"If I were an African-American, I'd be one of the worst f---heads on the planet -- I'd be worse than Farrakhan," Imus said in 1994, acknowledging the general raw deal that blacks receive in American society. Yet his show is rank with racist jabs, as if he were broadcasting in pre-Mandela Johannesburg, not post-Robinson New York. Just about anything goes -- from saying that Larry Johnson ruined Willow Bay for white men, to asking the borough president of the Bronx if he felt "like the mayor of Mogadishu." Epithets like "brillohead," "dark meat," "dingos," "mandingos," and "Uncle Ben" are okay on "Imus." Can one moment measure Imus's lower frequencies? Consider his spontaneous utterance regarding a racial shooting in New Jersey last year. On October 14, 1999, Charles McCord, Imus's sidekick-newsman read an item on the arraignment of two white New Jersey State troopers charged with the attempted murder of two young black athletes on the New Jersey Turnpike. The troopers were allegedly bad apples already accused of stopping blacks indiscriminately by their own superiors. Daniel Reyes, twenty-one, was shot twice, and Leroy Grant, twenty-four, four times. The young men were victimized while driving to a basketball clinic to improve their chances for a college scholarship. It is Imus's habit to interrupt McCord with his own spin on the news. Where would he come down on this racial profiling case -- with the indicted white cops or the wounded black kids? With only seconds to think, Imus went for the "nigger" allusion:
IMUS: Eenie-meenie-minie-mo. Get over it.
"Gook," "zipperhead," towelhead," "noodle-sucking" "banana pickers," and "our urine-colored brothers" are also acceptable on "Imus." Two Indian doubles players were splattered with epithets during the U. S. Open Tennis Championship last September. Bud Collins, the venerable tennis commentator from the Boston Globe and NBC Sports, frequently sets Imus up for cheap points. On September 10, Collins engaged the following conversation with Imus and his movie reviewer, Bo Dietl. Note that Imus counter-riffed on Indian newsstand dealers:
COLLINS: And don't forget the two Indians playing for the doubles title -- Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes.
IMUS: Please. (in disgust)
DIETL: Gunga Din and his brother. (laughter)
COLLINS: That's it.
IMUS: I'll take a...
COLLINS: Gunga Din and (unintelligible).
IMUS: ...root beer and a pack of Marlboros and some beef jerky.
DIETL: Gunga Din and Sambo.
IMUS: Bud, thank you very much.
COLLINS: All right, gentlemen ...
IMUS: Bud Collins...
COLLINS: ...Beau, bring 'em out, Beau, bring 'em out.
DIETL: I'll see you tomorrow, Bud.
IMUS: Bud Collins, on the "Imus in the Morning Show."
Imus routinely resorts to the lavender label as if shouting lesbian were the worst one could say of a woman. Hillary Clinton is hardly mentioned in song or repartee without being stamped with a related vulgarity (e.g., "lesbianic wife," "carpet muncher") or linked to an out lesbian like Melissa Ethridge. Female athletes are particularly vulnerable in Imus's locker room where double-entendres about "licking" the opponent are popular. When Bud Collins informed him on November 16, 1999 that Amelie Mauresmo, an out French tennis star, would be playing at the Chase Invitational at Madison Square Garden that night, he went into a spasm of gay-baiting:
IMUS: That's a big old lesbo, right?
COLLINS: So she says. (laughter)
IMUS: That girl looks like a linebacker, doesn't she? (laughter)
COLLINS: She's strong. (laughter)
IMUS: That's a big old, that's a big old, not ugly, but that's a big old lesbian. That's a big old lesbian, ain't she, Chuck? (laughter)
COLLINS: I don't think that has anything to do with it.
IMUS: A big old lesbian. (laughter)
MCGUIRK [?]: A big old lesbian (in deep voice)
IMUS: That's a great big old lesbian. You're surprised I know this stuff, aren't you Bud? (laughter)
COLLINS: No, no, we've gone through this before. (laughter)
- Gay Men
There is an endless stream of contempt for male homosexuality and homosexuals on "Imus." Terms like "homo," "fag," "faggot," "fag-queen," "queer," "load-swallower," "back of the teepee," and "four-score fruit" (regarding Abraham Lincoln) are tossed around with abandon. The vicious broomstick sodomy of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, which resulted in the conviction of two New York City cops, is frequently used as a punchline.
The casual recklessness of Imus's homophobia can be measured in a string of slurs against Rex Reed, George Michael, Kevin Spacey, Tiger Woods, Carl Lewis, Pedro Martinez, Louima and an anonymous cable commentator at the Westminster Dog Show delivered within a two-week span in February 2000 (the 14th through the 25th)! Perhaps the worst incident of homo-hate was a deathwish remark uttered by Imus's brother Fred during the summer of '98 manhunt for gay serial killer, Andrew Cunanan. What is even more astonishing is that Imus replayed it as a promo on April 4, 2000:
MCCORD: Authorities say that tips on Andrew Cunanan's whereabouts lead them to believe he is still in the South Florida area. Cunanan is suspected in killing of designer Johnny Versace on Tuesday.
F. IMUS: Why are they bothering to catch this guy? He's just whacking off freaks.
D. IMUS: Shut up. Be quiet. God Almighty.
F. IMUS: I think the FBI should back off.
D. IMUS: Just shut up.
VOICE IMITATING GENERAL GEORGE PATTON: If your radio sounds funny in the morning, it's "Imus in the Morning."
- The Disabled
The sick and the disabled are not spared Imus's ridicule, either. NBC News correspondent John Hockenberry was called a "cripple" by McGuirk, which was one level above Bartlett's lampooning Heather Mills, a one-legged girlfriend of Paul McCartney's, as a "pogo-stick." Although Imus has built a vacation ranch for sick children in New Mexico, he is not above exploiting them, too. Let us hope no "queer" little campers heard this so-called parody of General George Patton broadcast on March 8, 1999:
VOICE IMITATING GENERAL GEORGE PATTON: ... and what is the stated Imus ranch mission? You in the back.
PRIVATE: To give sick kids hands-on experiences of the great American cowboy from the rough and rugged all West.
VOICE IMITATING GENERAL GEORGE PATTON: And that is defined as?
PRIVATE: Sir, that's defined as where men were men and sheep were sheep and Billy the Kid knew with whom to sleep.
VOICE IMITATING GENERAL GEORGE PATTON: Precisely, and that sleeping, boys, was not accomplished with the help of a damn down-filled, double-stitched, quilted, puffed-up, panty-waist, tofu-sucking sleeping bag you'd find rolled up in the back of Martha Stewart's Landrover tucked in beside the damned Nordstrom picnic basket. Boys, when we go out to that ranch we will give the troop that cowboy experience. Whether Corporal Imus knows it or not, even though we'll be bivouacked in the vicinity of Santa Fe, we will not be conducting experiments in the lifestyles of the gay caballero. Gear we employ will not originate at L.L. Bean. It will be obtained from the quartermaster of our beloved United States Army. OD in color, standard regulation issue. Do I make myself clear?
PRIVATE: Sir, yes sir, sir. No Judy Garland gear, sir.
VOICE IMITATING GENERAL GEORGE PATTON: I can't hear you.
PRIVATE: [louder] Sir, no Judy Garland gear, sir.
VOICE IMITATING GENERAL GEORGE PATTON: Sound off like you had a pair, maggot.
PRIVATE: [shouting] Sir, all steers, no queers, sir.
VOICE IMITATING GENERAL GEORGE PATTON: Indelicate, politically insensitive, possibly actionable, but better. In conclusion, boys, I read to you the following proposed Imus Ranch mission statement amendment. Attention Imus: "When we're heading them off at the pass, we won't be led by a candyass." Thank you for you attention, maggots. That is all.