A host of support for Imus on Colorado's conservative talk radio

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Several of Colorado's conservative talk-show hosts defended radio personality Don Imus in the controversy over his most recent racial slurs, ignoring his long history of making offensive and bigoted remarks on his nationally syndicated program. Mike Rosen, Peter Boyles, Dan Caplis, Joseph Michelli, and Amy Oliver downplayed the slur or suggested pop culture, especially rap music, was to blame.

In the wake of the controversy regarding radio personality Don Imus' reference to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," several Colorado-based conservative radio hosts defended Imus but ignored his history of making racist and bigoted remarks on the air. Newsradio 850 KOA's Mike Rosen, 630 KHOW-AM's Peter Boyles, 630 KHOW-AM's Dan Caplis, News Radio 740 KVOR's Joseph Michelli, and 1310 KFKA's Amy Oliver either downplayed the offensive comment or attempted to shift blame away from Imus and onto popular culture, specifically rap music, as the source of his racial slur.

As Media Matters for America has documented, Imus' nationally syndicated and televised Imus in the Morning program, which had been simulcast on MSNBC, long has featured racially charged, misogynistic, or bigoted remarks. For example:

  • On the March 6 broadcast, executive producer Bernard McGuirk said that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) was "trying to sound black in front of a black audience" when she gave a speech on March 4 in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" civil rights march. McGuirk added that Clinton "will have cornrows and gold teeth before this fight with [Sen. Barack] Obama [D-IL] is over." Earlier in the program, in reference to Clinton's speech, McGuirk had said, "Bitch is gonna be wearing cornrows."
  • On the February 2 broadcast, McGuirk claimed that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has "a Jew-hating name."
  • As the Forward newspaper reported in a December 8, 2006, online article, Imus referred to the "Jewish management" of CBS Radio as "money-grubbing bastards" on his November 30 broadcast.

Additionally, as an article in the July 18, 2000, edition of The Village Voice noted, Imus referred to former Defense Secretary William Cohen as "the Mandingo," and his African-American wife "a 'ho." As The Boston Globe noted in a March 27, 2004, article, " 'Mandingo' is also the title of a 1975 movie in which a black male slave is paired intimately with a white female slave master."

A May 26, 2000, article (accessed through the Nexis database) in The Washington Post reported that "sometime around 1995, when the New York Times hired African-American journalist Gwen Ifill to cover the White House, Imus reportedly said: 'Isn't the Times wonderful? It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.' "

Mike Rosen

On the April 10 broadcast of his Newsradio 850 KOA show, after playing the clip of Imus' remarks, Rosen said that he didn't think Imus' words were "hateful." Rosen added that "a couple of black guys could have a similar exchange, even on the radio, and get away with it. But Don Imus isn't a black guy so he hasn't gotten away with it."

Later on the show, Rosen "confess[ed]" to a caller who disagreed with his judgment of Imus' comment "to telling blonde jokes, but I don't hate blondes. Some of my favorite ex-wives are blondes. These are jokes. And some people in this hypersensitive society take themselves too seriously." Rosen later added:

In your circle of friends you do what you like to do. In my circle of friends I'll do what I like to do. And I will confess as having told ethnic jokes in the past, which I think are funny even though I don't hate the people about which those jokes are told. And I've told Jewish-American Princess jokes in the past, and they can be funny too. Not all of them. Some of them are, some of them aren't. And those Jewish-American Princess jokes were written by Jewish comedians who thought they were funny too.

Peter Boyles

On the April 10 broadcast of his 630 KHOW-AM show, Boyles read a listener's email arguing that "the reason someone might get the impression that it's OK to call a group of women, and what Imus used, 'nappy-headed hos' " is "because the impression that society gets that it's OK to call them, call these women these names." The email also stated, "I never hear anyone in the black community condemn black rappers for calling women bitches and hos." After reading the email, Boyles commented, "And he's right. We're, we're in a purge. And maybe that's the term to use. And the politically incorrect of us will be purged. Is that true?"

Later in the show, Boyles agreed with guest Lou Dobbs, host of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, after Dobbs said of the Imus controversy that "we must bring one standard, that is one of honesty and truth. And that means that we've got to look at the words that are being articulated in rap music."

Dan Caplis

On the April 10 broadcast of his 630 KHOW-AM show, Caplis defended Imus by arguing that because prominent media figures and politicians frequently appear on the MSNBC show, Imus must not be racist. Even after co-host Craig Silverman pointed out Imus' history of bigoted comments, Caplis continued his defense:

[B]ut you have to believe that if there had been some suggestion that he was a racist, and, you know, and the ongoing comments, whatever, that you would not be getting the John McCains, and the David Gregorys, and the Brian Williams on that show. They just wouldn't be part of that format. So that's why, you know, I come back to, wait a second, don't judge a person by their lowest moment; don't conclude they're racist because of what's clearly a racial and an offensive remark.

Caplis' remarks echoed his previous defense of Rush Limbaugh after Limbaugh played a racist parody song called "Barack, the Magic Negro" on his nationally syndicated radio show. Caplis declared that, although the song about Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois U.S. Sen. Barack Obama was "offensive," calling Limbaugh a bigot "is going too far."

Joseph Michelli

On the April 9 broadcast of his News Radio 740 KVOR show, Michelli defended Imus against charges of bigotry by claiming that Imus did not use the term "nappy-headed" in a racially specific manner:

I mean, is it bigotry because he called them "hos"? I mean, is it -- is it something negative toward hos? I don't understand. The point is -- "nappy-headed," is that what it is? It somehow intimates afros, is that what it comes down to? Does "nappy-headed" imply you're black? Could you not be a nappy-headed white boy? Am I -- am I getting this wrong? What is the racial part of "nappy-headed"? Isn't "nappy" a description of the nature of your hair, not a reflection of your ethnicity? To call anybody a ho would be a problem, or a pimp. Or any of those things, whether they're black, white, yellow, green, chartreuse.

Amy Oliver

On the April 6 broadcast of her 1310 KFKA show, Independence Institute director of operations Amy Oliver characterized the Imus controversy as "like a monthly cycle of, of a white person saying something, a person of color being offended, and we go through this whole apology routine." Later, she added:

But no -- how does, how does that language get into the lexicon, or get into our national dialogue? And when is it that the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will be held accountable? Or will hold accountable rap stars and their absolute demeaning lyrics toward women. Why is that not -- why, why are we not discussing that?

Oliver's comments echoed Imus' defense of his remarks. As Media Matters noted, Imus said on NBC's Today show that the slur he used "originated in the black community." The Rev. Al Sharpton objected, saying, "We have said that we are against the degrading that is done even by blacks. ... Wherever he says this originated from does not give him the right to use it."

From the April 10 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show:

ROSEN: [after airing a clip of Imus calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos"] All right, was that hateful? No, I don't think so. And a couple of black guys could have a similar exchange, even on the radio, and get away with it. But Don Imus isn't a black guy so he hasn't gotten away with it.

[...]

CALLER: I'm not a perfect person, but, but making jokes about people that belittle people is not something I'm interested in doing. And I --

ROSEN: It is something that I am interested in doing. I will confess to telling blonde jokes, but I don't hate blondes. Some of my favorite ex-wives are blondes. These are jokes. And some people in this hypersensitive society take themselves too seriously, and you strike me as one of them.

CALLER: Mike, your jokes aren't funny.

ROSEN: That's subjective. You may not think they're funny. And some things that you do think are funny I might not think is funny. That's fine. In your circle of friends you do what you like to do. In my circle of friends I'll do what I like to do. And I will confess as having told ethnic jokes in the past, which I think are funny even though I don't hate the people about which those jokes are told. And I've told Jewish-American Princess jokes in the past, and they can be funny too. Not all of them. Some of them are, some of them aren't. And those Jewish-American Princess jokes were written by Jewish comedians who thought they were funny too.

From the April 10 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Peter Boyles Show:

BOYLES: Email off of the young woman that was the final caller. Emailer writes, "I'm a black male and the fact that the young lady doesn't see the reason someone might get the impression that it's OK to call a group of women, and what Imus used, 'nappy-headed hos.' It's because the impression that society gets that it's OK to call them, call these women these names. There's even a black hip-hop group that calls themself Nappy Roots. And their first album was called Watermelon -- called Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz. And they've been around since 1995. I've never heard anyone complain about that group's name or music. The same way I never hear anyone in the black community condemn black rappers for calling women bitches and hos. If you have -- if you have or show no kind of self-constraint in your own words or actions, then society will eventually judge you by those same words and actions." And he signs it. And he's right. We're, we're in a purge. And maybe that's the term to use. And the politically incorrect of us will be purged. Is that true?

[...]

DOBBS: You know, we're not talking about David Duke here. We're not talking about Satan. We're talking about a man who's lived a life of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, and who's done a lot for the community. I think you must put in context the man's life.

BOYLES: Does he survive this, Lou?

DOBBS: You know, I really don't know. I will tell you that I hope he does. Because I think this is a lesson for everybody. I, I hope it's a lesson for the women's organizations in the country, for the African-American organizations, for all of us who care about this country. But we must bring one standard, that is one of honesty and truth. And that means that we've got to look at the words that are being articulated in rap music.

BOYLES: I agree. We brought this up this morning.

DOBBS: We've got to look at what we tolerate in this country. We are a tolerant nation -- the most tolerant in the world. But there is no room for hateful ignorance of any kind. But we cannot -- we also cannot permit a public execution simply because some people want to focus on one individual. And we've got to examine where does this language originate? It originates in rap music.

BOYLES: No, I brought that up.

From the April 10 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show:

SILVERMAN: I, I found it fascinating that he told the Today show this morning that for many years now they've talked about getting a black person to participate in the show. Clarence Page, who works for the Chicago Sun-Times, he was kind of a regular on the show, and then somebody brought to his attention all the racist things that they felt were going on on the Don Imus show. And Clarence Page brought it up to Don Imus and they talked about it on the air. Don Imus made a pledge of sorts not to do that anymore, and then we know what's happened recently. And Clarence Page said ever since that happened in 2001 he's never been invited back.

CAPLIS: Yeah, but you have to believe -- and again, I don't listen to Imus so I wouldn't know -- but you have to believe that if there had been some suggestion that he was a racist, and, you know, and the ongoing comments, whatever, that you would not be getting the John McCains, and the David Gregorys, and the Brian Williams on that show. They just wouldn't be part of that format. So that's why, you know, I come back to, wait a second, don't judge a person by their lowest moment; don't conclude they're racist because of what's clearly a racial and an offensive remark. And, and -- you know, you have to believe that, right? I mean, David Gregory, Brian Williams, John McCain, John Kerry, people across the political spectrum would not have been regular guests on that show if this guy had sounded like a racist.

SILVERMAN: But what about what he said about Gwen Ifill, the fine black correspondent now for McNeil-Lehrer? She used to be with the network. I think she covered the White House for NBC. And back in the day she was covering the White House for NBC, apparently Don Imus said, "Isn't it wonderful that this company lets the cleaning lady cover the White House?" So he referred to Gwen Ifill as the cleaning lady.

CAPLIS: Yeah, but getting back to my point. Because, again, I didn't listen to him every day, I'm not aware of the full context of that; it certainly sounds bad. But everybody from John Kerry to John McCain, Rudy Giuliani to, to Brian Gregory, David Williams -- all of those folks are not going to be part of that show if there's any suggestion that this guy's a racist. Right?

SILVERMAN: Well, I, I -- first of all, I, I don't know that they were aware of every specific comment on the show. It could be that they only listen when they're on personally. I don't know. I mean, it's -- I, I just don't know. I don't know what I would do if, if I was in a position like these guys. And they have a personal relationship with Don Imus. And, as I said yesterday and I'll say it again, I can't look into his heart but the evidence is mounting that, whether he's a racist or not, he tolerates some racist talk and, and humor that seems really inappropriate.

CAPLIS: Hmm. Well, look forward to really diving into that a bit later in the show.

From the April 9 broadcast of News Radio 740 KVOR's The Joseph Michelli Show:

MICHELLI: Let me -- here's my defense. While I have never personally said "nappy-headed ho" other than prior to this show, which now I've said it 35 times, I -- I generally believe that when you put yourself out every single day to entertain people and you put yourself out every day opening your mouth spontaneously in the process thereof in the entertainment department, that things come out of your mouth that you don't always mean. Now, I hope that most people have the judicial discretion to make the -- the judgment and discretion not to say that. And I must say I've not over the 10 years in my radio career -- other than the 20 times I just mentioned it in reference to Don Imus.

I guess in light of the fact that I have not done it, I don't understand why someone would, but I must also say that I've never gone for the audience that Don Imus goes for, and I've never played -- I mean, I've done syndicated shows, but nothing on the level of Imus in the Morning. So when you live by the sword, you die by the sword, and those guys do that. But you don't -- you just let the audience respond. You don't now go and have the Reverend Sharpton tell CBS they got to dump Imus. Or you have these 20 people with Reverend Jesse Jackson protesting bigotry. I mean, is it bigotry because he called them "hos"? I mean, is it -- is it something negative toward hos? I don't understand. The point is -- "nappy-headed," is that what it is? It somehow intimates afros, is that what it comes down to? Does "nappy-headed" imply you're black? Could you not be a nappy-headed white boy? Am I -- am I getting this wrong? What is the racial part of "nappy-headed"? Isn't "nappy" a description of the nature of your hair, not a reflection of your ethnicity? To call anybody a ho would be a problem, or a pimp. Or any of those things, whether they're black, white, yellow, green, chartreuse. My lines are smoked. Let's go to them.

From the April 6 broadcast of 1310 KFKA's The Amy Oliver Show:

OLIVER: But there are bigger issues with this. First of all, what is the point of, of all of these -- it's like a monthly cycle of, of a white person saying something, a person of color being offended, and we go through this whole apology routine. There's that. There's number two. The, the other que -- the other, um -- another point. Or question -- issue raised. How in the world does that kind of terminology get into the lexicon? Get into the lexicon of a 60-plus-year-old white man? And that's right. I actually got corrected. Thank you, listener; they didn't win the national championship, they lost to Tennessee. Tennessee, which did win the national championship. I -- and that's true. And sorry about that. Tennessee won the national championship. Let me ask you this, though. Will anybody remember that Tennessee won? No. What are we gonna remember? Rutgers lost, and what Don Imus said, it doesn't matter. Guess now I'm being fired. I said something stupid. I've been fired. Well -- at the very least, I'll be suspended for offending the Tennessee players. But no -- how does, how does that language get into the lexicon, or get into our national dialogue? And when is it that the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will be held accountable? Or will hold accountable rap stars and their absolute demeaning lyrics toward women. Why is that not -- why, why are we not discussing that?

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