BARRETT: Two sides to every story

Tom Barrett

Bigot, racist, sexist, chauvinistic pig, the human incarnation of the Prince of Darkness himself in this world. All of these labels (well, maybe not the last one) have been thrown at Don Imus after his recent derogatory remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team were broadcast over the airwaves on his “Imus in the Morning” show. Everyone from players, politicians, coaches, TV personalities and even Rev. Al Sharpton has criticized, rebuked and professionally castrated the popular but all-too-often controversial radio personality. This scandal has led to the termination of Imus’ contract when the morning program was pulled off the air and has caused an uproar across the country. While his comments were foolish and unprofessional, isn’t all of this commotion a bit excessive?

“Imus in the Morning” has always flirted with crossing the oft-avoided PC line; this time it just so happened to pole vault itself beyond this mark. But are his poorly selected words really enough to strip the women’s team of everything it worked for and accomplished this season? (The answer is “No.”) Do his remarks highlight the racial and sexual biases that plague our society today? Maybe. But what about shows like “South Park” that constantly trample over the lines of political correctness week after week? What about the degrading lyrics of some popular rap artists that are repeated and idolized by middle schoolers across the nation? Maybe, just maybe, his words were those of a shock-jock radio host who was trying to get a few cheap laughs from his listeners but were spoken way too hastily. These questions are not posed to defend the atrocious remarks that Imus uttered, but they are instead intended to warn about taking things too far out of context.

While Imus’s program has consistently relied on the “Did he really just say that?” approach to draw in listeners, what’s ignored by much of the anti-Imus coalition is all of the good his radio show has done. His annual Radiothon has raised $40 million to fund the Imus Ranch, a program designed to help children with cancer build self-esteem and self-confidence. In addition, the Radiothon also raises money for Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund and the CJ foundation for SIDS. He helped raise over $6 million for the Center for the Intrepid – a rehabilitation center for disabled veterans returning from Iraq. The vast body of philanthropy that Imus has used his name and show to accomplish, however, has been eclipsed by the recent controversy. His firing occurred during this year’s Radiothon, which still raised over $3 million.

So what this all boils down to is this question: Is one exceptionally tasteless statement enough to warrant the firing of a man who has done so much good? Are three words enough to ruin a whole season of accomplishments for the Rutgers team as well as eclipse the rest of a man’s contributions to society? Advertisers scared of losing consumers and a network worried about getting a bad image seem to think so. It’s just a shame that three ill-chosen words can create so much turmoil.

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Tom Barrett is a sophomore philosophy major from Colonia, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]