The Hypocrisy Surrounding Imus

Don Imus is the creation of radio management.

How do I know that?

There would be no Imus In The Morning if various radio executives and companies over the years did not hire him, fire him, promote him, syndicate him and pay him beyond his wildest dreams.

Imus is edgy and employers like edgy.


Well, until their creation goes over the edge.

Incidents like the one Imus had with the Rutgers basketball team (do I really need to repeat his racial slur here?) could only happen because his employers want him to be on the cutting edge. It's okay when Don Imus slices and dices a politician or a public figure. That's the stuff headlines -- and thus, ratings are made of.

But when he goes too far -- over the side -- then he'll have to swim for two weeks without a life vest until he's rescued once again.

And why do we all know Imus will be rescued?

Because his ratings are building steadily on MSNBC -- the simulcast of his WFAN, New York morning show. And CBS likes the revenue from Imus In The Morning. It's not uncommon for a morning radio show to account for a mountain of the station's revenue.

Oh, he's coming back alright. You can bet your share price on it.

And so are any advertisers who might defect while the heat in the kitchen is too hot for them. They'll just hide like advertisers do when things go wrong.

As good as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are -- and they're good at rallying public opinion -- corporate America is better at what they do. The suits apologize, make amends, punish, issue statements of outrage, pay ransom and then it's back to work.

When Imus does go back on the air, his ratings will probably be bigger and better. MSNBC's version of a radio morning show may have struck it rich. This never happened in Arthur Godfrey's day, did it? Even when he fired Julius LaRosa on the air!

The best organization I ever saw take a shock jock apart (and Imus is not a shock jock) is the animal rights group PETA. Bubba "The Original" Love Sponge when he worked for Clear Channel in Florida castrated a wild boar on the air. Pictures circulated on the Internet. You can't do those things.

So PETA castrated Clear Channel and by extension, their man, Bubba.

PETA mounted a boycott that made Clear Channel scream "Uncle" -- and I don't mean "Uncle Lowry". They had a website with advertisers they convinced to stop running commercials on the station. It hurt. Bubba returned to the air but eventually was shown the door.

The hypocrisy of holding Imus to one standard (which he no doubt failed) and others to a lesser standard bothers me. I'm not talking about the debate over whether rap singers can call a black woman a "ho" and get away with it. I'm talking about whether other talk show hosts can commit dastardly acts and get away with them.

Rush Limbaugh made fun of Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease by shaking and rattling on his program (pathetically shown on his website). It was Rush and Rush must not be denied so he was forgiven. And while I recognize the difference between racial slurs and insulting a Parkinson's patient, some radio big mouths elude the public outrage that eventually leads to boycotts.

Even Howard Stern hit the wall when he took on the memory of the Mexican singer Selena who died tragically at a young age. Stern was always able to insult blacks, gays -- you name it. But the boycott that surrounded the Selena incident brought him to his knees.

Here's how it works.

Boy meets girl. No, just kidding.

Outrageous Jock meets Consolidator.

Consolidator compensates Outrageous Jock and promotes the hell out of him or her as revenues rise and ratings increase.

Outrageous Jock gets even more outrageous -- gets headlines, press -- Consolidator loves it and makes more money. Outrageous Jock gets a raise.

Outrageous Jock in an attempt to please goes too far and causes a ruckus.

Outrageous Jock initially denies he or she did or said anything wrong and then recants a few days later (radio's version of going into rehab).

Special interest groups rally the troops. Threaten a boycott. Call for resignations.

Consolidator makes nice -- "punishes" Outrageous Jock and takes him or her off the air temporarily.

General public feasts on speculation that Outrageous Jock will be fired.

Outrageous Jock returns.

Advertisers slowly resume their schedules when the stink dies down.

Special interest groups move on to fight somewhere else another day (there's no shortage of causes).

No one is going to get fired when ratings are going up and billing is substantial otherwise some other scoundrel broadcaster will hire Outrageous Jock.

Money trumps social correctness.

Apologies are cheap.

Radio revenues are deep.

It's all hypocritical when it comes to the consolidators of radio.

I've got your solution right here.

In ice hockey when there is a brutality committed (intention to harm another player, etc), the offender is usually suspended for a long, long time. It hurts the player in his wallet and the team on general principles that has to compete without their player.

So, CBS and MSNBC, suspend Imus for three months without pay. Take the ratings hit. Don't fire him. Just feel the pain those girls on the Rutgers basketball team felt and the outrage of the black community where it hurts all of you the most -- in your wallet.