A LETTER TO HOWARD KURTZ
Critiquing the Media Critic
Philip Nobile is the editor of Judgment at the Smithsonian, which
printed the banned Smithsonian script on the 50th anniversary
of the Bombs of August in 1995.
I am writing a response to your chat room defense of Imus for TomPaine.com. In the interest of fairness, balance, and accuracy, I have a series of questions for you.
- Have you ever expressed a negative opinion, either your own or someone else's, a propos Imus's allegedly anti-black, anti-gay, anti-foreigner shtick in WP?
- When you said in the chat room that Imus was not in "any way racist," did you take into account Mike Wallace's "60 Minutes" expose of Imus's use of "nigger" and Imus's admission that he hired Bernard McGuirk to ridicule blacks? Did you report on that extraordinary "60 Minutes" episode?
- What is the basis for your absolute claim that Imus is not a racist and that his apparently racist remarks are "all shtick"? Do you know Imus personally? Have you spent a lot of time with him? Where's your support? Why doesn't the "60 Minutes" fiasco shatter your certainty?
- As for shtick, did you ever wonder why, of all the shticks in the humor universe, Imus chose the skinhead shtick, defaming "the others" as missing links, gorillas, Sambo, Chicken-wing, homo, lesbo, fag, faggot, queer, load swallower, lesbo, dingbat lesbo, carpet-muncher, Gunga Din, towelhead, dothead, urine-colored brothers, and a recent favorite, amputees as pogo-sticks? Why doesn't the combination of Imus's private racist language and broadcast "racially offensive stuff" (his words on Larry King) add up to racist? If he not a bigot, why the bigoted shtick?
- You said that Imus "sometimes crosses the line ... in trying to make people laugh." What are your examples of line crossing and how often is sometimes? (In five weeks of Imus Watches I noticed an average of a smear-an-hour.) Have you ever done a column on Imus transgressive material?
- Does Imus's shtick make you laugh? Do you remember cracking up at the simian reference to the Knicks, the sliming of Bill Bradley as a load swallower, John Hockenberry as a cripple, Bill Rhoden as a New York Times quota hire, Mike Breen as the Abner Louima of the Knicks locker room? Did you chuckle at Imus's lampoon of 400 dead Haitians in a recent promo? Were you on the floor when Fred said that Cunanan was only "whacking off freaks"? These depravities were turned into promos, Howie, PROMOS! What does that tell you about Imus's attitude toward blacks and gay men?
- Pardoning Imus's homophobia, you said: "Ironically, some people say he's anti-gay but he's in favor of same-sex marriage." Where is the irony, the contradiction between homophobia and favoring some civil right for gays? Bigotry, as you know, is a multi-headed beast. One can harbor racist feelings and still be opposed to lynching, Jim Crow and a segregated Army. Are you aware that in the very segment that Imus blessed gay marriage, he slurred gays as "homos," not once but twice? [Correction: Imus and McGuirk slurred gays three times, but "homo" was said only once.] The transcript is on TomPaine.com's "Imus Watch."
- If you were called "jewboy" on Imus's show as often as blacks are called gorillas, homosexuals faggots, and Japanese gooks, would you give Imus a pass? Journalist to journalist, I hope that you will answer these questions and others to follow. Perhaps you will even change your mind about Imus -- just like the God Squad who made a hasty exist from the show after Imus insulted them with a bigoted parody of Jayson Williams? Fr. Hartman, as you know, was very harsh on Imus racism and homopohobia. Yet, you are holier than he on Imus's innocence! I don't get it?
Thanks for your consideration.
Published: Jun 14 2000