep), you know? Up your nose with a rubber nose, (bleep).
People come up to me and go, “You think he‘s racist?” I‘m like, “Well, he screamed (bleep) in a crowded room, I mean, what do you got to do, shoot Medgar Evers to be a racist?”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: People say things, it shocks viewers, and they laugh.
That‘s just part of the shtick, isn‘t it?
MAHER: Well, you‘re talking about a double standard, and there should be a double standard. You know, black people, if they want to say that word, they have every right to. White people shouldn‘t be able to say that word. I get that much.
SCARBOROUGH: Why do think people love going after people like Don Imus so much?
MAHER: I call it fake outrage, you know? People just like to get all upset about something, and it‘s not just—it happens on the right all the time, as well as the left. The left, of course, is more politically correct. But people really want to apparently in this country distract themselves from the real issues.
SCARBOROUGH: Anyway, thanks again to Bill Maher. Now, we‘re going to be hearing more from Mr. Maher tomorrow night. And make sure to catch Bill‘s standup act. He‘s going to be performing at the Las Vegas Hard Rock next weekend.
And up next, we‘ve got some comic relief straight ahead from “Hollyweird.”
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, stop the gossip, because “Hollyweird” is throwing out the trash with a Scarborough clean-up. This week‘s winner, the HBO hit “Entourage.”
The show‘s creator is cleaning up the cable giant‘s image for raunchy television. He tells “TV Week” he refuses to show sex scenes because they got old and boring. What?
Here now to talk about that travesty, senior editor for “InTouch Weekly,” Kim Serafin, and Cecily Knobler, host of “Live from Hollywood” radio and contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”
What in the world is going on here, Cecily? I‘m a little concerned.
No sex scenes in “Entourage”?
CECILY KNOBLER, VH-1‘S “BEST WEEK EVER”: I know, that‘s kind of ridiculous. I mean, don‘t they realize that sex sells? I hope the porn industry doesn‘t follow suit, because I would hate to rent “Debbie Does Dallas” and have it just be about some chick named Debbie talking about her life. I mean, how boring.
SCARBOROUGH: And the Dallas Cowboys.
And, Kim Serafin, I mean, it‘s also not very realistic, is it, for four young guys in L.A., fast track to fame? Come on, there‘s got to be sex involved in those scenes.
KIM SERAFIN, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”: Yes, this is something you definitely do not hear very often in Hollywood, that they want less gratuitous sex because that gets old and boring, but what the creator says is that he wants to make it more realistic, because this is not like “Sex and the City.” This is not a show about their sex lives. It‘s really about, you know, living the Hollywood lifestyle and Vince and Chase and his exploits. And, you know, I personally would rather see, you know, Ari, the Jeremy Piven character, and, you know, his fast-talking ways and some gratuitous sex. You know, he‘s got a half hour to put the story forward.
SCARBOROUGH: You know what? I speak for a lot of guys. I speak for a lot of guys that say, if you‘ve got 30 minutes, at least 28 of those minutes can be gratuitous sex. So if you‘re scoring at home, you know, racism, we‘re against it. Mindless violence, against it. Gratuitous sex, undecided.
So, speaking of cleaning up, could Heather Mills be taking her dancing back across the pond? One of the “Dancing with the Stars” judges who‘s also in the British version says she‘s told bosses she‘d be a great hit on the BBC show.
But, Kim Serafin, if that‘s the case, talk about cleaning up. The dance floor would be littered with like fruit thrown at this woman. She‘s hated in the U.K., right?
SERAFIN: Yes, it would probably have a different reaction. I mean, here, remember, there was all this talk—even Heather Mills herself was joking about it. Is her leg going to fall off on the third dance or the fourth dance? There was a Web site. People were taking bets. And now she‘s turned into the big star in the show. The judges love her, so now they want to maybe take her back to England.
I don‘t know if she‘d have the same reaction there. She‘s not really as well-liked there. She seems to be winning people over here. There, it might be a different story.
SCARBOROUGH: Apparently loathed there.
And Anna Nicole Smith is going to take something across the pond. Her final film is going to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. And, of course, Cecily, I think that‘s the French language version of “Othello,” right?
KNOBLER: Oh, yes, it‘s perfect for Cannes. You know, they‘re billing this as a comedy/sci-fi. What they don‘t realize, this is actually a documentary. This is a true story. She was a buxom alien, which explains so much, doesn‘t it?
SCARBOROUGH: It really does.
And, Kim, is she going to be the hit in Cannes when this film festival starts up?
SERAFIN: Well, it is a film about aliens that morph into super-hot babes and come to Earth to save the Earth from the evil forces. So it sort of seems to rank up there with the artistic kind of highbrow films that are normally shown at Cannes. If you miss it at Cannes, it does come out on DVD on May 1st. So you can look forward to that.
SCARBOROUGH: Awesome. I can‘t wait. Cecily Knobler, Kim Serafin, thanks so much. And thank you for being with us tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
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