- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don Imus makes an incredibly nice living being a nationally syndicated radio crank.

As an equal-opportunity provocateur, he insults all kinds: blacks, whites, religious groups and women. This is called politically incorrect humor, the sort of stuff that could be heard in an inebriated fraternity house.

His attempt to poke fun at the predominantly black Rutgers women’s basketball team Wednesday has led to a predictable chorus of outrage. There have been calls for his dismissal and for potential guests to boycott his show despite his apology that came two days after his initial characterization of the Rutgers players as “nappy-headed hos.”

He made this observation the day after the Rutgers-Tennessee national championship game.

“That’s some rough girls from Rutgers,” Imus said to his sidekick, Bernard McGuirk. “Man, they got tattoos.”

“Some hardcore hos,” McGuirk said.

“That’s some nappy-headed hos there, I’m going to tell you that,” Imus said.

Imus is hardly one to be discussing the appearances of others, considering his wrinkle-lined mug that appears to have been worked over with a sledgehammer.

His is the kind of facade that leads observers to think he does Halloween each day of the year.

But that mask goes well with his adolescent shtick. Odd as it is, a geezer spouting inanities over the airwaves each morning taps into all the right demographics that advertisers love. If not, his employers, both WFAN and MSNBC, already would have dismissed him.

Not that firing Imus would be necessarily the correct action.

The list of those who say egregious things grows by the hour, from Ann Coulter to Tim Hardaway, from Bill Maher to Micheal Ray Richardson.

Rosie O’Donnell insults the grieving family members of September 11 with her wrongheaded theories on melting steel and the implication that the U.S. government was somehow involved in the terror attack.

Her firing, though it might feel good, runs counter to a nation that clings to its free-speech beliefs, no matter how idiotic and offensive much of the speech is.

That belief applies to the hip-hop artists who pen far more vile words in their releases than anything Imus said.

You could argue Imus was merely borrowing their material.

That is not to suggest any of it is right or that it advances the discourse of the nation.

That is just the way it is in an increasingly fragmented marketplace.

Pushing the boundaries of taste is an old ploy in the entertainment industry. The self-described shock jocks of radio are forever testing the boundaries, if only to keep or increase their audience share.

They know all too well what happens to those who lose the capacity to find new ways to jar an audience.

Imus tries to have it both ways. He tries to be a serious political commentator and routinely has big-name politicians on his show. He also is a vociferous critic of the Bush administration, as if that is a cutting-edge point of view.

But then Imus inevitably reverts to his base fare while pontificating on the news of the day in his out-to-lunch manner.

Both Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the two reverends who never miss an opportunity to exploit a race controversy, are seeking the removal of Imus.

Both are stirring their professional protesters into action, as only they can do.

“I accept his apology, just as I want his bosses to accept his resignation,” Sharpton said.

The faux event is garnering the reverends the attention they so desperately crave.

They are not unlike Imus in that regard or the rest of the blowhards who sometimes step on a verbal land mine.

Attention is their currency of sorts.

Without it, their money-generating capacity is diminished, their relevance imperiled.

Sometimes you wonder whether the joke is on us, as with the Rosie-Donald Trump feud not too long ago.

They said the meanest things to one another, no doubt with their respective Q scores in mind.

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