MEDIA DISSENT: Gore's Choice
Imus or Honor
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.
"To me, honor is not just a word, but an obligation."
--from Gore's convention speech
Did Al Gore hear the dirty talk about his daughter Karenna on "Imus in the Morning" last Friday? I refer to the lip-smacking General Manuel Noriega parody that fantasized about Ms. Gore's erogenous parts and lampooned Joe Lieberman's godly restraint in not "invading her fertile crescent" backstage at the convention. Normally, a father would feel like punching the lights out of anyone who verbally molested his daughter on radio and television. And the sullied second party, especially if he had a daughter himself, would loudly express his disgust.
But Gore and his running mate have been silent about Imus's up-close and filthy insinuations, one of which had a whiff of antisemitism. How can this be so? Surely, when Gore is briefed on Imus's indecency, he will be obliged to do the honorable thing, that is, denounce him and renounce future appearances on his program. The same goes for Lieberman.
This anti-Imus strategy has hazards. The Democratic ticket would not only forsake access to Imus's multi-million-man audience, but also guarantee payback. When you cross Imus, you cross with the mother of media assassins. After black New York Times sports columnist William C. Rhoden compared Imus's comeback from drugs and booze to Latrell Sprewell's resurrection with the Knicks, Imus demeaned him as a "New York Times quota hire." After black Time columnist Jack E. Wright rebuked Imus's admittedly racist content, he was pilloried as a "smug, imperious, sanctimonious punk" and "gutless coward." After black Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page presented Imus with a no-bigotry pledge on air, he was slammed as "a self-appointed rhetoric referee" and soiled as some kind of antisemite. "Oh and just wondering, but you covered black folks, homosexuals, various nations and governments in the Ten Commandments of, by and for Page," went a vengeful Andy Rooney parody. "Were Jews just an oversight?"
Lieberman knows personally from Imus's flagrant fouls. Although a supportive guest for ten years, he lost favor overnight for refusing Imus's calls immediately following the V.P. announcement. Consequently, Imus necklaced him with insults, mocking his integrity and his Jewishness (via a "General Noriega" crack about his "non-shellfish-eating ass.") But within seventy-two hours, the submissive "conscience of the Senate" was back blowing kisses. "You gave me my first big break by taking me out of that witness protection program and now [Gore's] given me a second one," he gushed, adding that his goal was "to bring [Gore] by the studio and we'll spend some time together."
Despite the potential downside of disrespecting Imus, Gore has painted himself into a moral corner. Ignoring Imus's verbal assault on his daughter, let alone the running riffs on his wife's weight, would betray the most stirring passage of his convention speech in which he pledged a profile in courage: "But the presidency is more than a popularity contest. It's a day-to-day fight for the people. Sometimes, you have to choose what's difficult or unpopular. Sometimes, you have to be willing to spend your popularity in order to pick the hard right over the easy wrong."
During the pre-convention period, no major American politician, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton, who was slandered as a "carpet-munching liar" on June 13, has brushed off "Imus in the Morning." John McCain, Bill Bradley, Alan Keyes, Orrin Hatch, John Kerry, Bob Kerrey, Ralph Nader, Rick Lazio, Al D'Amato, Tom Dodd, as well as Gore and Lieberman, have preferred Imus's showcase to a principled no-show. But now the stakes are higher, even Lincolnesque. "In this City of Angels, we can summon the better angels of our nature," declared Karenna's dad.
In the past Imus has attacked critics for their supposed narrowness, claiming that everybody thinks that his program is funny until the joke is on them. A blast from Gore on family grounds alone would seem hypocritical indeed. But Imus's coverage of the Democratic convention was so universally repugnant -- splashed with his trademark homophobia, racism and even antisemitism -- that Gore's protest could transcend the personal and invoke the commonweal.
Herewith three bits of Imus's convention-timed bigotry:
- Re homosexuals: the clownish black duo of Stephon Dweck and Monteria Ivey, whom Imus occasionally hires to jeer other blacks like Danny Glover and Bryant Gumbel, were in Los Angeles heckling conventioneers about hookers and booty calls. They also stooped to gaybait with the line--"How come there were no lesbians speaking last night? They certainly know how to lick bush."
- Regarding blacks: Imus played a degrading cut from Amos 'n' Andy in which Sapphire called a man "unbiased," prompting George to reply, "I don't care what nationality he is."
- Regarding Arabs and Israelis: Comparing the awkward photo op of the Clintons and Gores in Monroe, Michigan, to the photo ops of Arab and Israeli officials on the White House lawn, Imus referred to the semitic leaders as "towelheads," "dish rag doofuses," and "heebie-jeebies."
Incidentally, when the heat was on last May, Imus swore with hand raised to Clarence Page that he would no longer traffic in homophobic remarks, Amos 'n' Andy excerpts and xenophobic slurs. So much for Imus's word.
With the sponsorship of giant media corporations like the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal,and a bodyguard of journalist bigfeet like Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, and Jeff Greenfield, and the wink of white, multi-millionaire bosses at NBC and CBS, Imus appears untouchable. In reality, he is cultural poison, a Joe McCarthy waiting for his Joseph Welch close-up.
At long last, if Gore dares to condemn Imus's reign of indecency, he will have chosen "the hard right over the easy wrong." If not, he will expose himself as just another political scoundrel willing to forsake values--and a daughter--for votes.
Published: Aug 21 2000