THE Federal Communications Commission slapped a record fine on CBS for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" three years ago. Similarly, it has levied huge financial penalties on Howard Stern for stepping over the lines of propriety with his shock-jock tirades. All of which makes CBS Radio's two-week suspension of radio host Don Imus seem awfully mild, given the offense.
His now infamous remark, uttered on the Imus in the Morning show last week, infuriated many by describing the mostly black Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos."
Mr. Imus said he was trying to be funny. "We were kidding around, but that doesn't change it." He subsequently apologized on the air for the "repulsiveness" of his words, and said he was embarrassed.
But he also stressed it was important to understand the context of his comments and that "these young women [Rutgers players] deserve to know it was not said with malice." In other words, the contrite radio host explained, he is a good person who said a bad thing.
We'll say. The furor over the racially charged remark continues. There are increasing calls for Mr. Imus to be fired from his syndicated morning program. Some plan protests across the country while others promise to launch a nationwide boycott of Imus sponsors and lodge complaints with the FCC. The Rutgers players, who have handled the controversy with more class than Mr. Imus showed, will meet privately with him next week.
The hateful, racist words Mr. Imus broadcast to millions of people on more than 70 stations and MSNBC are simply intolerable and must be rebuked in the most forceful measure. And indeed, MSNBC yesterday said it would no longer carry the simulcast of Mr. Imus' show.
Time off for bad behavior doesn't cut it.