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He Who Must Not Be Denounced

The Media Research Center has long depicted Don Imus as a liberal who gave a platform to other liberals. So why isn't it happy that he's gone?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/19/2007

Don Imus is the type of media personality whose career the Media Research Center should be more than happy to see go down in flames. After all, in a May 2002 CyberAlert, it declared that Inus "is hardly conservative. Much of his show time is turned over to pontificating from mainstream media reporters." (In other words, liberals.) And as far back as 1994, it was lamenting that an appearance on Imus' radio show revived the campaign of a presidential candidate named Bill Clinton.

However, a search of the MRC's archives since 2002 shows virtually no criticism of Imus (though lots of singling out of remarks by guests on his radio show).

That makes it not all that surprising that the MRC would refuse to issue any official denunciation of Imus' calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" -- even though such a statement was unambiguously offensive regardless of one's political affiliation. In fact, the MRC's writers and bloggers thought Imus' most prominent critics, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, were worthy of more attention than Imus.

What perhaps passes as an official MRC statement came in the form of an April 12 column by Brent Bozell, which called Imus' comment a "stupid racial insult" but devoted much more effort to denouncing Sharpton and Jackson as part of "the usual cast of professional victims." Bozell went on to equivocate Imus' remark by asking of his critics, "But where were these people when the subject was gangsta rap?" and delcaring it "one hundred-fold more offensive than anything that ever came out of the I-Man’s mouth." (Bozell didn't note that Sharpton called for a ban on violent rap lyrics in 2005.)

Bozell wasn't the only one. Posters on the MRC's NewsBusters blog were similarly eager to divert attention from Imus to Sharpton:

  • An April 9 post by Mark Finkelstein complained that "not a discouraging word was heard about Sharpton's history of racially-charged statements and actions that go far beyond" former Sen. George Allen's "gaffe" of calling a staffer for his campaign opponent "macaca." (The MRC folks never quite saw "macaca" as an insult.)
  • In an April 10 post, Finkelstein praised Meredith Vieira for having "the gumption to confront Jesse Jackson with his own record of having made a bigoted statement," Matt Lauer got demerits because he "tiptoed to the edge and backed off when confronting Al Sharpton about his racially-charged past."
  • An April 10 post by Clay Waters went after "hatemonger" Sharption, declaring that his "inflammatory past" is "far more racially divisive than anything Imus said about a women's basketball team." (He did add that Imus' remark was "denigrating.")
  • An April 12 post by Scott Whitlock rehashed Sharpton's involvement in the Tawana Brawley case. 
  • An April 12 post by Justin McCarthy trumpeted how ABC's "The View" "discussed the lack of moral authority from Imus' most visible critic, Reverend Al Sharpton."
  • Another April 12 post by Whitlock complained that "NBC reporter David Gregory spent almost 15 minutes of air time discussing the radio host's firing with the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson." 
  • In an April 14 post, Noel Sheppard declared it "fabulous" that a black sportswriter called Jackson and Sharprton "terrorists."

Sharpton and Jackson weren't the MRC's only targets of diversion. Finkelstein, for instance, wanted to know in an April 10 NewsBusters post: "If Don Imus' racially bigoted remark merited a two-week suspension by MSNBC, for how long will MSNBC and HBO ban Bill Maher after his bit of religious bigotry on today's 'Imus in the Morning'?" (Maher called the Bush administration "[s]tupid and arrogant, in a way only the religious can be.")

In an April 12 NewsBusters post, Brent Baker bashed Keith Olbermann because he "smeared conservative talk radio as 'racist.' " Baker declared that anyone who didn't find Rush Limbaugh's descripton of Barack Obama as "Halfrican" is "humor-challenged since Limbaugh's 'Halfrican-American' quip was obviously a play on 'African-American,' since Obama had a white mother and an African father, not a charge that he's only half American." But Baker offers no evidence that Olbermann said that "halfrican-American" suggested Obama was "only half American." Further, if it's so innocuous, why did conservative San Francisco radio station KSFO host Brian Sussman apologize for similarly calling Obama "Halfrican"? In his words, "[A]gain, this is one that I've apologized for and I've mentioned that my comments were insensitive."

In an April 17 post, Sheppard approvingly cited a Human Events article diverting attention in yet another direction: the snarky political blog Wonkette. Sheppard called alleged lack of criticism of Wonkette's politically incorrect, occasionally foul-mouthed posts about conservatives "akin to Democrat politicians and 'civil rights leaders' being allowed to make clearly racist remarks about anybody they want without raising an eyebrow from the PC crowd." Sheppard failed to note that a blog is different from a radio show.

Matthew Balan directed his ire at rival cable networks In a April 9 NewsBusters post, unhappy that "CNN spent five minutes on the outrageousness of its daily competition: Don Imus’s remarks on MSNBC describing the Rutgers University women's basketball team as 'nappy-headed hoes.' " Balan then misleadingly asserted that a CNN guest "got it wrong" when she asserted that occasional Imus sports guy Sid Rosenberg "previously made a racial comment," noting that "Rosenberg was banned from Imus' show in May 2005, after joking about pop singer Kylie Minogue's breast cancer diagnosis." While that is true, Rosenberg did, in fact, make a "racial comment" in 2001, stating that tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, rather than having their pictures in Playboy, have "a better shot at National Geographic." He was fired after that comment, then rehired.

And because it's not a real controversy if a Clinton can't be dragged into it, conspiracy theories were floated that Hillary Clinton was behind it all. In an April 12 post, Tim Graham -- perhaps channeling convicted felon and Clinton-hater Peter Paul -- tried to get a little conspiracy-mongering going, claiming that those calling for Imus' firing were doing the bidding, if not following the explicit instructions, of Hillary:

Who is happier today at Don Imus removed from MSNBC than Hillary Clinton? Who else at MSNBC would be as harshly critical of Hillary as Imus? Without Imus, Hillary's path to the White House will be smoother. This might explain why some of the Hillary-founded left-wing media-watchdogging clones were so fierce in taking Imus down. 

Matthew Sheffield, in an April 17 post, took it further, liberally quoting from a blogger who was trying to depict Media Matters, which first publicized Imus' quote, as an arm of Hillary's campaign. (Disclosure: I am an employee of Media Matters.) Sheffield went on to declare that "Imus is not a conservative. In truth, he is a moderate liberal." If so, shouldn't he be thrilled that Imus immolated himself?

Dan Riehl promulgated his own conspiracy theories in an April 12 post, asserting that the "Get-Imus Movement" will be fuel for a movement to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Of course, it wouldn't be a Riehl post if there weren't some false claims invovled; he noted "[a] liberal Congress already quick to hurl subpoenas at the AG for normal firings" though, in fact, they were anything but normal; and he repeated the claim that Nancy Pelosi was planning to visit Iran, something she has denied.

And Sheppard, in an April 14 post, endorse scandal-tarred ex-congressman Tom DeLay's plot to avenge Imus' firing by demanding a similar fate for Rosie O'Donnell's job as host of ABC's "The View" over "hateful, idiotic accusations that President Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks." Sheppard called DeLay's idea "absolutely delicious," describing Imus' firing as "this deplorable event" and adding: "They didn't call him 'The Hammer' for nothing, folks."

So, If Imus was as liberal as the MRC has claimed, why does it consider his firing so, to quote Sheppard, "deplorable"?

Perhaps because Imus isn't actually that liberal. After all, he despised the Clintons, as his description of Hillary as Satan suggests, and bashed them during a 1996 Radio-Television Correspondents Association dinner -- Clinton-hating is always a good way to ingratiate oneself with conservatives -- and he has expressed support for two Republican 2008 presidential candidates, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Perhaps those conservative-leaning views caused the MRC to hold back.

Another possible reason: ideology and loyalty is much more important to the MRC than causing offense to non-conservatives. As ConWebWatch has detailed, the MRC stood by Ann Coulter as she issued one offensive remark after another, even refusing to disinvite her from its 20th Anniversary Gala, held just a few weeks after calling John Edwards a "faggot." (She ultimately failed to show up; the MRC claimed she was ill.)

All the misdirection and conspiracy theories, it would seem, are just ways of hiding the fact that Brent Bozell and the MRC secretly love Imus, that big (racist) lug.

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