On April 4, 2007, radio talk show host Don Imus referred to members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team (most of whom were African-American) as “nappy-headed hos” during a segment of his nationally syndicated “Imus in the Morning” show. Taken by many people, including the basketball team, to be racist slurs, Imus’s comments triggered calls for program sponsor boycotts and even termination of his employment. On April 6th, Imus made an on-air apology for his “insensitive and ill-conceived remark,” followed by elaboration and contextualization of his original remark and apology on April 9th. Imus faced suspension from NBC News and CBS Radio for his comments. Not long after, CBS fired Imus from the network.
Key Apologia Strategies:
Minimization, Attack the Accuser, Differentiation, Corrective Action, Bolstering, Mortification
April 9th Apology Elaboration:
“On Friday, I apologized for some remarks that I made, and others made, but particularly ones that I made on this program to the women’s basketball team at Rutgers University. And it was a straight-forward apology that Charles and I wrote. And I didn’t offer any I didn’t think it was necessary to offer any excuse, and I don’t think there is now. I didn’t think there was any need for me to put into any sort of context what happens on this program, because I unwisely just assumed that everybody knows, and obviously they don’t. And I didn’t think it was important to talk about what I do with my life, what my wife does with her life and who I am, because I thought it was important that I apologize to these young women and to their coach and to their parents and to you for what I said, and so that’s what I did.
And that was before any newspaper articles. That was the first opportunity that I had, and I may discuss that with well, it depends on what Reverend Sharpton asks, but I’m going to appear on Reverend Al Sharpton’s radio program this afternoon I’m not sure what time. It’s not broadcast in New York, but it’s broadcast all over the country, and you all can hear it at sharptontalk.net on the computer deal.
So I apologized on Friday, then there was a barrage, as you possibly know, of newspaper articles over the weekend and some this morning, and a number of prominent people calling for me to be fired and so on. And so, I have a responsibility this morning to provide some context and proportionality to who I am and what I do. And I don’t want anybody to think that this that I’m trying to weasel out of these remarks or that this is some kind of excuse, because there isn’t any excuse for what I said. And I don’t I’m not inclined to try to weasel out of these comments, which is why, when I reached out to Reverend Sharpton and he invited me on his program, I’m grateful that he is allowing me to come talk to him and his audience, so he is still calling for me to be fired and that’s his right, but at least he is going to let me talk to him.
So, these young women at Rutgers, they don’t know who I am. I mean, they pick the paper up, and they don’t know they don’t know whether I’m some right-wing racist nut, whether I was angry, whether it was some kind of diatribe, whether I was drunk. They don’t know whether I just came on the radio and said hey, the young women of Rutgers are yada, yada. So let me provide a context briefly for them not as an excuse, not that this makes this okay, nothing makes this okay. But there is a difference between premeditated murder and accidental, the gun going off accidentally. I mean, somebody still gets shot, but the charges are dramatically different.
This program has been, for 30 or 35 years, a program that makes fun of everybody. It makes fun of me, and it makes fun of everybody on the planet. And sometimes it makes fun of me to a vicious standpoint. Does that mean I get to say something about the Rutgers women? Of course not. But that’s the context in which we operate here. Is it appropriate? Well, we will talk about that a little later, because that’s got to change some of that because some people don’t deserve to be made fun of, like these young women who played for the national championship in basketball. They played for the national championship, they beat Duke and then they played Tennessee in the national championship, they don’t need me to try to be funny about them.
But they don’t know that I was trying to be funny. They don’t know what this program is about. I mean, because I call my wife ‘the green ho,’ does that mean I can call of course not. I mean, that’s a repugnant suggestion, to suggest that I think because we make fun of everybody, or because I get made fun of, that it’s okay to make fun of them, because it’s not okay to make fun of them. But that’s what we do and that’s the context.
So I want these and I have reached out I talked to Reverend DeForest Soaries last night for 45 minutes, had a great conversation with him. He is calling for me to be fired, but he’s a decent, brilliant man and a great evangelist. And he said, I believe you, and he said, You know, we don’t need a come-to-Jesus situation here. He said, You know what the enigma of this is, the tragedy is he said, I believe you, that you are a good man. He said, You said this. You said this. What are they saying? He named a couple people that I won’t same name. But, what are the people over there on the right saying?
And he said, You know, at the core of every black person you have to understand this they believe that white people don’t like them.
And they believe that, no matter how good a white person is, that at some point, it comes out, like it came out with you. And that just confirms what they think. And if you will say this, what will THEY say?
And so, I want these I have asked the Reverend DeForest Soaries to see if these young women will allow me to come apologize to them and their families and their coach, and he said he will work on that. And 10:30 Saturday night, I talked to Bob Mulcahy, who is the athletic director he’s a lovely guy. I talked to Harold Ford all weekend. I talked to Phil Griffin god bless him, actually reached out to Reverend Sharpton when I asked him to, and told Reverend Sharpton that, well, that I wanted to talk with him, and so which is how that came about.
These young women also need to know not as an excuse and not after what I’m going to say now, do I expect these young women to say, Oh, well, he works with black children, or he has black friends, that means he can say this. That’s not what I’m saying. But they need to know that I’m a good person who said a bad thing. And there is a big difference.
We have a ranch in New Mexico for kids with cancer, blood disorders and so on. It opened and we founded it it has been almost 10 years.
And half, nearly half of the kids who come there are from minority groups, Native American, Hispanic, Asian American an Asian American girl just won the Imus Ranch rodeo this past spring African American. Ten percent of the kids who come to our ranch are African American.
I’m not a white man who doesn’t know any African Americans. And my wife and I Deirdre Imus we run this ranch. We don’t have counselors. The whole basis of ranch is, these parents from all over this country and all over the world, they send their children to this ranch because they know that my wife and I are going to be their parents for 10 days. They live in the house with us. They eat with us. They are with us 24 hours a day. There’s not an African American parent on the planet who has sent their child to the Imus Ranch who didn’t trust me and trust my wife.
And when these kids die, we don’t just go to the white kids’ funeral. Little Michael Mordan (ph), god bless him, he turned 17 years old on Christmas day, he died January 1st, and my wife and I of course went to his funeral. It was a home-going service down in near Philadelphia my wife is from Connecticut, never been to one of those. He knew that we loved him and he had been to the ranch twice.
Two years ago, he came to the ranch and he desperately wanted to win that ranch belt buckle. And I knew what he was terminal then. And I have the stopwatch and I could have let him win, easily. But he would have known that and I would have known that. And so, he was pissed at me and everybody else because he didn’t win. And he came back last year, he came back last year, and he tried with all his heart to win and he didn’t win again. And I could have let him win, but he well, I wouldn’t do that, and he wouldn’t have wanted me to do that.
And then he went home and he died on Christmas day, so and these kids come out there and with sickle cell anemia. So I know I know African American children. And so I don’t need a come-to-Jesus experience.
And you might say, Well, if that’s all true, why would you say this? You know, I don’t know why I said it. We are trying to be funny, but does that make it okay? Of course not. My wife and I were stunned, this past summer, at the number of kids with sickle cell. I came on this radio program, when I got back, talking about sickle cell. I talked to politicians about it. I said, Well, how much money is being spent on sickle cell? I don’t know. I said, Well and I ask doctors, doctors at the ranch and others, Is there any research being done?
Nobody nobody nobody called me, nobody called me. No black journalist called me. Nobody ever called me about any of that.
So, my wife and I took a child with sickle cell, who we had to send home because he was so sick. So we had to take him to the hospital, which is 120 miles from the ranch, so we all got in the pickup, because he liked the pipes on the pickup, and we roared on down to with the doc sitting in the back with him”¦ And we roared on down to the University of New Mexico hospital, which is a marvelous place.
And Charlotte (ph) was getting a hold of his mom we were flying her out from New Jersey. So he was holding my wife’s hand, because my wife was his surrogate mother for the time being, and he said, Am I going to die here? And she said, No, you are not. And he did not. And so that’s when I came back and talked about this. Does that does that mean that I should be forgiven for saying what I said about the Rutgers women? That’s not what this is about. But that’s what I’m about. Because I’m a good person who said a bad thing.
Do you want to know what people called me for supporting Harold Ford, Jr.? Do you want to know the mail I got that called me a ‘n-lover’ and do you want to know what people said to me for the years that I played Bishop Patterson’s sermons? People telling me, they didn’t want to hear that well, you can imagine. Do you know what people said to me when I booked the Blind Boys of Alabama here years ago, and they have been on fairly regularly ever since then? About what they said about them and about me having about all of the African American musicians, over the years, who I have had on this program, and so on? Does that mean that it’s okay for me to say what I said about these Rutgers women? I hope you don’t think that, because I don’t think that.
So I’m going to go talk to these women, if they will let me, and tell them what I have just told you. And what have I learned from this? Because Reverend DeForest Soaries said, I want you to tell me what you have learned. Here’s what I have learned: that you can’t make fun of everybody, because some people don’t deserve it. And because the climate on this program has been what it has been for 30 years doesn’t mean that it has to be that way for the next five years or whatever, because that has to change. So and I understand that.
And wouldn’t you think our job at that ranch is to restore the self-esteem and the dignity and the confidence of these children. Why would I think then, it’s okay to go on the radio last Wednesday and make fun of these kid, who just played for national championship? Well, I can’t answer that. I’m sorry I did that. I’m embarrassed that I did that. I did a bad thing.
But I’m a good person. And that will change.”
Carr, D. (2007, April 7). Networks condemn remarks by Imus. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/07/arts/television/07imus.html
Carter, B. (2007, April 10). Radio host is suspended over racial remarks. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/10/business/media/10imus.html
Faber, J. (2007, April 12). CBS fires Don Imus over racial slur. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cbs-fires-don-imus-over-racial-slur/
Faber, J. (2007, April 6). Don Imus apologizes for racist remarks. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/don-imus-apologizes-for-racist-remarks/
McShane, L. (2007, April 7). Imus apologizes for Rutgers remark. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/06/AR2007040601374.html
Talk-radio host Don Imus apologizes for on-air racial slurs against Rutgers women’s basketball team. (2007, April 6). Fox News. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/04/06/talk-radio-host-don-imus-apologizes-for-on-air-racial-slurs-against-rutgers.html
Transcript: Imus puts remarks into context. (2007, April 9). NBC News. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/18022596/ns/msnbc-imus_on_msnbc/t/transcript-imus-puts-remarks-context/#.WXAs_YTyvIW