On Imus

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the Don Imus controversy, so I won’t get into that — other than to think what I often have thought concerning him: “What took so long?”

I first heard of Don Imus in 1992, after Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign told reporters the candidate would make an appearance on the radio program. Some of my colleagues said, “Uh oh,” and some others snickered about it, and I soon learned why Imus was Imus.

So did Gwen Ifill, then of The New York Times and my favorite reporter on that campaign. She declined to appear on his show — at a time when other reporters were clamoring to get on the program — and Imus reportedly responded (even Ifill isn’t entirely sure) by asking on the air why the Times allowed “the cleaning lady” to cover the White House. She’s got some interesting thoughts about that — in a measured, direct style that still makes me envious of her skills.

Imus eventually got simulcast on MSNBC, and I’ve watched snippets of it in the mornings at times — in part because his musical tastes and mine are almost perfectly in sync (alt-country, Americana and blues). Still, I’ve heard his trash talk at times over the years and wondered why no one has slapped him down — and also wondered even more why so many high-profile journalists were so willing to go on the air with him.

That day may be at an end. The Washington Post probably summed it up best in an editorial: “Those who bask in the glow of his radio show ought to consider whether they should continue doing so. After all, you’re judged by the company you keep.”


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