Radio host Don Imus was in the hot seat Monday, appearing on the Reverend Al Sharpton’s radio show to address the racially charged comments he made about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team last week.
In the spacious radio studio surrounded by about 20 journalists and camera crews, Imus apologized for calling the predominately Black team “nappy-headed hos, and pointed to his advocacy for African-Americans, such as challenging Congress to provide more funding for sickle cell anemia. He also said that he wants to meet with the players, as well as their parents and coach, to determine what he can do to build something positive out of the situation.
The nearly two-hour interview between the personalities was heated at times. Sharpton pushed the radio host to be accountable for his actions, saying, “It can’t just be glossed over. If you walk away from this unscathed, the next guy can.” Imus retorted, “Unscathed! Don’t you think I’m humiliated? Don’t you think I am embarrassed and don’t you think I understand?”
Imus made the offensive statements last week during a broadcast about the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship game between Rutgers and Tennessee.
While Imus on Monday defended himself against claims of racism, Sharpton kept the discussion focused on the need for accountability over what is said on FCC-regulated airwaves.
“I’m not trying to prove whether you’re a bigot or not,” said Sharpton, who repeatedly called for Imus to resign from his position on his radio show. “I’m saying the standard was set, and that has to be held accountable.
“My concern is that the next guy that calls somebody a racist or a sexist term will then say, ‘All I’ve got to do is say I’m sorry; all I’ve got to do is give some charity, and I’m gone.’ We cannot establish that precedent.”
Imus remained stern throughout the interview, his famous bushy brows perpetually furrowed. At one point he resignedly stated, “It’s like the old country song, ‘God may forgive you but I won’t. Jesus may love you, but I don’t.’ But I can’t get any place with you people.”
Sharpton jumped back from his chair and exclaimed, “You people? Who is ‘you people’ Mr. Imus?”
Imus immediately clarified that by “you people” he simply meant Rev. Sharpton and Michigan Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who had just called in to the show criticizing his remarks.
After the interview, Sharpton told the roomful of reporters that the only true show of accountability will be for Imus to be forced off the airwaves.
“I’m going to be on this until something’s done,” Sharpton told ESSENCE after the broadcast. “The next step will be not only the FCC but we’re going to advertisers. I want to ask the main advertisers on the show, ‘Do you want to continue subsidizing this and think you’re going to continue to sell products in our community?’ If I’m sitting with the board of an advertising company and say, ‘This is what he said he did, are you going to continue to pay for this?’ A lot of advertisers will not stay in there.”
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