Mail Call: The Undoing of a Media Giant

Readers of our cover story concurred that the Don Imus storm created a much-needed dialogue on race, power and media in this country. One said, "The issue is why so many people get off on his brand of rude, nasty remarks, and why it has taken so long for anything to be done about it." Another focused on introspection. "Thanks to Don Imus's racist remarks, tens of millions of Americans have been forced to examine their own attitudes on race." Still others pointed to the cultural purveyors of these messages, particularly the music industry. "Rap's references to black women as 'hos' and its gospel of violence toward women make Imus's comments look like a Sunday sermon." But one, echoing many, hailed the young people unwittingly caught up in this sordid episode who refused to play victim: "The world found out what a classy, intelligent bunch the Rutgers women's basketball players are."

Can anybody honestly tell me how removing Don Imus from the airwaves makes life better for African-Americans or women ("The Power That Was," April 23)? When a person can lose his livelihood simply by voicing unpopular opinions or making bad jokes, then there is no such thing as free speech. When someone can utter a racist comment and affect your day, you give that person unimaginable power over you. As an African-American, I live for the day when comments like these are largely ignored by my community. We as a people have much larger fish to fry.
Martin Smith
Frederick, Md.

A powerful stench of hypocrisy emanates from all parties to the Imus affair. Network suits, sponsors and former guests suddenly discovered—horrors—that Imus spouted outrageous insults on his show. It would have been far better to allow a chastened, contrite and more circumspect Imus to remain on the air, where he could continue to entertain his fans and generate support for his worthy charities.
Robert Morgan
Waterbury Center, Vt.

What a turning point in our history—87 years after women won the right to vote and decades after Title IX, we see the impact of strong, confident women, led by a strong, confident coach, who stood up to racism and sexism with "civility and grace." Imagine our world with these types of women as senators, CEOs and talk-show hosts.
Carol Nichols
Dallas, Texas

Your issue should have been titled "Race, Power, the Media and Money." Obviously, Imus's comments were hurtful. But why isn't more attention focused on the self-serving antics of the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? They came out against the Duke lacrosse players and received much media attention. Where is the apology to those players?
Tom Peelen
Poway, Calif.

The Imus affair should serve as a wake-up call to radio shock jocks everywhere that there is a limit to what society can tolerate when it comes to engaging in crude stereotypes or making jokes about race, ethnicity, religion or other immutable characteristics. It is shocking that Imus and his sidekicks were able to get away with the racial and anti-Semitic banter that was part and parcel of the "Imus brand" for so many years. That he did get away with it offers a depressing comment on our society and priorities, which seem to place a higher value on commercialism than on simple decency and respect. At a time when America is faced with myriad challenges in terms of battling prejudice—the frequent stereotyping of immigrants and other minorities, the surprising resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, the ugliness that has often marred the immigration debate, to name a few—the Imus affair is illustrative of how deeply racism and hate run through our society. Until we address the root causes of bigotry, until we ask why such remarks are still acceptable on our airwaves, nothing will have been accomplished and nothing will have changed.
Abraham H. Foxman, National Director
Anti-Defamation League
New York, N.Y.

As a former college instructor, I saw many students, male and female, white and African-American, emulate hip-hop and rap artists in their dress, attitude and body language, but most disturbing was the language they used that they had "learned" from those same artists—language far worse than what Imus used. When will the Rev. Al Sharpton and other African-American leaders stand up to, and show as much intolerance for, the debasing ideas and language flaunted and celebrated by members of their own community? This is in no way a defense of Don Imus but an attempt to seek a balanced perspective in the ongoing dialogue.
Tom Gibbs
Taylorsville, Ky.

A day without Imus is almost a day without sunshine to me. Though he would have made fun of my "hog fat" condition, I am a loyal fan. My schoolbus run kept me from watching his show, so I taped it. I am a political junkie and appreciated the guests on the show and Imus's questions that got to the heart of the matter. I cringed when he said things I would not, but I knew deep inside he does not hate people because of their race or gender. I felt as though he was "one of us," even if he was a millionaire. Who is left who will speak truth to power?
Annie Perry
Hamilton, N.Y.

I am truly grateful that the truth about the Duke lacrosse team has finally emerged ("That Night at Duke," April 23). Even so, I cannot avoid seeing the relationship between your Don Imus cover story and the account of what happened at the Duke lacrosse team's party. Although innocent of rape, assault, etc., the team's hiring of exotic dancers for entertainment is certainly not "innocent," regardless of the prevalence of such exploitative practices on college campuses. I am no longer surprised that a society that accepts the use of exotic dancers for entertainment will also tolerate shock jocks like Imus.
Emily H. McGowin
Fairfield, Texas