A majority of Americans believe Don Imus’ firing over racist and sexist remarks was appropriate, but whites were twice as likely as blacks to think his punishment was too tough, according to a survey released Thursday.
Imus was fired April 12 by CBS Radio after he called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos” on the air. MSNBC had canceled its simulcast of his morning radio show the day before.
Among those Americans who had heard “a little” or “a lot” about the Imus story, 54 percent said the host’s removal from the airwaves was about right. Thirty-two percent said it was too tough, and 8 percent said it was not tough enough, according to the survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
Majorities of both blacks and whites — 54 percent of whites and 61 percent of blacks — agreed with Imus’ punishment.
But 35 percent of whites and 18 percent of blacks said it was too tough.
More than four in 10 Americans who followed the Imus story said that they often or sometimes hear the kind of language he used in their daily lives. Black men were the most likely to say they often heard such language, and white women were the least likely to say they did.
Among black men, 32 percent said they often heard such language, 27 percent said they sometimes did, and 39 percent said they never did.
Just 13 percent of white women said they often heard the kind of language Imus used. Another 13 percent said they sometimes did, and 72 percent said they never did.
The survey was based on telephone interviews with a nationwide sample of about 1,000 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; the margin is larger for subgroups.