Reprise for Imus

by Beacon Staff • December 5, 2007

Rough-riding conversationalist Don Imus returned to radio Dec. 3, complete with old crew, some new friends and all the usual shenanigans. Storming the airwaves on Monday, the I-man proved himself stronger than the politically-correct gang who orchestrated his brief demise.,He's back.

Rough-riding conversationalist Don Imus returned to radio Dec. 3, complete with old crew, some new friends and all the usual shenanigans. Storming the airwaves on Monday, the I-man proved himself stronger than the politically-correct gang who orchestrated his brief demise.

Following the brouhaha sparked by his racially-based attack on the Rutgers women's basketball team, many left Imus' career for dead.

Imus' resurrection does not, however, surprise his dear listeners, who know him as a scrapper, born and bred. He has endured the Marine Corps, kicked a nasty substance abuse habit and waged successful ratings battles with the cream of national punditry. The man is a survivor.

His traits come straight from the national DNA: a robust public voice, a speaker for the everyman, the embodiment of America's cowboy virtues. His off-color tongue, spit-in-the-Devil's-eye temperament, and penchant for sacrilege-these traits are drawn straight from the national DNA.

No mere shock jock, he represents all that's great about this country, which is precisely why the puritan, politically correct finger-waggers so despise his show. Deep down, they realize freedom of speech entails freedom to offend, and this they cannot accept.

To the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, two meddlers who hounded Imus following the Rutgers gaffe, "freedom" is only an invitation to sober homogeneity. They haven't the stomach for saucy public exchange, which naturally invites the politically and culturally risque.

This isn't to say that Imus is faultless. No, his incivility frequently crosses the line. He passes rude judgment on black and white, liberal and conservative, friend and foe alike.

But the fact is, ribald satire anchors his show. Everything from fat jokes to ethnic commentary is fair game, with petty character assassination serving as just another gag.

Antics aside, "Imus in the Morning" is a genuinely important show. More laudably, it's important without being pretentious.

A cross-section of American doers-and-shakers, the show provides hard content with a potent dose of irreverence pleasing to Joe Citizen. Alternatively sophisticated and sophomoric, it's easily digested during the hectic a.m. rush.

The program has always been an open forum, a place of and for free thinkers. Imus is a committed equal-opportunity misanthrope: one day he's mocking the hateful Rick Santorum, and the next he's guffawing over John Kerry's serial inanity. Athletes and journalists, musicians and businessmen all respect the show as a place to exchange banter, air grievances and receive a little verbal hazing.

And as is normally the case, with the good comes the bad. Imus dismissed the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," an assessment that's disturbingly racist, not to mention completely unfounded. But he rapidly and repeatedly apologized for the slip-up.

Let's be honest: no one among us hasn't said the wrong thing at the wrong time.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once lamented that there are no second acts in American lives. If anyone should be given the opportunity to debunk the liquor-soaked novelist's notorious assertion, it's Don Imus.

On air, he's a crucial middle American figure. Off air, he's an active philanthropist, operating a ranch for cancer-afflicted children and the siblings of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome victims.

Beneath Imus' grizzled exterior there's a vast and bleeding heart-not one of political-correct foolishness, but of tangible action on behalf of his fellow man.

Over the last few decades, do-gooders-many of them liberal-have injected American culture with a strain of politically-oriented hypersensitivity. These self-righteous scoundrels are known for their ability to locate the worst in people, and then magnify it exponentially. They can "find racism in a ham sandwich," to borrow an apt phrase from Imus' colleague and fellow radioman Jay Severin.

How wonderful it is now to witness a rare reversal of their fortunes. How exhilarating to know that scandalous American fun still bests the dreary saints who mistake a silent society for a tolerant one.

Nail biters beware: the I-man is back in the saddle.