Late ‘Daily News’ Columnist Foretold Don Imus Conflict — In 1995

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By: E&P Staff

With the sudden axing of Don Imus’s TV and radio shows this week, attention has turned to his regular guests — including many print and Tv journalists — who seemed to put up with his often disreputable remarks over the course of many years. But some in the press were raising this issue long ago.

One of the most prominent in this regard was the late columnist for New York’s ‘Daily News,” Lars-Erik Nelson. He wrote the following prescient piece on September 22, 1995. Here it is again, courtesy of the blogger known as Digby, at http://digbysblog.blogspot.com.
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Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) came to the Senate floor with
a look of sad concern on his face. He was deeply troubled, he said, at the vulgar, morally repugnant content of the new TV season. “We are lowering the standards of what is acceptable in our society and we are sending a message to our children,” he said. He denounced an “acceptance of rude language, foul imagery and gross behavior in the entertainment mainstream.”

Then, warning parents who might be watching on C-SPAN to move their little children away from the TV sets, Lieberman cited a few of the outrages: On ABC’s “Wilde Again,” a character asks to be called “Daddy’s little whore.” Another ABC program showed an upraised middle finger. CBS’ “Bless This House” used the phrase “little hooters” in reference to a girl’s breasts. “Profoundly disturbing,” Lieberman intoned. “Sophomoric.”

Funny thing: The previous morning, Lieberman had been a guest, as is his regular custom, on the Don Imus radio show on WFAN, a program that seems to get the bulk of its yuks from penis references.

If you have never heard the Imus show, listen in. It is a cross between an endless infomercial and a bunch of 8-year-olds telling doo-doo jokes into a tape recorder. It is rescued only by increasingly rare moments of inspired, hilarious brilliance.

Tune in any morning and you’ll hear Imus or one of his sidekicks joking about having “lipstick on the dipstick” and much worse. This is nationwide morning radio.

Lieberman worries, on the Senate floor, that the increasing vulgarity of network TV “is lowering the standards of what we accept on television, particularly in what used to be family programing hours.”

But he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth. This week’s moments of supposed humor on Imus, broadcast at an hour when children are rising for school, included a reference to Attorney General Janet Reno in crotchless pantyhose, an interview with Screw Magazine’s Al Goldstein and a drunken woman saying “s—” over the air. Teehee.

Lieberman is alarmed that some child watching an 8 p.m. TV show might hear the word “hooters.” Yet he legitimizes, by his regular presence, a radio show that will fill the child’s ears with far more vulgarity, sly racist jokes, gay-baiting and all-around bad taste than the child is ever likely to hear on TV.

Why jump into this sewer? Votes. Imus is free media. His audience consists mainly of those 18-to-34-year-old males who are so hard for a politician to reach.

The temptation is overwhelming. Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) will in one breath deplore the coarsening of our national discourse and the state of race relations, then appear on Imus where the idea of a neat joke is to suggest a black football player might be a carjacker.

Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) righteously denounces Hollywood for its raunchy movies and then joins the gang on Imus for a little friendly guy banter.

You can’t blame Imus for being what he is. He even serves the positive purpose of making current events entertaining. His parodies only make sense if you have been paying attention to the world around you.

But for Lieberman there is no excuse. One moment he joins the sniggering on Imus, the next he’s on the Senate floor as the pious defender of family virtue against encroaching vulgarity.

By all means, Lieberman, Bradley, Dole and the rest should go on Imus. But if they do, spare us the sanctimonious sermons about the vulgarity of modern broadcasting.

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