Don Imus gets no sympathy from Spike Lee and Whoopi Goldberg.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a double standard,” Goldberg, who has her own radio talk show, told Al Roker on TODAY. “He made an incredibly bad faux pas and he’s got to take the heat for it.”
“Not only Imus should be fired,” said Lee, who added Imus’ executive producer Bernard McGuirk and sports reporter Sid Rosenberg to the list of those who should be “outta here.”
“This is not the first time the man has spoken out the side of his neck with racist, sexist remarks,” Lee said. “Now he’s trying to hide behind, ‘Oh, black men talk about black women like that, therefore I can do it.’”
Imus has no excuses, said Goldberg, who has done network TV as well as stand-up and movies. It’s different in each venue, she said, and a stand-up comedian can say things that you can’t say when talking to a broad and general audience.
“Once you get on the broadcast stage, yes there’s free speech, but there’s an obligation that comes with it,” she said.
The fact that Imus was only suspended and not fired immediately as other have been for similar remarks is easily explained, Lee told Roker.
‘Elephant in the room’
“The elephant in the room is economics,” he said. “He makes a lot of money for CBS and NBC.” He said if the two networks — CBS is the parent of Imus’ radio network and NBC of his simulcast partner, MSNBC — are really serious about sending a message, “suspend him for the first two weeks of sweeps.”
Lee congratulated baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. for declining to be on Imus’ show and former sponsors Procter & Gamble, Staples and Bigelow Tea for pulling their ads. (Procter & Gamble, MSNBC’s biggest advertiser, said it is pulling its ads from all MSNBC daytime programming as long as the cable news station continues to broadcast the Imus show.)
“I’m going to spend a hundred dollars in Staples today,” said Lee. “Thank you, Staples. Bigelow Tea — I’m buying Bigelow Tea.”
Goldberg observed that slurs and insults have become the common currency of American discourse. One of the reasons for the popularity of “American Idol” is the way the judges put down the contestants, she said, and if viewers groan over the acerbic declarations of Simon Cowell, they also complain that Paula Abdul wasn’t nasty enough.
“People have been denigrating each other on radio and television and we don’t say anything. That’s what we like. That’s what we encourage,” she said.
It’s up to parents to use the incident to teach their kids what’s right and what’s wrong, said Dr. Howard Koplewicz, director of the Child Study Center at New York University.
“First of all, you’re supposed to teach your kids to be sensitive about racial remarks,” he said. “This is a good time, a teachable moment, to talk to your kids about it. You have to teach your kids to be intolerant about intolerance.”