Friday, April 13, 2007

Don Imus and Slander

Many people have asked me what I thought about the recent comments by a Radio/TV commentator Don Imus in reference to the Rutger's Women's Basketball team in which he called them among other things "nappyheaded hos" and "jiggaboos." I actually watched his show that morning. I was appauled.

I am still appauled.

I thought I would hear a summary of Rutger's efforts and a complement or two for them. Instead I heard a weird rant about how almost winning a national play-off somehow made them prostitutes ("nappyheaded hos"). And then just to make sure anyone listening got the racial intent of this slur, he referred to them as "jiggaboos." The other commentators looked startled, and then made feeble attempts to argue/cover up for Mr. Imus's tirade. There was an editorial pause while some footage of the Rugers Game ran briefly. Then Mr. Imus mummbled that the girls on the other team were attractive. He sounded very insincere. Bad save Imus...

Now I believe in Free Speech. But Free Speech ends at defamation. Defamation is/are untrue remark(s) intended to harm people. There is a user friendly description of:
the Legal Definitions of Slander and Libel
at this link.

Certainly Mr. Imus's odd rant reached Slander proportions. This would indicate he made defamatory remarks in speech. Since the tapes of this will play forever, it may indeed reach a Libel status (defamation in print or other lasting medium). I'm not a lawyer -so they can fight that over in court if necessary. What troubles me most is the mindset demonstrated here.

After years of struggle, the young women on the Rutger's team certainly deserve some praise for their hard work. Instead on a combined radio/TV show with over a million viewers either listening or watching -- their reward from Mr. Imus for all their years of effort was to be called whores to a world wide audience. The additional racial slurs (nappyheaded and jiggaboos) make it plain to anyone --not just psychologists --- that some negative racial stereotype was also at play. The feeble mutterred afterwords did nothing to blur what was painfully obvious.

What a rotten thing to do. You find someone's golden life moment and ruin it in public. In front of over a million people, your years of hard work get you called a whore.

How motivating for other young women (much sarcasm intended) that the public reward for hard effort is such an insult. And that the insult is racially motivated only makes it more hurtful. How cruel.

I can't remotely imagine why this man did this. I'm sure his superiors thinking of a whole team's worth of individual libel suits against him and the network had much the same reaction. And I would like to think some of them felt personal anger that one of their employees said such mean things in public about good people who had accomplished something difficult to do. Instead of encouraging young people to better efforts, Mr. Imus had verbally kicked them down.

Shame on you Don Imus. What a rotten thing to do. I'm glad they sacked you.


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