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The [Wednesday] Papers

So it's Al Sharpton's fault.

If only he - and Rev. Jesse Jackson - had done a better job policing black folk, Don Imus wouldn't have been tricked into calling a bunch of college basketball players nappy-headed ho's.

"Where is Sharpton every other day we're being called bitches and hos in music and on video? " asks Sun-Times deputy features editor Deborah Douglas. "Why hasn't he made a campaign out of that?"

Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist carried on the Tribune's Op-Ed page, wants to know too.

"Sharpton and Jackson would do well to direct some of their outrage to [black hip-hop]," she writes.

Outrage like, say, calling for black entertainers to stop using the N-word?

See, it turns out that Sharpton and Jackson have been at the forefront - for years - doing just what the likes of Douglas and Parker complain they are not doing. It turns out the headline above Douglas's story could not be truer: "He's An Idiot. What's Our Excuse?"

Anyone paying attention to Jackson's Saturday morning services at Rainbow/PUSH (available for viewing on the Internet or CAN-TV) or even just his commentary in print and broadcast would know better. Anyone paying attention to Sharpton as well, including his radio show (available locally on WVON-AM) would know better tenfold.

Let's just take as quick a trip through The New York Times archives as time allows this morning for a further look.

* In March 2005, Sharpton "called for a 90-day television and radio ban for performers who resort to violence to settle scores or promote albums.

"He said he planned to continue his anti-violence campaign. 'I'm going to target record company presidents that I think have benefited from marketing this type of violence.' He confirmed reports that he is paying particularly close attention to Jimmy Iovine, president of Interscope."

* In February 2004, Jackson and Sharpton called for a boycott of Barbershop because of the language, depiction of African-American and jokes about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.

* In January 2006, Sharpton called for an apology from "the cartoonist Aaron McGruder and Cartoon Network for an episode about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. broadcast last week on The Boondocks, depicting the civil rights leader using the word 'niggers.' The episode, ''The Return of the King,'' had its premiere on Jan. 15, the day before the holiday honoring King. The episode's premise was that after being shot in 1968, King awakens from a coma around 2000 and is frustrated by some black behavior, including sexually explicit hip-hop videos.

"'Cartoon Network must apologize and also commit to pulling episodes that desecrate black historic figures,' Mr. Sharpton said in an e-mail news release. 'We are totally offended by the continuous use of the 'N' word in McGruder's show. While I can appreciate Mr. McGruder and his achievements, this particular episode is over the line. If we don't receive an apology, we will picket the corporate headquarters.'''

* In April 1992, "prominent blacks, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Dr. Alvin Poussaint, the Harvard psychiatrist, have publicly chastised other members of their race for failing to live up to the moral standards of earlier generations of black Americans."

Jackson and Sharpton have been on the case for years. Obviously Imus and his admiring apologist pundits aren't paying as much attention to them as they are to the very entertainers they decry - and mimic with glee.

Meanwhile, the Trib's John Kass can't figure out why so few journalists have the guts to bring up Jackson's Hymietown remark every time the reverend is called upon to discuss intemperate racial remarks. I mean, shouldn't that be brought up every single time? No one's called him on it yet!

And why, Kass wonders, does Sharpton continue to get a free pass in the Tawana Brawley case? I mean, no one's ever made him pay for that! He didn't lose an ounce of credibility! Reporters need to mention Tawana Brawley every time Sharpton weighs in on race. (Kass posits white liberal guilt as the culprit, but white conservative latent hostility seems to be more on display.)

Funny thing, though. It's not as if Jackson and Sharpton have nationally syndicated radio shows simulcast on MSNBC every morning. Must be coincidence.

Then again, maybe Jackson and Sharpton wouldn't be out front on issues like this if someone like, oh, let's say Barack Obama, who is only running for president, decided to be outraged. Is anyone calling on Barack Obama for not "doing enough"?

Then again, it's Sharpton's New York-based radio show we have to turn to for frequent discussions of the torture of more than 100 black men by the Chicago Police Department and the possible culpability of our mayor. Obama is the one endorsing the mayor. So, you know, there's different ways of "doing enough."

Maybe the guilty white liberal media should ask the mayor about torture every chance they get. Maybe that would shut Sharpton up. But in the meantime, he's out there "calling" for this and that, whether our local geniuses are paying attention or not. Where has everyone else been?

The truth is that Imus has been a racial slimebucket for years, as the Trib's Clarence Page points out today.

"Back in 2001," Page writes, "I led Imus in an on-air pledge in which he promised to avoid humor that relied on inflammatory racial or gender stereotypes, including 'simian references to black athletes' and other abuses of which he had been accused.'"

Of course, Imus hasn't come close to living up to that pledge and, curiously, Page says he has never been invited back on the show.

"Perhaps some have come a little late to this party," NBC News anchor (and former Channel 2 anchor) Lester Holt said in an e-mail to the Trib's Phil Rosenthal. "I have found a lot of what Imus says over the years to be offensive and way over the line, and therefore I don't watch or listen to him."

Rosenthal notes that MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has also avoided the show for years, but it's really white people - who after all are most of Imus's guests, listeners and viewers - who have failed to call out their own.

Blaming Sharpton and Jackson for Imus is exactly backwards. If you want Sharpton and Jackson to go away, solve the Don Imus's of the world and the good reverends will be out of business. Meanwhile, the idea that their past indiscretions somehow invalidate their credibility as commentators might be a little more justifiable if that kind of standard was applied to the punditry at-large - particularly the lot of them, including Kass, who were so gung-ho about the Iraq war.

Until then, I'm satisfied that Jackson and Sharpton have been more than properly penalized for their sins. Now it's time for Imus to finally get what he deserves.

The Imus Record
As recounted in a recent Jackson column:

"Just humor, Imus said, initially refusing to apologize; just some idiot comment meant to be amusing. After two days of furor, Imus apologized for "an insensitive and ill-conceived remark." But it's not an isolated instance. Only a month earlier, when Sen. Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Selma, Ala., on the anniversary of the 1965 march that produced "Bloody Sunday," McGuirk said she was 'trying to sound black in front of a black audience,' suggesting she'll 'have cornrows and gold teeth before this fight with Obama is over.'

"Imus once scorned PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, one of the few African-American anchors on television, as 'a cleaning lady.' McGuirk dismissed Sen. Barack Obama as that 'young colored fella.'

"Former New York media critic Philip Nobile has documented Imus' repeat racist offenses. He reports that Imus admitted to 60 Minutes that McGuirk was brought on 'to do nigger jokes.' Imus or his cohorts have called Patrick Ewing 'the missing link,' Shaquille O'Neal 'a carjacker in shorts,' the New York Knicks 'chest-bumping pimps,' the Williams sisters 'two booma-chucka, big-butted women,' and the Indian men's doubles team 'Gunga Din and Sambo.'

"The list can go on. Imus is protected by his cache of insiders in Washington.

"On MSNBC, of course, African-American anchors can respond to Imus, and reply to his racist jibes, giving as well as they get. Not. In fact, there are no - zero - African-American hosts on MSNBC. The network practices the discrimination that Imus peddles."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Not amused.


Posted on April 11, 2007

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