On April 4th, Don Imus, radio talk show host on CBS radio and MSNBC made some very distasteful, racist comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. The outrage was immediate. The African American community, from the highest profile to the relatively unknown, has spoken strongly and is demanding Mr. Imus’s termination. While I agree wholeheartedly with the outrage, it did make me pause and wonder if the response would have been similar had Mr. Imus made derogatory comments about a person with a disability.
Would the community as a whole have expressed outrage? Would the Today Show have allocated 30-40 minutes for the last three days to discuss the issue with community leaders? Would the Imus Show sponsors – Proctor and Gamble, Staples Inc. and Bigelow Teas - be pulling their advertising had Mr. Imus said something about children with Down Syndrome, for example? Or would the only people raising their voices in outrage been disability rights advocates?
Mr. Imus has apologized for his comments but reminds his critics that he is not a bad person. In fact, he said he has had countless minority children as guests at his cattle ranch and camp in New Mexico. His show has also been a platform for another of his so-called philanthropic causes – autism research advocacy.
So, it seems Mr. Imus feels that his dedication to minorities should allow his some leeway in his racist comments. Perhaps soon, if Mr. Imus is allowed to keep his job, we will begin hearing comments about people with disabilities.
If that happens, I truly hope the public outrage and response is as commanding as it has been this past week.