What good is talk radio if you can’t call the Rutgers basketball team a bunch of nappy-headed hos?

I am half joking with the post title, let me explain.

First off, I have no use for Don Imus. I have despised him and his ilk for years, and I don’t listen to such radio programs. The comments at issue are pretty obviously in poor taste.

That said, I don’t see why this episode is really that much different from the bile that talk radio hosts spew every day in this country (here are some of the past remarks from Imus). The shock jocks get paid to say mean-spirited, off-color things, and the trick is to go right up to the line without crossing it. If that’s how the industry is structured, it’s understandable that radio hosts will cross the line from time to time and people will become upset.

Furthermore, I think you could interpret Imus and his sidekick’s exchange about the “nappy-headed hos” as being a mockery of rap music and it’s typical misogynistic references to women. That’s not a phrase that an old white dude like Don Imus would come up with on his own. His basic message — that the players on the Rutgers basketball team are ugly — is certainly an impolite thing to say, but not the equivalent of burning a cross while wearing a hood either. Plenty of people listen to Imus, apparently, so there’s clearly an audience for his insulting commentaries.

I won’t cry for Don Imus if he loses his job or suffers some lesser punishment for this. Even so, I think there are some broader issues in talk radio and the people who listen to it, and Imus is just a symptom of a deeper infection in popular listening preferences.

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