What TV Tells Me: Hurtful Labels Have Consequences

The "Imus In the Morning" TV show got fired yesterday, as will, soon, perhaps, the "exotic" dancer who performed for the Duke lacrosse team a year ago. False accusations don't play well in this society.

MSNBC has immediately removed the Imus show, but his radio show, in theory, will go on at CBS. CBS says it is "monitoring" the situation. In part, that means watching how many more advertisers decide to bolt. The other part is seeing community and press reaction to the story.

What is finally being revealed is that this wasn't a one-time occurrence of bigotry with Imus' supposed "comedy" act. Most recently, in November 2006, Imus lambasted the "Jewish management at whoever we work for, CBS," referring to them as "money-grubbing bastards." Two years earlier, Imus referred to publishers of a new book called The Christmas Thief as "thieving Jews."



Four years earlier, Imus referred to Gwen Ifill, then a Washington correspondent for The New York Times, now host of PBS' "Washington Week," as a "cleaning lady," a racist insult. Imus also called the Times' William C. Rhoden, a respected sportswriter, a "quota hire."

It's not known whether the exotic dancer in question has that kind of history against players of college sports teams. She kept changing her story about getting raped by the Duke lacrosse team. Maybe something happened at the party -- but can't be proven. That said, it probably isn't always the best call to assemble lots of young boys, lots of booze, and a dancer. But it isn't a crime.

Surely, there was also a too-aggressive district attorney who was thinking about his career. All these elements led North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper yesterday not just to dismiss all remaining criminal charges against the three players, but to take the extra step of declaring the players innocent.

It doesn't matter. Reputations have been sullied. The lacrosse players were called white-boy rapists. TV tells me so.

Similarly, the charges Imus made are also false. Rutgers University women's basketball players didn't deserve to be called a team of black girl hookers. TV tells me so.

Imus apologized -- and why not? Whether it was his conscience -- or a $10-million-a-year contract -- you do what's needed. TV tells me so.

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