In a debate televised Friday night, Don Imus’ former producer called the Rev. Al Sharpton a race-baiter who was looking for attention when he led a campaign to fire the radio host. Sharpton said Imus and his producer got what they deserved for making a racist, sexist remark on the air.
Bernard McGuirk and Sharpton appeared together for a combative debate on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” show. McGuirk was fired last month for his part in an exchange on the “Imus in the Morning” program in which Imus called the members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”
McGuirk, a 20-year producer and on-air jester for the show that originated on WFAN-AM in New York, called the team “hardcore hos” in the April 4 exchange with Imus. Sharpton held protests and lobbied both networks to fire Imus.
MSNBC took Imus’ show off the air April 11 and CBS fired him from his syndicated radio program a day later.
McGuirk called Sharpton a “crude ... opportunist, a race-baiter” who campaigned against Imus to help his own career and raise his profile.
While McGuirk acknowledged that “these words did hurt these girls,” he added, “until you, Reverend Al, got involved, they probably never would have heard of it. They would have probably never, quote unquote, got scarred for life until you got involved for your own self-serving interests.”
Sharpton said he wasn’t looking for more attention — “if you have any recollection at all, I had been in the papers all year,” he said. He said Imus and McGuirk may have apologized for the remark, but “forgiveness is not the point. The question is the penalty.”
“Consumers have the right to say to advertisers, ’Are your standards going to be where people are attacked based on your gender and race?”’ Sharpton said.
McGuirk countered that Sharpton “terrorized these spineless, thumb-sucking executives” into taking Imus off the air. In an earlier appearance on “Hannity & Colmes,” he said the executives “were in a fetal position under their desks sucking their thumbs on their BlackBerrys, trying to coordinate their response.”
McGuirk said Imus “made one small mistake. He ran a red light” and shouldn’t have been fired.
“Who elected you the p.c. police chief?” he asked Sharpton. “Who elected you to anything?”
Imus has not spoken publicly since his dismissal, but his lawyer has said he intends to sue CBS for $120 million, and said that the network encouraged irreverent, off-color comments on the program.