When I arrived at the home for retired racial stereotypes in Hollywood last week, Buckwheat and the Kingfish were poring over a blueprint. "Here we is," squeaked Buckwheat, beckoning me over. "These are the plans for our new branch, the Home for Racial Stereotypers Who Ought to Seek Early Retirement. We're naming it after Don Imus."
"Who's Imus?" I said, scratching my head in bewilderment.
"And you call yourself a reporter!" huffed the Kingfish. "He's the host of Imus in the Morning, a radio show that mixes interviews of big-time politicians and media stars like Tim Russert and Jeff Greenfield with sophomoric satire and juvenile racial humor. The inside-the-Beltway crowd worships and fears him."
"Now I remember," I replied. "I stopped listening to him a couple of years ago, after the New York Daily News reported his comment about the New York Times's naming a black journalist, Gwen Ifill, as a White House correspondent: 'Isn't the Times wonderful? It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.'"
"He hasn't changed," Buckwheat said. "A writer named Philip Nobile has collected dozens of examples of Imus or his half-witted sidekicks saying obnoxious things about women, gays, Jews and minorities. Like calling Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, a 'boner-nosed, beanie-wearing Jew boy.' Or the New York Knicks 'chest-thumping pimps.' Or saying that people shouldn't get upset about serial gay killer Andrew Cunanan because 'he's just whacking off freaks!' Nobile tried to sell an article asking why media bigwigs like Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather and some of your colleagues from TIME magazine feel comfortable appearing on a program that trades in this kind of swill, but no one would touch it. Finally, a new website called TomPaine.com started posting Nobile's reports on the Internet and bought an ad in the New York Times calling attention to them. There wasn't anything really new in the ad, but it got quite a reaction."
"It sho' did," the Kingfish interjected. "Imus went postal when he saw it! Went on the air ranting that he wasn't going to apologize. Said he might sue!"
"You've got to be kidding," I said. "A guy who dishes it out like Imus ought to be able to take it. I'm going to call him today and get his side of the story."
When I reached the I-Man, he told me he was just trying to be funny, not hurt anyone's feelings. He said TomPaine.com was miffed because it had bought an ad on his show that he wouldn't read because it was too partisan. He nearly convinced me that his quarrel with Nobile wasn't worth writing about.
But the next morning I was awakened by a phone call. "Turn your radio on," Buckwheat ordered. "Imus is talking about you!"
"What's he saying?" I asked, wiping sleep from my eyes.
"He said you were 'gutless,'" said Buckwheat. "Said you didn't ask him about the vile things he says about white folks, just the vile things he says about black folks. Said he can't understand why you think all his black caricatures sound like characters on Amos 'n' Andy."
"Oh, my goodness," I said. "It sounds as though he had a meltdown."
"Yeah," said the Kingfish, "we'd better get the new wing ready soon. We can move him in next to the Greaseman."