Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Why Is This Man Taken Seriously?

"An Apologetic Imus Is Back on the Air" - Fox News headline.

The media covered the return of Don Imus yesterday like he was the radio equivalent of General Douglas MacArthur walking ashore at Palo Beach in the Philippines. Fox News, in particular, was an embarrassment. The Imus "story" was prominently featured on The Big Show with Gibson & Nauert, The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes.

Imus is a cartoon in a cowboy hat. And a demented one ("Dick Cheney is still a war criminal, Hillary Clinton is still Satan"). He was fired for a stupid comment that was mild in the Imus catalog of stupidity. But since the average dunce understands and has an opinion about a term like "nappy-headed hos," it's ratings gold for Fox and the other cable stations.

Fox didn't disappoint.

Regarding the hiring of black comedian Karith Foster, host John Gibson asked frequent Imus guest Bo Dietl: "Is she there to keep Imus on the straight and narrow?" No, said Dietl. Because ". . . more black Americans, uh, uh, come over to me than, uh, regular Americans" to compliment Imus about his show. Oh. As opposed to irregular Americans.

In a segment that could be a future Saturday Night Live parody, Bill O'Reilly introduced his "Body Language Breakdown" (I didn't make that up). The guest was body language "expert" Tonya Reiman. Ms. Reiman concluded that the Imus anatomy showed he had little remorse because he stuck out his tongue and blinked too much throughout his latest cowering apology to Rutgers. In case viewers didn't notice Ms. Reiman's "analysis" Fox played Imus apologizing in slow motion.

Not to be outdone, Hannity and Colmes devolved into a comical shout-a-thon between its hosts, an Al Sharpton groupie, an author and the ubiquitous Dietl the Imus mascot. You'd think the future of the Republic was at stake suffering through Sean Hannity trying to extract from the Sharpton groupie the name of just one rapper her boss wanted fired for using the n-word.

So it went for three hours. Fox hosts also asked their guests questions such as: Why didn't Bernard McGuirk speak? Is he being muzzled? Is Imus going to change? Its producers made liberal use of a camera that panned the Imus show regulars like they were House Judiciary Committee members preparing for an impeachment vote.

What a sorry, pathetic day for cable television "news." Even the local news took a break from murders, the weather, car chases and Grandma getting scammed by an infomercial to cover Imus. If there is a media outlet that did not cover Imus, I'd like to congratulate the producer or editor.

The Imus coverage is another indictment of the media's obsession with vulgar, lowest-common denominator personalities. Imus should be irrelevant. He's not, unfortunately. He will inevitably say something far worse than "nappy-headed hos" and the spectacle that played out last night on Fox will repeat itself. When it does the appropriate body language will be my middle finger and reaching for the remote.