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Cleaning Up the I-Mess

Aired April 13, 2007 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everybody. Thank you much for joining us.
We have a very special hour for you on the fallout from Don Imus' firing.

But, before we get to that, you need to know about some very dangerous weather that's moving in on the Fort Worth-Dallas area.

Let's turn to Reynolds Wolf, who will give us an idea of why, we are told, lots of people are fleeing downtown Dallas at this hour -- Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: (AUDIO GAP) we have been watching, Paula.

We have been watching this storm system roll its way through the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We have had some confirmed tornadoes, also very large hail, some of the hail, nearly tennis-ball- to baseball- size hail at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. There's no question there is going to be damage there, possibly damage out along on the tarmac, possibly damaging some the planes. We are going to watch that for you very carefully.

The storm now still moving through the Dallas-Fort Worth area and rolling to the northeast. We are going to watch this for your very carefully. You're seeing some images now from downtown Dallas, showing you the ominous clouds, very dark, a lot of deadly lighting out there, of course, heavy rain and large hail, and those potential tornadoes, some already confirmed.

That's the latest we have for you, Paula. Let's send it back to you.

ZAHN: Reynolds, thank you so much.

And, as Reynolds was just saying, one tornado already confirmed in north Fort Worth. And, as soon as we have details on what, if any, damage that's caused, we will bring that to you.

But back to our special tonight -- we are ending this remarkable week with a special hour measuring the shockwaves from Don Imus' firing. Tonight: If the women of Rutgers University can accept his apology, why are so many other people still so outraged?

Is this the end of the line for radio shock jocks, or will it always be more profitable to offend and entertain? And is Don Imus being judged by a different set of rules than some other big celebrities?

Well, even if you weren't one of his regular listeners, Don Imus' downfall touches all of our lives. Think about it. We constantly face issues of race and sex, of money and the media. And we can use words that inflict pain and express tolerance or intolerance, or, like a couple of women today, we can choose words of healing and forgiveness. Those women are the Rutgers basketball coach and Don Imus' wife.

We asked Jim Acosta to begin this special hour by bringing those words out in the open.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One day after his media empire came crashing down, something went right today for Don Imus. His apology to the Rutgers women's basketball team was accepted.

C. VIVIAN STRINGER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH: We, the Rutgers University Scarlet Knight Basketball Team accept Mr. Imus's apology, and we are in the process of forgiving.

ACOSTA: A process is the only way to describe it. A source at the meeting characterized it as highly emotional, telling CNN the players actually voted on whether to accept Imus' apology once the gathering was over, a sign the team is still hurting more than a week after that racist slur.


DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: That's some nappy-headed hos there.


STRINGER: These comments are indicative of greater ills in our culture. It is not just Mr. Imus, and we hope that this will be and serve as a catalyst for change.

ACOSTA: There was an Imus on the radio this morning, but it was his wife, Deirdre, doing the talking on what was the program's final broadcast.


DEIRDRE IMUS, WIFE OF DON IMUS: He asked them: I want to know the pain I caused, and I need to know how to fix it and change this.


ACOSTA: Deirdre Imus revealed that the Rutgers team had received hate mail, mail that she says should be directed elsewhere.


DEIRDRE IMUS: If you want to send hate mail, send it to my husband.


ACOSTA: The I-Man's sudden downfall leaves his radio station in New York and its parent company, CBS, without a major personality for the highly lucrative morning drive time. Imus earned CBS at least $15 million last year.

For now, a staffer at Imus' now former station says the New York sports broadcasting team "Mike and the Mad Dog" will temporarily replace "Imus in the Morning" across the country.

DEIRDRE IMUS: Hi. I'm Deirdre Imus.

ACOSTA: Also unknown is what becomes of the Imus charity, such as his ranch in New Mexico for children with cancer. Because of the firestorm over his remarks, Imus had to hand over his charity telethon to his wife this week, a show that had raised almost $3.5 million this year, $40 million since 1990.

Imus' various charities had attracted some large corporate donors. And, like his big radio advertisers, those major donors may be asked the same question at issue this week, whether it's still appropriate to do business with Don Imus.

Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: And it took just nine days for Don Imus to go from hero to some to zero. And it's a stark reminder that the media landscape in this country has changed completely.

We asked Carol Costello to carefully retrace the steps of Imus' downfall and bring some important lessons for all us out in the open.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Only his regular listeners and viewers heard Don Imus live at 6:14 on the morning of April 4.


DON IMUS: That's some nappy-headed hos there, I'm going to tell you that.


COSTELLO: But, nowadays, when a major media personality says something like that, the whole world finds out in very short order.

By the evening of April 4, Imus' slur was posted on the Web site for everyone to watch again and again.

Media critic Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" says the mainstream media had no choice but to take notice.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is what has changed. This is why the mainstream media no longer control the dialogue. Sometimes, they have to react to what's happening online.

COSTELLO: By the next afternoon, Thursday, April 5, top executives of NBC and CBS were becoming aware that complaints were coming in and that they had a problem.

The president of the National Association of Black Journalists, Bryan Monroe, saw the Imus clip that Thursday. He stayed up all night drafting a highly critical statement. On Friday morning, April 6, at 6:00 a.m. Eastern time, the very start of his show, Don Imus apologized.


DON IMUS: My characterization was thoughtless and stupid. So -- and we're sorry.


COSTELLO: It was Good Friday, a slow news day.

KURTZ: There's nothing worse than getting into trouble when there's nothing else going on in the media. And, a holiday weekend, suddenly, this Imus insult hit the airwaves. Because it had been captured online, that sparked one of the biggest, most intense feeding frenzies I have ever seen.


COSTELLO: On Saturday, April 7, the Reverend Al Sharpton went public with his outrage.

SHARPTON: We will picket that station, and we will picket that station as long as Don Imus is on that station.

COSTELLO: With pressure mounting, Imus apologized again on Monday, April 9.


DON IMUS: I did a bad thing. But I'm a good person.


COSTELLO: An appearance on Al Sharpton's radio show failed to make things better.


SHARPTON: What is any possible reason you could feel that this kind of statement could be just forgiven and overlooked?

DON IMUS: I don't think it should be. I don't think it can be. I think it can be forgiven, but I don't think it can be overlooked.


KURTZ: In a way, he kept the story alive and allowed that critical mass to build.

COSTELLO: That night, Monday, NBC and CBS suspended Imus' program for two weeks. When the women of the Rutgers basketball team broke their silence on Tuesday, their poise and dignity stood in sharp contrast to Imus' crude humor.

That night, Imus' sponsors began to abandon his show. On Wednesday, April 11, a week after the original offense, MSNBC permanently canceled its television simulcast of the "Imus" program. And the pressure intensified on CBS. On Thursday, the 12th, Imus said he had apologized enough. That afternoon, CBS Radio fired him.

Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.


ZAHN: I want to turn now to one of Don Imus' longtime friends, big supporter of the shows. Bo Dietl is chairman of Beau Dietl and Associates. He was a frequent guest on Imus' show. And he's been talking with Imus all this week, including today.

Good to see you.


ZAHN: Has he accepted his fate?

DIETL: You know, he's pretty well beat up by this whole thing. And, again, why are we here?

Did he say anything that was so much different than he said in the past? I heard it that morning on Wednesday. It kind of rolled off when Bernie did. They were all talking. It rolled off. You didn't even think about what he said. He just wants to be humorous. There's no intention in back of it, although I think it's disgusting, the lines. I think anybody that talks that way is disgusting.


ZAHN: And he has apologized. He has admitted what he said was a mistake. He shouldn't have said it, wasn't sure why he said it.


DIETL: Was it the end of the world? The real problem behind this was CBS. CBS had just lost Joel Hollander, the head of CBS Radio. They had hired a new person that was supposed to take effect April 16. So, there was no one leading the band there. So, after that happened, they should have responded. They had no kind of disaster recovery in place where he could have done a public apology the next day when they got the first phone call from Rutgers. Let's get him out there. Let's get him in front of the cameras and do a real apology.

ZAHN: And then you he think he would have salvaged....


DIETL: It would have been over with.


ZAHN: But why didn't he have the conscience to do that? He had to know what he said was vile and degrading.


DIETL: Well, you know what? The more you -- when he said it, he didn't realize he was saying about these 10 innocent young ladies, beautiful women.

ZAHN: Well, who did he think he was addressing?

DIETL: Well, you have heard him for many years. He has said a lot of things, Paula. We know that. And you think he meant a lot of things that he says? This is them.

He's a comedian. He's there for making people laugh. This is not making me laugh, what I heard. I don't want you to misplace that. But, again, all of a sudden, he's leading -- on Saturday, he calls me in the Bahamas. And he says, did you see what's going on?

Monday, he said he's going to go on to Al Sharpton's show. I said, why are you going there? Nobody is leading him. That was the beginning of the end. When he went on Sharpton's show, I was against it.

ZAHN: And, then, at that point on, you thought he...


DIETL: I called Redstone up, Sumner Redstone, on Tuesday. I said, you have got to get in the middle of it.

ZAHN: Big cheese over at CBS and Viacom.

DIETL: You have got to get in the middle of this. Then, I said -- he said, well, why don't you call Les Moonves? You know him.

I call Moonves. He didn't return my call.

The more that people were piling on, it seemed like it's got its own life.

ZAHN: Come back to where he is tonight. You said he feels like a pretty beaten-up man. Is he bitter about what's happened to him? He now knows the Rutgers team is in the process, they say, of forgiving him. They took a vote.


DIETL: They took the apology. Why didn't CBS wait?

ZAHN: But how is he doing? How is he handling it?

DIETL: I have known him for a lot of years. I have been doing the show 20 years. I love him. I love Deirdre, his son. These are my friends. I have sat in the apartment with him through this whole crisis a couple of times.

ZAHN: So, he's humiliated. He's broken. He's...

DIETL: Well, you know what it is? It's -- he is probably, in his mind, looking at him, and saying, how did I let that come out of my mouth?

And we had Sid there that was thrown off a few times. And Bernie gets kind of tough and says a lot of things.

ZAHN: Which was the producer, right.

DIETL: And you know what? It can happen to anybody when you're doing it so long. And that's the problem. And then we were talking about cleaner. And I said, you know, Don -- I was sitting in his living room after this thing broke. I said, we can do it cleaner. I mean, there's no problem. We can do it. We can be humorous, and we don't have to hurt people.

And then we started to realize...

ZAHN: Right.

DIETL: ... we could do something good out of this.

I said, what we can do is stop this vile language in music, where little girls are in schoolyards where guys are saying hey, you -- I don't want to repeat it, because it's disgusting.

ZAHN: Well, unfortunately, that's what some people thought was the biggest cop-out of all, when he was saying: All I did was use language that is frequently used in the black community.

DIETL: Is it right? No.

ZAHN: And I said it...

DIETL: It's not right, Paula. But does it go on?

I have a daughter, 17 years old. She listens to this garbage all the time. No one stops it. And you know what? It's frequently used. And I know these basketball player females there must have been victims of that language at one time in the schoolyard.

ZAHN: Sure.

DIETL: And it's disgusting.

ZAHN: It is disgusting.

DIETL: You know what we do? I wanted to build on it, Paula, and make things better, instead of pulling things apart.


ZAHN: Well, people are hopeful that, somehow, we may see something good out of this down the road, whether it's through Don Imus or just the conversation that's been sparked by him.

Bo Dietl, thanks. Appreciate your dropping by on a Friday night.

DIETL: Paula, always a pleasure.

ZAHN: So, Don Imus has been fired, but, come Monday, he's still going to be on the air on at least one station in this country. How is that possible? You are going to be amazed, or maybe outraged.

Later on in our special hour: Is the era of radio shock jocks finally over? We will be getting back with you with a panel that is going to sizzle tonight. They come at it from all over the place.


ZAHN: We are spending the hour tonight bringing the continuing shockwaves over the Don Imus story out in the open. As you know, CBS fired him, as well as MSNBC.

But can you believe that one California radio station says Imus will be on the air as usual next week, in defiance of the network's decision? KCAA-AM in San Bernardino will air a week of Imus reruns, starting with the show that got him fired.

Joining me now, KCAA's news director, Dennis Baxter, who is also a San Bernardino city councilman.

Thanks so much for joining us here tonight.

DENNIS BAXTER, NEWS DIRECTOR, KCAA-AM: Thank you, Paula. Good to be here.

ZAHN: Thank you.

I wanted to start off by something that the CEO of your radio station had to say a little bit earlier today. And he said, "I'm not going to let networks dictate to me who I run on my station."

BAXTER: Right. ZAHN: But, knowing what a national uproar this has created, the tremendous outrage, the feeling of humiliation, are you basically just rubbing people's noses in this?

BAXTER: No, absolutely not.

As a matter of fact, Paula, what we're attempting to do on Monday by playing that show from 6:00 to 9:00 in the morning is basically let our listeners, who have actually asked us to play the program, see the program in the overall context.

The negative results that we have heard are from people who are not Imus listeners. We have a Web poll running right now on KCAA at And, right now, this afternoon, when I left the radio station to come to your studio here, basically, 94 percent of the people said, yes, he was wrong. Yes, he did a reprehensible thing. Yes, he should be punished, but, no, he should not be fired. He should remain on the air.

ZAHN: Dennis, let me ask you, though. When you say that you want the listeners to hear the show within full context, you're not going to tell me, by listening to the three hours, they are going to find those nine or 10 seconds any less objectionable, are you?

BAXTER: No, no, not at all, not at all. Of course it's objectionable.

But it does allow the listeners who are not Imus listeners previously to be able to understand what he is all about. He is an equal-opportunity offender. He would offend a white middle-aged bald man. He would offend blacks. He offends Jews. He offends Muslims. He offends every race and creed, and has done it for over 30 years, as part of his shtick.

However, was he wrong? Absolutely, he was wrong. Were we satisfied with a two-week, basically, suspension? Yes, we were totally satisfied with him being on suspension for two weeks.

ZAHN: Right.

BAXTER: He's a staple.

ZAHN: How many shows are you going to end up re-airing?

BAXTER: Well, we have -- we have in our archive probably months and months of them, but we are definitely going to air the April 4 show. That will be coming up on Monday. And, then Tuesday through Friday, we will be airing selected previous shows from just the last few weeks.

And I believe -- and the owner/CEO in Texas, Fred Lundgren, believes -- that, by the end of the week, it should all shake out and, we should have a pretty good idea where Imus is going to land.

ZAHN: Yes.


ZAHN: And you know what cynics are saying. I need a brief answer to this. You guys are just trying to goose the ratings.

BAXTER: No. You know what? We're not really a ratings-driven station. We're a small local station, licensed to Loma Linda, California, and San Bernardino.

And, basically, we're driven by the fact that people want a voice, a different voice to be heard in the Inland Empire area of Southern California. So, we're a very different type of an animal than any other station in 30 years I have worked at.

ZAHN: Well, we have got to leave it there tonight.

Dennis Baxter, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

BAXTER: Thank -- thank you, Paula.

Howard Stern took his potty-mouth show to satellite radio. Will Don Imus follow him? Well, this may surprise you, but some people say he can't.


STEVE CAPUS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENT: The comment that came through to us time and time again was, when is enough going to be enough?


ZAHN: Are radio shock jocks going the way of the dinosaur?

A little bit later on: an eye-opening look at how the Imus is playing at a traditionally black college. Are the students there as outraged as the rest of the country? And do they use any of the words that got Imus into so much trouble?


ZAHN: Out in the open tonight: the shockwaves from Don Imus' downfall.

Imus, of course, made a career out of crude, vicious and tasteless humor. He was a pioneer paving the way for crass morning radio shows in practically every city in the country. And each new shock jock competes to out-crude the other.

But Imus crossed the line between earning ratings and earning wrath. So, now that he's gone, will it end the era of the radio shock jock?

Allan Chernoff looks into that for us tonight.




ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shock jock Howard Stern left the public airways for satellite radio. So did controversial radio hosts Opie and Anthony.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our first day on XM Satellite Radio.


CHERNOFF: But a source in the industry says there's no opportunity now for Imus on satellite radio, especially since Sirius and XM are hoping to gain government approval for a planned merger.

PAUL LA MONICA, CNNMONEY.COM: Satellite radio can't afford the risk right now. Simply put, they just need to steer clear of any more controversy that could possibly derail their merger plans.


DON IMUS: And, sometimes, we go too far.


CHERNOFF: Indeed, the collapse of Imus, an original shock jock, could mark a threshold, a change in attitudes about public vulgarity. In cutting ties to Don Imus, both CBS and NBC say they hope to clean up the airwaves.

STEVE CAPUS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENT: This had touched a nerve. And the comment that came through to us time and time again was, when is enough going to be enough?

CHERNOFF: CBS CEO Les Moonves told his staff in a memo: "Firing Imus is an effort to curb offensive speech in American pop culture. In taking him off the air, I believe we take an important and necessary step in changing that culture, which extends far beyond the walls of our company."


CHERNOFF: Media leaders who called for Imus' firing say their campaign on all kinds of media companies is just getting started.

SHARPTON: We're going to be looking around the television industry and the music industry. And, clearly, I think that all of them ought to know that there is no one that does not, in our judgment, get a pass here, I think, from musicians on. CHERNOFF (on camera): Of course, easier said than done. Controversial and sometimes offensive comments very often lead to big ratings in radio and television. And nasty lyrics certainly have not hurt music sales.

So, many people may be fed up, but, among those who are not, will they actually stop buying and stop tuning in?

Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: Time to go straight to our "Out in the Open" panel, CNN contributor Roland Martin, who also hosts his own radio show, a clean one, at that.

Most days, right, Roland?



ZAHN: And Republican political strategist Amy Holmes, and radio host and columnist Steve Malzberg.

Great to have you wrap up the week with us.

First off...


ZAHN: ... do you think outrageous hosts are going to be end up relegated to satellite?

MALZBERG: No. I don't know. And I don't know how important that actually is. I think it's much more important to look at what's happening here -- and, again, Al Sharpton putting out the word that he's going. This is just the beginning. He's going to start -- you know...

ZAHN: But it's going to have impact, isn't it, Steve?

MALZBERG: Well, I don't know.

You know, we have Hillary Clinton the odds-on favorite to be our next president, supposedly. She had a fund-raiser with Timbaland. Timbaland has songs that have ho and B. and N. laced throughout the songs. He raised $800,000 for her. Is Hillary Clinton, who called Imus a bigot, and who is going to meet with these Rutgers basketball players, is she going to give back the $800,000 from this rapper who has N. and ho in all of his songs? I don't think so.

Let's get real here. And let's have our outrage directed where it belongs, at someone who wants to be president, not a talk show host.


ZAHN: Well, Roland, a lot of people are saying that tonight; this is nothing more than selective outrage.

MARTIN: No, it's not selective outrage.

I mean, look, there have been a number of people who have been fired. Why is Steve forgetting the Hot 97 deejay who was fired for making fun of tsunami victims and the grassroots people in New York...


MALZBERG: I didn't know I was forgetting HIM. I didn't know I was asked about him.

MARTIN: No, no, no, no, no. But -- no, no, Steve, here's my point there. See, you can focus on these kind of folks.

Paula, a number of people have been fired for outrageous things. Now, I don't believe, though, it's going to cause a dramatic downturn in shock jocks. People are going to have to watch what they say, no different than, after Janet Jackson, the networks had to be cautious about indecency on television.

ZAHN: Well, let's see, Amy Holmes, what you have to think about whether we will see any reduction in sexism directed towards women on the airwaves.

Let's listen to what a person from the National Organization for Women had to say, Kim Gandy.


KIM GANDY, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: The more progress women make in society, the more women move up, the more we are in law school and medical school, the more -- the higher jobs we have, the more the misogyny increases. A few years ago, it was the B- word. Now it's calling women hos.


ZAHN: Do you see this changing at all, Amy?

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I don't agree with her analysis that, the more advanced women get in education and professional life, the more you see misogyny increasing. I think that she is confusing two very different things. But, you know, Paula...


ZAHN: You have got to admit there's an awful lot of it out there, Amy.

HOLMES: There certainly is. And it's in our pop culture. But I think it's coming from a teen culture, a thug culture, which is very different from women going to law school and becoming partners in a law firm.

But, you know, as the man said, no one ever lost money underestimating the taste of the American people. I think the vulgarity, it's going to sell. It has since time immemorial. I mean, Barnum & Bailey Circus had made hand -- millions and millions of dollars catering to that.

I think the difference here, what we saw with Don Imus, what I hope we see moving forward when it comes to hip-hop music and some of the things that are being blasted on the radio stations, is abusive language, abusive slurs. And that's where I put the words -- the H- word that I refuse to say on air, or in private, as a matter of fact.


MALZBERG: Was anybody upset when cartoonists started putting in mainstream publications portraying Condi Rice during her secretary of state confirmation hearings as Aunt Jemima?

HOLMES: Yes. I was one of those people.

MARTIN: Yes. Yes, they were, Steve.


MALZBERG: ... and from "Gone with the Wind..."


MARTIN: Yes, they were, Steve.

MALZBERG: I didn't hear it in the mainstream media.

HOLMES: Yes, you did.


MALZBERG: I didn't hear from Al Sharpton. I didn't hear from Jesse Jackson. And I didn't hear when Michael Steele had Oreo cookies thrown at him and when Harry Belafonte...


MALZBERG: Wait a minute.


MALZBERG: ... when Harry Belafonte calls Colin Powell the house you know what, where's the outrage there?


MARTIN: Hey, Steve, breathe.

ZAHN: Roland, your turn.


MARTIN: Steve, breathe.

Paula, what you are seeing is, you are seeing folks who want to make this an Al Sharpton/Reverend Jesse Jackson debate.

Now, here's what you find. There were 20 or 30 different organizations who came out in this, a number of different people. Here's what I hope, Paula, again, moving forward, that you are going to see a coalition of organizations say, we are going to systematically go after the record industry, not just the artists, but the people who are the CEOs and making $50 million. I will give you an example.


MALZBERG: Selective outrage. Selective outrage.


MARTIN: Hold up, Steve. Steve, Steve, Steve...

ZAHN: All right. Quickly here, Roland. I have got to go.

MARTIN: The Chicago Teachers Union, $94 million in equity in NBC -- in GE. They own Universal. Let's see them sell their stock to combat racist lyrics in rap music.


ZAHN: All right, Roland, Amy, Steve, we have got to leave it there -- much more to debate on the other side.

Thank you, all.

Don Imus infuriated people by using the word Amy would not say, ho. But look at what happened when we asked some students who attend a traditionally black college about it.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How many of you have actually used that word, called someone a ho?

All of you?


ZAHN: Wait a minute. If all of them could use that word, why can't Don Imus?


ZAHN: Out in the open now: whether Don Imus' firing highlights a double standard. He was brought down because he used racist and sexist words. Yet, that language is used daily by countless entertainers and ordinary people.

David Mattingly went to a historically black college to see why words that are frequently used still cause so much pain.


IMUS: And then I said that.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The phrase "nappy-headed hos" uttered by Don Imus not only offended women on the Rutgers' basketball team. Its sting is felt daily throughout their generation.

(on camera): How many of you in this room have had that word used directed at you? Most of you.

(voice-over): These students are part of a violence-against- women class at Spelman College, Atlanta's historically black college for women. They say the word ho is a heavily loaded and heavily used insult.

DONNA-LEE GRANVILLE, STUDENT, SPELMAN COLLEGE: When you call someone a ho, it's usually meant to talk about how promiscuous they are, or how promiscuous you think they are.

MATTINGLY: And some say this meaning has roots in slavery.

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR OF URBAN EDUCATION AND AMERICAN STUDIES, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: You know, there's this whole tradition of thinking about black female bodies as objects of white male desire. And, so, when you call them a ho, you're not merely disrespecting them. You're invoking this whole legacy of racism and even white supremacy.

MATTINGLY: And, yet, it's a word that permeates pop culture in music and in comedy. Once used for shock value, it's become part of popular speech.

A Web search for the word ho at one mainstream online store turns up more than 600 rap song titles, the word nappy, slang for coarse, unkempt hair, turns up more than 130 song titles, most from before World War II. That word, however, is even the name of a chain of hair salons.

ROSARIO SCHULER, SALON OWNER: It was a negative. I'm trying to turn it around and make it a positive.

MATTINGLY: But put them together, and it's a double insult.

(on camera): How many of you have actually used that word, called someone a ho? All of you?

(voice-over): But these young women don't see a double standard. A campus protest attracted national attention when students objected to how women were being portrayed in rap music and videos. They say the same objections apply to the comment from Imus. CHEREE BELL, STUDENT, SPELMAN COLLEGE: Once he said ho, it transcended to an oppressive of gender. Once he said nappy-headed ho, it transcended to an oppression of race. And, if we would have said poor nappy-headed ho, it would have transcended to -- to an oppression of class.

MATTINGLY: The lesson here, these young women say, is that some words are never appropriate.

David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.


ZAHN: Now let's turn to Carol Swain, a professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University, and Niger Innis, a political consultant and national spokesman for CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality.

Carol, I am going to want to start with you tonight. And I want to read you part of a statement from Russell Simmons, a very important player in the hip-hop community.

He said: "Hip-hop is a worldwide cultural phenomena that transcends race and doesn't engage in racial slurs. Comparing Don Imus' language with hip-hop artists' poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mind-set that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship."

Do you blame hip-hop more than you blame Don Imus for what he said?

CAROL SWAIN, LAW PROFESSOR, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: No. I think it's time for that double standard that we have tolerated for too long to end.

To me, it's just as offensive when an African-American calls another African-American a name as it is when a white person makes such a comment. Because we call ourselves names so often, it gives white people license to think that it's OK. And it's never OK. It's not OK for blacks. And it's not OK for whites.

ZAHN: Do you think that's what, Niger, gave Don Imus the license, as a 66-year-old white guy, to use language he said he borrowed from the hip-hop community?

NIGER INNIS, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, THE CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY: There's no question. He was trying to be funny, hip and cool.

And, you know, for people like Russell Simmons and for BET founder Bob Johnson to be weighing in with moral outrage against Don Imus is -- it's more than just hypocritical, Paula. It's a disgrace. It is almost criminal.

Bob Johnson, as the founder of BET, is part of the entertainment industrial complex that pushes out this filth on our airwaves. Do you know that -- I mean, the whole rap industry is not -- all rappers are not necessarily bad rappers.

There's this one rapper called Little Brother that tried to get on BET. And do you know that BET executives said that, "Our market is not intelligent enough to listen to your rap"?

I mean, they're -- the bottom line here, Paula -- and I'm a big supporter of what professor Swain has been doing. The bottom line is, is that there does need -- Roland is right. And Steve is right, too, Steve Malzberg, about the selective outrage. There needs to be a coalition of credible leadership...

ZAHN: Right.

INNIS: ... to join the Congress of Racial Equality to challenge the entertainment industrial complex.

ZAHN: But, Carol, are you at all optimistic that the black community will truly look within and confront this? I mean, you heard what Russell Simmons said: Don't want to confuse the two things. It's poetic expression, you know, out of my community's mouth, but it's outrage when it comes out of a white guy's mouth.

SWAIN: It's not going to happen unless the black -- members of the black community hold the leadership accountable. A number of black leaders have gone on record saying today, and in the last few days, that they are going to push for the same standards when it comes to language and treatment of black women.

And, so, we have to watch them. We have to hold them accountable. And we also need to move the conversation to other issues, such as black crime...

INNIS: That's right.

SWAIN: ... that's tolerated and not talked about. There are just so many issues that are decimating the black community. Where do you see these leaders when these incidents that are life-and-death are taking place?

But when it's something like comments -- the comments, I mean, there should be outrage for other things, such as the unwed rates of motherhood, for drug abuse, for the HIV infections, and for black-on- black crime. Where's the outrage for that?

ZAHN: All right.

We have got to, unfortunately, end there tonight, but something we will be talking about for many months to come, particularly here on this broadcast.

Carol Swain, thanks very much.

Niger Innis...

SWAIN: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... appreciate your dropping by, too.

INNIS: Thank you.

ZAHN: Well, we all know what Don Imus said was offensive. It was absolutely outrageous. But what about some of things Rosie O'Donnell has said on "The View" or other celebrities and stars who crossed the line, but didn't get fired?


ZAHN: The shockwaves from Don Imus' firing are out in the open tonight.

It's hard to believe that, over the last week, we all witnessed the career, very long career, of a radio legend simply collapse. And, recently, we have seen a lot of celebrities cross the line when it comes to slurs. But just a few of them have had to pay a hefty price.

Here's entertainment correspondent Sibila Vargas.





DON IMUS: That's some nappy-headed hos there.


SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over the past several months, there has been an onslaught of celebrities making offensive remarks. Don Imus is the newest member of the celebrity foot-in-mouth club.

It started last July, when Mel Gibson launched into an anti- Semitic tirade after he was pulled over for drunk driving.

RABBI MARVIN HIER, FOUNDER, SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER: He clearly said some horrible things, which have been reported, that the Jews are responsible for all wars.

VARGAS: The Jewish community was outraged. But that didn't seem to have a major impact at the box office. Five months after his arrest, Gibson's film, "Apocalypto," debuted in this country at number one and earned $117 million worldwide.

Last fall, Michael Richards was widely condemned for repeatedly yelling the N-word at some audience members during a routine at an L.A. comedy club.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The performance was a 10. The apology was about a two. I want a 10 apology. VARGAS: After a few meetings with black leaders, Richards practically dropped out of sight. Almost three weeks later, Rosie O'Donnell had Asian leaders in an uproar after this strange outburst on "The View."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My initial reaction was one of shock. And I cringed. I couldn't help it.

VARGAS: O'Donnell apologized. And she's still on "The View," credited with boosting the show's ratings.

A trio of celebs got in trouble for offending gays. In the case of "Grey's Anatomy"'s star Isaiah Washington, it was a derogatory reference to a co-star. Washington has sought professional counseling and is still on the hit show. He's doing a public service announcement with the gay advocacy group GLAAD about the effect ugly words can have on people.

With that same ugly word, political commentator Ann Coulter got a laugh at a conservative conference and got herself into hot water.

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM": I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

VARGAS: Former pro basketball player Tim Hardaway went farther. When asked in a radio interview how he would interact with a gay teammate, Hardaway said he hated gay people. The NBA quickly banned him from league-related appearances.

JOHN AMAECHI, AUTHOR/FORMER NBA PLAYER: The problem with his words is that they -- they ricochet around the corridors of schools, around workplaces, and make life ever-more difficult for gay and lesbian people.

VARGAS (on camera): One last note: The penalty seems to be going up. Don Imus' removal from radio and TV is the heftiest price any recent offender has had to pay.

Sibila Vargas, CNN, Hollywood.


ZAHN: So, the question is, can Don Imus ever rebuild his career?

My next guest has a lot of experience helping celebrities with damage control. Marvet Britto is a publicist and founder of The Britto Agency. She's worked with several stars, including singer Mariah Carey and actress Kim Cattrall.

Always good to see you.


ZAHN: Here is a man who had nearly a 40-year-long career. Can he rehabilitate himself?

BRITTO: He can rehabilitate himself, but he should have swiftly and immediately been reactive -- I mean -- I'm sorry -- proactive, and not reactive, to the backlash.

ZAHN: But he wasn't.

BRITTO: He wasn't. He waited too long.

If he had immediately met with the families and the group from which he offended, he would have had a chance to apologize to them, stand with them publicly, and...

ZAHN: And stop the snowballing effect...

BRITTO: Stop it.


ZAHN: ... of this chorus of people...

BRITTO: Absolutely.

ZAHN: ... including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton...

BRITTO: Absolutely.

ZAHN: ... who say he has got to go.

BRITTO: Absolutely.

He gave them time to convene and come up with a strategy to oust him from a position that he held for so long.

ZAHN: So, that could have been one step, if his conscience had made him do that.


ZAHN: But it didn't seem that he even recognized that what he had said was so outrageous, until all the hate mail and all the hate calls started coming in.

What else could he do?

BRITTO: Well, we're desensitized as a nation. So, he's seen Rosie get away with it. He's seen so many others get away with it. He figured, OK, I will say it and it won't really matter.

Unfortunately, he resurrected generations of pain that have existed within the African-American community. Did the one comment really resonate, or should it have resonated, and should he have received the backlash he has received due to the fallout? Absolutely not. But he has.

ZAHN: So, he's met with the team. They now say they accept his apology, and they are in the process of forgiving him.

BRITTO: Right.

ZAHN: Doesn't that mean something, particularly if he decides to make the jump from network radio to satellite radio?

BRITTO: Definitely. It means something, but it's a little too late.

He should have done that immediately. And we wouldn't be figuring out a strategy for how he can resurrect his career. He certainly doesn't want his legacy to be tarnished in this way, when he's had such a longer career, if nothing else.

ZAHN: A close friend of his was on earlier tonight, Bo Dietl. And he was saying that the worst possible mistake he made was going on Al Sharpton's show and trying to defend himself.


ZAHN: Would you have advised against that? He said he told him not do.


BRITTO: Well, Al Sharpton isn't necessarily the spokesperson for the African-American community or moral standards in the African- American community.

First and foremost, he should have met with the family and met with the students and the team from which he offended, and met with other groups, and, again, strategized on how he could use his voice towards the group he offended, and how he could make change, not with Reverend Al and -- you know, Reverend Sharpton.

ZAHN: Marvet Britto, thank you.

BRITTO: Thank you.

ZAHN: See if he follows your road map.

The Don Imus story generated flak for every talk radio host this week, including our own Roland Martin. He will be back in a minute to tell me what his listeners are saying.

He's laughing. So, they must have been very, very nice to him this week.


ZAHN: Well, the downfall of Don Imus has riveted our attention for a week now.

And I want to go back to someone who has been with us often over the last few months, as we focused on issues of race and intolerance. Roland Martin is a radio show host himself and a CNN contributor. Welcome back, Roland.

MARTIN: Glad to be here.

ZAHN: So, we -- our pleasure.

We're hearing more and more people say, yes, what -- what Don Imus said was often -- awful, should not have been tolerated. But, until the Al Sharptons of this world are serious about going after folks in the hip-hop community that are using the same kinds of words denigrating women, that this guy didn't deserve to be fired.

MARTIN: Paula, first and foremost, this is beyond Reverend Al Sharpton. This is beyond Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Here's what should happen next. They were not the only people who were protesting Don Imus. What should happen, in the next 10 days, you should see the National Organization for Women, Concerned Women for America, you should see all these organizations, feminist groups, sororities, meet in the next 10 days and say, we are going to launch a national campaign to go after these record companies.

And don't just say, what is Al Sharpton going to do? What is Jesse Jackson going to do? What are -- what are -- what are we, as a society, going to do to combat sexism, including those lyrics in rap music?

ZAHN: All right. Well, we have a Donna from Minnesota that has a question for you, Roland, along those lines.


ZAHN: She says -- and you talk about everybody's responsibility here -- "Why isn't Roland Martin calling for the record companies to fire hip-hop artists who malign black women?"

MARTIN: Hey, Donna, you obviously know nothing about my history.

I have used the black newspapers I have run. I have used the black Web sites that I have run, my syndicated column, on television. Paula, you had a show on hip-hop, and I sat that and said there.

But check this out, Paula. The Chicago Teachers Union, they -- they own $94 million in equity in General Electric. General Electric owns NBC, which owns Universal. Do you know how many pension funds across the country have stock in companies that own record labels?

Let's see the millions of American who own that stock say, we are shareholders. We're going to come after you unless you stop the music.

See, that's where the power comes in. Don Imus does not have a job today because the advertisers pulled out. There are millions of shareholders out there right now who could impact the music. Don't just focus on the artists. Go after them, but also use your power as shareholders to target those companies. ZAHN: Yes.

But you also have to talk about the consumers here. And we know it is the white consumers that are consuming 80 percent of this product.

And I got an e-mail that I think is an interesting one that I want you to tackle from Anne, who is from the Big Apple.

She says: "I think the big issue is the three million listeners per day, or viewers" -- I think she meant listeners, because that's what the radio show drew...

MARTIN: Right. Right.

ZAHN: ... "who like Don Imus' vulgar, racial, sexist words. Doesn't this say something about society as a whole?"

So, what if the advertisers pull out?


ZAHN: The American public was listening to this stuff and loving it.

MARTIN: Well, but, Paula, we also -- we know the power of the people. OK?

Look, just because "Playboy" magazine exists doesn't mean that all magazines are absolutely terrible. We have pornography in our society. We know that. You're going to have that sector.

But, again, it's the people of conscience. It's the people of honor. They should step up and say, enough is enough. Again, stop waiting on two or three leaders to target this issue. NOW has five million members. Concerned Women for America, they have members. Alpha Kappa Alpha has 200,000, 300,000 members.

When these groups use their power, they can change it.

ZAHN: All right.

MARTIN: And I want to see these women step up.


MARTIN: They should step up. And, so, stop asking the men to combat it. Men should step up, too.


MARTIN: But we can shut them down, if we have the willingness to do so.

ZAHN: Roland, just 20 seconds left.

Is Don Imus a victim of selective outrage?

MARTIN: Well, I mean, I think Don Imus was in the wrong place at the wrong time, just like Janet Jackson was.

And what happens is, one incident sparks outrage. But the question is, are we going to stop at Don Imus? Is he the period or is he the comma? We can use Don Imus to change the discourse and combat sexism and racism. But, if we only stop here, then we have failed.

ZAHN: So, you're hoping he's the comma. I don't know.

MARTIN: Absolutely.


ZAHN: Some people aren't too optimistic about that.

MARTIN: But I want us to step up, Paula. And I want the media to don't drop this story, and to hold people accountable.

Everybody who protested Don Imus, let's see what the next step is. If they don't continue, then, absolutely, they were hypocrites.

ZAHN: Roland Martin, thanks.

MARTIN: Not a problem.


ZAHN: Take a break. You could take the weekend off, OK?

MARTIN: I know. My anniversary is next week. I'm going to Jamaica.

ZAHN: Oh, happy anniversary. Happy travels.

We're going to take a quick "Biz Break" right now.

On Wall Street, the Dow finished the week with a 59-point gain, Nasdaq up about 12. S&P gained five.

Pressure is growing on Paul Wolfowitz to quit as World Bank chairman. Wolfowitz apologized publicly yesterday for giving his girlfriend a promotion and a pay raise. The White House so far is standing by him.

Two conservative groups are leading a lawsuit against the morning-after pill. The groups are suing in federal court to end non- prescription sales of the contraceptive made by Barr Pharmaceuticals. The suit claims the FDA broke federal law when it allowed over-the- counter sales of Plan B.

Coming up at top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE": inside last night's meeting with Imus and the Rutgers basketball team.

We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks for joining us all week long.

Brand-new day here at CNN on Monday. Please join the new morning team, John Roberts, Kiran Chetry, starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

Again, thanks for joining us tonight. Have a great weekend.


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