Imus Fallout: Journos Explain Why They Did The Show

David Brooks on “Meet the Press“:

    Well, you know, I did the show about a half a dozen times, and Gwen and I have talked about this. But I, I, I have the lamest excuse for why I did it, which is I didn’t know what he said. And when I did the show, it was like C-SPAN. You’d go on, you’d talk about Iraq. And I confess, I didn’t listen to the show except for the five minutes before when I went on, I’d hear it over the phone.

John Harwood on “Meet the Press”:

    People thought it was a cool place, an edgy place to get a different kind of audience than they would to watch their one-minute speeches on the floor on C-SPAN.

More from Harwood:

    And, Tim, there’s willful avoidance by a lot of us of exactly what is the content of some of this material that we embrace in different ways for the things that are advantageous. A year ago, the White House correspondent’s dinner, it’s coming up this week, I met Ludacris, the rapper, and I came home and told my teenage kids. They thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I’m sure that they have listened to Ludacris’ music. I don’t have the slightest idea what’s in his music, but maybe if this, the effect of this is I pay a little more attention and everybody gets a little bit more involved, that might be a good thing.

Howard Kurtz
, in Newsweek:

    He once called Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz, a regular on the show, a “boner-nosed, beanie-wearing Jew boy.” Kurtz considered it part of the game. “I wasn’t thrilled, but I just shrugged it off as Imus’s insult shtik,” says Kurtz, who has said that Imus helped make one of his books a best seller. “I don’t believe for a second that he doesn’t like Jewish people.”

Howard Fineman, in Newsweek:

    “I wanted to be where the action was on my beat,” says NEWSWEEK’s Howard Fineman, an Imus regular. “The show, however unsavory it could be, was one of those places. I thought, or perhaps only imagined, that being on the show gave me more clout on the beat.”

Evan Thomas, in Newsweek:

    NEWSWEEK’s Evan Thomas, another regular guest on the show, sometimes wondered if Imus went too far. “But I rationalized my appearances by pointing to other prominent journalists and politicians who did it, too,” he says. “I was eager to sell books, and I liked being in the in crowd.”

David Gregory, in Newsweek:

    If some of Imus’s material made his guests queasy, they reassured themselves that Imus was just putting on an act—an equal-opportunity abuser who went after everyone. “He occasionally accused me of being drunk or being queer,” says NBC chief White House correspondent David Gregory, a frequent guest on the show. “Imus was living in two worlds. There was the risqué, sexually offensive, sometimes racially offensive, satire, and then there was this political salon about politics and books. Some of us tuned in to one part and tuned out the other … Whether I was numb to the humor that offended people or in denial, I don’t know.”

Howie Kurtz and Tony Kornheiser, on “Reliable Sources“:

    KURTZ: But did anyone ever say to you on this — the things that he would say, “How can you go on this show when he’s making fun of blacks and women?”

    KORNHEISER: No. Did anyone say that to you?

    KURTZ: No.

    KORNHEISER: No. And nobody said it to me. And so, was my moral compass down? I suppose it was. And I watch people now say, “I would never go back on again.” And, “Now that I know this and I know that, I would never go back on again.” But, no, nobody said that to me. And it seemed that that was the radio show.

    KURTZ: Well, you know, I always made a distinction between somebody trying to be funny and somebody speaking out of anger, but maybe I had a blind spot on this.

Clarence Page, on “Reliable Sources“:

    KURTZ: … why did Tim Russert and Bob Schieffer and Brian Williams and Jeff Greenfield and Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw go on? They wouldn’t want to be associated with a totally offensive show, would they?

    PAGE: It’s a hard call. It’s a hard call for me.

    Don was very nice to my book when it came out. That’s why we go. There’s kind of a coincidence. Ninety percent of the pundits who come on have or have had books to sell.

    I mean — and then also, David Brooks made an interesting point. You know, for us Washington dweebs, it’s kind of fun to be with the bad boy who was always in the back of the room throwing spit balls. That’s Don Imus. It’s a different audience than we usually talk to.

Kurtz on “Reliable Sources”:

    KURTZ: Now, a lot of people have taken note of the fact that this was nine years ago, Imus was picking a fight with me. And I didn’t hear this and I wasn’t on it at the time, but he said that I was a boner-nosed, beanie-wearing Jew.

    So I went on the next day and I gave him a hard time. And my feeling was, this was his insult schtick. This was — you know, I grew up listening to Don Rickles say it. Did he not like Jewish people? He had people on with names like Fineman and Greenfield all the time.

    Maybe I should have been more offended, but, you know, to me this was Imus, the locker room guy, as opposed to Imus, the guy who could have a pretty smart conversation about media and politics. Right?

Ana Marie Cox, on “Reliable Sources”:

    Why was I doing it in the first place? And I realized it was to gain entry to the boys club. You know? And who would not want to be a part of this club?

    You know, all of these people who I look up to in Washington, Tim Russert, David Gregory, Brian Williams, and I had this thing in common with them. And really, one of the very few women he had on. I looked at the list of guests that he had in the past six months — 65 men, 11 women, and one black person.

On a side note, it is interesting to look at the men/women ratio on Imus’ show. Using Media Matters document as a resource, it breaks down like this:

    Number of men on the show since 1/1: over 65, most more than 3 times a piece.

    Number of women on the show: 11. (Not counting Mrs. Imus)

    Number of women on the show more than once: three (Mary Matalin, three times, Claire McCaskil, twice, Ana Marie Cox, three times)