April 12, 2007
The man Bill Maher referred to yesterday as "a wounded old mustang" will not be on the job this morning; Don Imus has been given his walking papers from cable news network MSNBC, which has been simulcasting his radio show for some seven years. As I said in my last post here, it appears to be the end of an era.
Imus was the kind of guy who could shift gears from a high-toned and intelligent discussion with very important news guys, historians, and people in power about events of the day, particularly politics, to locker-room yuks with his crew of sports reporters and guests. It made, for me, a welcome reality, un-canned television, a free-for-all where surprises abounded. I have no interest whatever in sports and often turned it off when the guys got to their serious bets on who was going to win what, but I've had some moments of astonishment when the I-man interviewed some of the best talking heads in the business. He had an ease and the curiousity of the man in the street, and I think that was what sunk him. All too many of the legions of commentators of his plight on the tube have been saying things like "He's trying to have it both ways! He wants to ask intelligent questions and also be one of the boys!" Apparently this is considered an outrageous oxymoron.
The powers at MSNBC say they based their decision on the feedback from their employees, particularly Al Roker. It was not about the sponsors pulling out. It was not about Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and their group of picketers outside the door. It was because MSNBC has integrity. Having someone the likes of Don Imus on the payroll, with his ability to chat with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joe Biden, Willie Nelson, Douglas Brinkley, Howard Fineman, Col. Jack Jacobs, George Carlin, John McCain, Bernadette Castro, and on and on, while in the next segment throwing out offensive epithets like beads from a Mardi Gras float in a parade, compromises the network's integrity and is outside Al Roker's comfort zone.
The nation can rest now. He will no longer visit our livingrooms in the morning, since we were required to watch his show before. We can begin healing from the grievous period of time in which the news was dominated by the constant repetition of a thoughtless offhand remark he made one morning about the girls' basketball team of Rutgers. It has even been said that this will begin a new, thoughtful era of race relations. There will be no bad boys at the party. No threat that something offensive will come out of somebody's mouth.
Everybody's going to be like Al Roker. Is this a great country or what?