Imus regular Tim Russert yet to speak out on racial slur

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

According to a Media Matters for America review*, as of the time of this posting, NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, a regular guest on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, had not commented on host Don Imus' April 4 reference to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." An NBC spokeswoman told The New York Times on April 7 that a statement issued by MSNBC "expressing regret about the remarks reflected Mr. Russert's feelings about the matter as well." That statement read in full: "While simulcast by MSNBC, 'Imus in the Morning' is not a production of the cable network and is produced by WFAN Radio. As Imus makes clear every day, his views are not those of MSNBC. We regret that his remarks were aired on MSNBC and apologize for these offensive comments."

On the evening of April 11, announced that MSNBC TV would no longer simulcast Imus in the Morning.

Russert appeared on the April 6 edition of Imus but said nothing about Imus' April 4 remarks, even though Imus himself had apologized for them earlier in the show. Russert discussed 2008 presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) fundraising, former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN), the 15 captured (now released) British sailors, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Imus' son, Wyatt, among other topics.

As Media Matters has noted, Russert has appeared on Imus' program seven times this year alone. As The Imus Show Blog (not affiliated with the Imus program) noted, Russert was such a frequent guest that a segment highlighting "the best" of Russert's appearances aired on the December 20 "Best of Imus" program. Russert has been a regular Imus guest since at least August 2000. An article in the July/August 2000 Columbia Journalism Review noted an April 4, 2000, appearance in which "Imus said that he was 'troubled' by research on homosexuality and Russert suggested that Imus is a closet case himself."

Numerous media repotrs have also noted that Russert is a regular on Imus:

  • An April 11 Baltimore Sun article reported that "[f]ormer presidential candidate [Sen.] John Kerry [D-MA], a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, and journalism heavyweights such as NBC's Tim Russert and Brian Williams, and New York Times columnist Frank Rich have appeared often on the show. It was unclear yesterday whether they would do so again."
  • An April 11 Los Angeles Times article noted that "[i]t remains to be seen whether disgust over Imus' comments will translate into a boycott of his program by NBC correspondents and anchors, such as Tim Russert, Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams, who have frequented 'Imus in the Morning,' which is simulcast on MSNBC."
  • An April 11 USA Today article observed that "Adding to Imus' special status is his popularity among the political and media elite. Elected officials such as Republican Sen. John McCain [AZ] and journalists such as NBC's Tim Russert regularly visit the quick-witted, cowboy-hat-wearing former DJ."

An April 11 Washington Post article said that Russert, McCain, and CBS' Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer were part of a "a stable of regular guests," who "call in every few weeks and spend 15 or 20 minutes batting around the issues of the day after some light banter." In the article, Schieffer was quoted as saying: "Will I go back on? ... If it were anyone else, I wouldn't have anything to do with them. But I'm not going to sever a relationship with someone who has apologized for what he said. He's my friend. I hate what he did, but he's still my friend."

* Search terms (Imus AND Russert)

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
Tim Russert
Imus in the Morning
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