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A Criticism of MSNBC

You should have left Don Imus on the radio.

by Michael H. Thomson
April 6, 2005

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A Criticism of MSNBC
NBC is an institution in American life that many of us have grown up with. I can remember listening each evening to the seriousness and sometimes chuckles of those two giants, David Brinkley and Chet Huntley as they read the news. If a bulletin broke on NBC of long ago, you knew it was serious – you stayed tuned.
Over the years with competition from cable and the Internet, NBC has changed and adapted. Former anchor Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, Tim Russert, and others of the NBC news line-up continue to bring high quality news coverage to the American masses. I once considered Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert two newsmen of impeccable character.
However, I'm starting to wonder however a little about Russert and other distinguished NBC journalists – particularly with their association with Don Imus – a vulgar radio shock jock – whose radio program on WFAN Radio is televised on MSNBC during the hours 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday.
When I first caught my first "Imus in the morning show" a few years ago, I thought it sort of strange and bizarre, but overall – entertaining. Since moving out of their newsroom at WFAN in New York to the fancy MSNBC set in Secaucus, New Jersey the show is moving downhill and rapidly.
Just so you don't think I'm an innocent, I've always been aware of the occasional cursing, and ribald – even toilet humor of the Imus show. In the confining environment of the New York studio, all the players with the tight mothering enforcement of Charles McCord – Imus's sidekick, curbed their baser instincts.
In the current setup, the viewer sees the massive MSNBC set, which frankly kind of dwarfs Imus. When Imus and all of his crew at WFAN were stuck in the same studio they had much better rapport than they have now. Currently the viewer sees Imus in this large studio set with his sidekick Charles McCord facing him with the remainder of his crew still at the WFAN studio in New York where the viewer gets to see them via a giant TV screen.
The sense of rapport is gone and I think it is affecting all of them. A new element makes the dynamic even worse. They've added a woman who they abuse mercilessly. Contessa Brewer made a dramatic and fatal career decision when either she or MSNBC decided to make her a newsperson on Imus. Not only is this well credentialed journalist abused and berated by Imus – supposedly all in fun, but she is also the victim of deriding sexual innuendo by Bernard McGuirk  on the giant screen from WFAN in New York.
I deliberately broke a longtime friendship with a man who would not cease using coarse language in the presence of my wife. I have no regrets. I am a southerner who was raised to respect all women and honor them by being respectful to them in the manner of our speech.
In the most recent Imus program whose guests included the widow of David Bloom – an NBC correspondent who died of an embolism during the invasion of Iraq, the show got completely out of hand with little respect being shown the widow Bloom whose husband was one of NBC's best journalists. She eventually was able to say her piece only after patiently waiting for Imus to finish a tirade, which belittled women.
The Imus show has slipped and degraded so much since moving to Secaucus that I feel like I should give the highly respected journalists and commentators who visit there a comment that they won't enjoy hearing. Russert, Brokaw, David Kennedy, Pat Buchanan, Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell and the rest of you who regularly visit this show should know at least from one writer – that your sterling reputations are being damaged by association with this show which is definitely more shocking than anything Janet Jackson revealed at the Super Bowl. 
Imus's show is riddled with enough crude sexual innuendo that a nine year old would be asking questions of their parents within five minutes of viewing the show - I guarantee! Imus promotes his Imus Ranch for terminally ill children almost every day, but does nothing - even when he broadcasts from the ranch to curb his level of crudity and vulgarity. It could be possibly that he doesn't know any better - but I don't think so. We have a man here who is so caught up with his fame, his imagined power, and his money - which he brags about to the point of absurdity - that he believes he can roughshod over his viewers and that they will still love him. I think Imus that you are puffeth up too much!
I fully expect with the language and vulgarity currently being employed at Imus that an FCC visit may be imminent.  Although I'm generally opposed to censorship – in this case I think a fine might be justified. MSNBC, you might want to think about moving these folks back to
New York and reconsider your early morning news programming.
Flash! Read Mike Thomson's latest article about the Don Imus – Al Sharpton Controversy: The Pot Calling the Kettle White, The hypocrisy of Al Sharpton

Comments (21)

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Mr. Moo from Heartland writes:
April 9, 2005
Mike, great observations. After a recent Imus tirade about women, I saw the news director (a snooty looking woman) add to the dissing of Contessa Brewer. To me, it was totally unprofessional to repremand a staff member in front of the fellow staffers let alone millions of listeners. I sent an irate letter to the show but won't expect a response. As for the listening audience, we deserve better. (I have stopped watching.) Contessa deserves better as well.

Mike Thomson from Paeonian Springs, VA writes:
April 9, 2005
Mr. Moo,

Thanks for your comments! There was another embarassing moment shortly after I wrote my article - something that gives me insight that some of the luminaries who visit the show may not be there willingly. Imus now has this clown figure of a person who appears on the show and does a parody of Brian Williams - the anchor who took Brokaw's place.

Any Brian appeared on the show from Rome. He started out his morning stint with Imus by doing a very serious and solemn update on what was happening in Vatican City. During the course of his somber report, Imus interrupts Williams and says, Where's your sunglasses? Williams tries to ignore him and Imus interrupts again asking Williams to put on the sunglasses. Williams, obviously annoyed tells Imus that he not going to put the sunglasses on for Imus or anyone else! As they do at MSNBC, everything faded to black.

I don't think that Imus has learned yet that you don't annoy the news director at NBC with

silly pranks on serious occasions.

Lurker writes:
April 18, 2005
All I have to say is if you don't like the show don't watch it! Tons of people enjoy the show and all the things the IMUS and the gang say are all in fun, To get a reaction out of it.Duh! Obviously IMUS does have some sort of power or he wouldn't have all these great guests on each day and also be able to mock and curse out Rick Kaplan, The boss at MSNBC on a daily basis. Let's see how long you last by saying the things IMUS says to your boss. lol

Also I have no idea what you are smoking but IMUS is the 2nd highest rated show on MSNBC behind Hardball and it's not even original programming (radio show 1st) and you want MSNBC to ditch him? lol and replace 3 hours with what?

Well let's just have you running the life support MSNBC and you can quickly flatline it by dumping IMUS then nervously trying to come up with new programming for 3 hours that can get the same ratings and ad dollars at the same production costs. (yeah right)

Also your rant about the set not working well then why is IMUS up this year?

Tuesday, Mar 29

Q1 Ratings: Imus Up 24%

The ratings for MSNBC's Imus in the Morning broadcast are up 24% compared to the first quarter of 2004, according to Nielsen. He moved to Secaucus at the end of January. Here are the ratings for the cable nets between 6 and 9am:

Q1 2004 / Q1 2005 / % change

MSNBC: 271,000 / 335,000 / +24%

CNN: 423,000 / 422,000 / 0%

FNC: 840,000 / 819,000 / -3%

Mike Thomson from Paeonian Springs, VA writes:
April 18, 2005
The best, the highest, the most watched - none of these stats mean anything to me. What is on television between the times children are apt to view it - does mean a lot. If the money motive and rankings is the best defense you can give for your man Imus then I barely get your point... As for the celebrities and politicians who clamor there, I think their visitations may be a reflection of their character - and possibly yours.

lisa ganoe from Sarasota, FL writes:
April 29, 2005
I think another problem is that Imus goes off on tangents about mercury in food & vaccines, autism , etc. Not that those aren't worthy sunjects, but after the WSJ article questioning financial dealings at the Ranch, he has become increasingly paranoid & is blaming the bad press he has received of late on his expose of the mercury issue. He pontificates No one is going to silence me on this subject!!

Well, Don, the problem is that you are getting boring & repetitious, not to mention puerile. Putting chewed gum on your nose while others are reading the news is something a 9-year-old would pull.

don from eatme writes:
April 30, 2005
[Editor's Note: The following appears to be an actual response from Don Imus. It would otherwise not be considered publishable.]

Mike Thomson from Paeonian Springs, VA writes:

April 18, 2005

The best, the highest, the most watched - none of these stats mean anything to me. What is on television between the times children are apt to view it - does mean a lot. If the money motive and rankings is the best defense you can give for your man Imus then I barely get your point... As for the celebrities and politicians who clamor there, I think their visitations may be a reflection of their character - and possibly yours.
idiot. democracy is carried out through RATINGS. you dont care? move to china.


and i hope your precious children read that.

Vee from Portland, OR writes:
May 2, 2005
Imus is obviously heading for a cancellation from MSNBC, this nasty, uncalled for comments about Contessa Brewer show how stupid and out of touch the show has become, there were a lot of complaints to MSNBC and the FCC about what he said last Friday on air as you can see from the below:

On Friday morning Imus called Contessa Brewer a pig and a skank. 'That skank has to spend three hours with makeup in the morning... That's why they have those big double-doors there at MSNBC, you know, so they can get her fat ass in makeup.' Imus also said Contessa is 'dumber than dirt.' An MSNBC spokesman tells Page Six that 'Contessa Brewer is a valued and respected employee. While Don Imus' humor is often brilliant and provocative, we believe that this morning's comments about Contessa went over the line. We have expressed our displeasure to Don.'

As far as I am concerned, MSNBC had better have expressed MORE than displeasure at this out of touch, woman hating fool.

BenWSU writes:
May 2, 2005
I`m amazed at all the bad press over this Imus - Contessa feud. It`s a radio show where people say all different things. By going on and on about this, you`re just helping Imus get more viewers.

skunkbear1 from New York writes:
May 2, 2005
It had already become painful to watch Imus's show before the Contessa meltdown, with the lowbrow Sid comments and those of malodorous McGuirk. The host sadly believes his ratcheting up the raunch is viewed as cutting edge. But his sexual slurs and those of his nose-picking staff regarding Contessa Brewer did it for me. Like watching subway goons mug a woman.

Give Contessa credit: she held out with grace and wit as long as she could, until finally she labeled him nothing but a mean old man on the show and was fired for it. She obviously hit the aged enfant terrible's very exposed nerve--his increasing irrelevance.

Throughout his checkered career Imus thrived being the comical brat with a supposedly high I.Q. Now, seeing a unkempt, sixtyish, desperate-to-be-hip, foul-mouthed creep throw gutter insults at a lovely young woman is not just unfunny--it could appeal only to the chronically depraved.

sumie mishima from los angeles writes:
May 3, 2005
Imus often says, watch or don't watch I don't care. Well I don't care about Imus - anymore. My sentiment seems to go for a lot of people. Contessa Brewer represented a lot of women in the workplace - smart, professional and alone. Unfortunately Imus represents the worst kind of men in the workplace. His attack on Contessa Brewer was like watching a gang rape. Imus and his gang have the mentality of rapists. Its one thing to attack the rich and powerful but a completely different matter to attack someone less powerful than yourself. That's makes Imus a common bully. Contessa was courageous and dignified against a pack of cowards who do nothing more than kiss their leader's ass. Imus is the bully of the airwaves and so many celebrities are afraid to take him on because they might have a book to sell. You won't hear any celebrities or high profile executives criticising Imus. Not until they see the blood in the water. Then all the abuse Imus has heaped on others will be heaped on him. I beleive in Instant Karma baby! Just be patient Contessa.

Shan the Man from Santa Fe writes:
May 15, 2005
Imus and the hole in the wall gang's humor is outrageous and sophomoric at best. Sort of like a modern day Don Rickles, he doesn't care to whom his insults fall upon. He's not prejudice against anyone..He hates everyone. Or at least that's what he wants you to believe. What makes Imus's straight up in your face dialogue so popular is that he simply says on an open mike what we may also feel about politicians, celebrities, and current events, but in our political correctness keep to ourselves.

To say because we listen to Imus we must also support his views and also possess the same character flaws he exhibits is ludicrous. This is the same idiotic argument used by President Bush and my conservative comrades that if someone didn't agree with the war in Iraq, you weren't an American. I listen to Imus because his guest includes the journalists and other insiders on the show alluded to and because what you see and hear is what you get.

I'm tired of the hypocritical, holier than thou attitude preached by other conservative talk show hosts. Funny how so many of these radio and television opinionators and journalist live in glass houses and then check themselves into rehab or are quick to expect us to forgive when the house shatters.

I respect your decision in severing ties with Imus on a personal basis if you felt his behavior was unacceptable around your family. But it would seem to me you shouldn't hold that against the rest of the supportive listeners who have the ability to filter through and actually listen to the show for more than the political incorrectness that turns you and others off.

Give me the crude dude any day over the two-faced hypocrites so many other conservatives worship on the air.

Nancy from Tacoma, WA writes:
May 20, 2005
I too have enjoyed watching Imus on MSNBC, but haven't gone back since the day he and all of his testosterone buddies used the terms they did to describe Contessa Brewer. Let's face it, Imus is a homely little man, hiding under a big hat, who has a good looking trophy wife, so I guess he feels better about himself because of it. For him to diss anybody else's looks is....well.....laughable.

He went way over the top on this one - - it was just plain bad form. And the longer it went on, the more the boys got caught up in it.

He has the right to say whatever he wants on his show - - I'll defend that to the end, and Bush & Co are squashing so many freedoms in this country.

But I have the right to be offended by his remarks and walk away from him, and I have chosen to do so. As I say, he's in no position to make fun of anybody else's physical appearance.

Hal da black guy from Ridgeland, Mississippi writes:
May 26, 2005
I've listened and watched Imus since the imfamous WHCA dinner when he pounced on Clinton. Is Imus (and by extention his crew) being racist, homophobic, and misogynistic ?

Yes, yes, and yes. So why do I, a liberal black guy continue to turn it on every morning before work. Because it's honest and raw, things you can't get from other places.

steve from North Bergen, NJ writes:
June 2, 2005
I am an Imus listener and enjoy his direct approach. However, his attack on Contessa Brewer was uncalled for and in stark contrast he allows a sleezy individual like Sid Rosenberg to thrive on the show. Finally Sid is off because of another embarassing comment he made (number 752,000) but getting rid of Sid in no way makes up for getting Contessa Brewer fired. Imus should be ashamed for his bully tactics, in my opinion he is a true coward.

Joan Palambi from New Hampshire writes:
June 13, 2005
I think Imus went way over the top again this morning, (Monday 6/13/05) I think someone must have bothered him because so many people stood up for Contessa. He cooked up some nonsense about his ranch, so it might seem as though he had a good reason to insult her again.

I don't mind him insulting politicos and celibrities, but to go after a young woman, who is learning her trade is below the belt. An old man shouldn't act like that.

Terry from Stroudsburg, PA writes:
June 14, 2005
I'm a 49 year old white liberal weenie whose favorite time of the day is the 30 minute drive to work with Imus on the radio. Hal da black guy has it right - for all it's warts, this is the only show where you will hear Senator John McCain one day and George Stephanopoulos the next. Tom Brokaw today, Kinky Friedman tomorrow. Nobody is safe from the sarcastic barb, and with apologies to Bill O'Reilly, this is the original no spin zone. If a politician comes on the show they had better be ready to answer questions directly, or know they will be cut short and castigated. There are no phony happy people, and no one is sucking up to Hollywood idiots. Moreover, if you actually take the time to listen you will find that Imus is a brilliant interviewer. I'll take the ugly, cantankerous old smart guy over the beautiful air head who doesn't have an opinion until it's given to her any day.

And by the way, Mike from Paeonian Springs, VA, tha parody is of Brian WILSON, not Brian Williams. Yeah, that's a pair that people get confused all the time.

Stephen Michaelson from Kane County, IL writes:
June 20, 2005
The first few times I watched Imus on MSNBC, I thought the show was entertaining, due mostly to the chemistry between the ensemble - and informative, because of the quality of the call-in guests, who were more likely to let their hair down in the early morning hours. But it didn't take long before I got to the show in which Contessa Brewer was verbally raped and dismembered on-air, and I was completely and permanently disgusted with the Imus show from then on.

Imus' cast obviously had an agenda: The comments I heard were obscene (as in McGuirk's saying that Brewer must be getting wet at the thought of him) and obviously planned in advance. All you had to do was watch the eyes: This pack of aging dogs took turns with her, communicating the whole time through their eyes as they tore into her. Thank God Imus is on TV now - if this had happened on radio, you wouldn't have been able to see the pathetic old p*ck*r and his hangers-on for what they really are.

If I had been Brewer, I would have bitch-slapped Imus and McGuirk before walking off the air. But she couldn't do that - she's more professional than that. She kept her mouth shut (Senator John McCain attempted to come to her defense, but to no avail) and luckily found a way out of the Imus circle-jerk.

Imus and company are nothing but juveniles. After Brewer, the show has no redeeming qualities in my eyes. Today I flipped through channels and briefly heard Imus praising the power of his own ratings, comparing himself to Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, and I thought yes, that's it, he's just another angry white man on the radio.

He wants to be that, fine - but perhaps he belongs on Fox, not on the same channel as Chris Matthews. Come to think of it, even Fox wouldn't sanction what these pathetic idiots did to Contessa Brewer.

Message to Rick Kaplan: Imus & company are throwbacks. Get rid of them and give me something I can watch in the morning!

vadar1245 from Gilroy, CA writes:
December 18, 2005
I'm through watching IMUS and his most-favored circle of liberal media liars--the bunch from Newsweek and Time. He calls President Bush a criminal and has advocated restoring Sadaam to power several times.

His treatment of his employees is horrible. I can't imagine why they continue to work for him unless they have no other place to go. Too bad because several of them appear to very talented. Without them Imus would be off the air in a nanosecond!!!!

I don't understand why R. Kaplan lets him continally castigate Joe Scarbourgh, who has more class and intelligence in his toenails than IMUS has in his entire body. And then there's FRED Imus. OMG, what a loser.

IT's the FOX News Channel for me from now on.

Oh, IMUS is always bragging about his 3,000,000 listeners. Well, I compute a .2 market share to be in the low six digits.

Pat Bishop from Chattanooga, TN writes:
July 3, 2006

I'm sorry Imus is not on. He has a great program, very thought provoking. He is greatly missed as well as his other staff. Please put him back on.

Pat Bishop

Mac from South Carolina writes:
July 28, 2006
This show is not even amusing any longer-that guy who wears the dunce hat and tries to mimic an Irish Brogue-is a disgrace-Dedrea and that over wt smart mouth kid on there this morning should stay way away from the program-all in all Imus is sinking and the sooner the better-and i was at one time a 100% fan-Ann Coulter-the Mickey Mouse Tucker and that odd ball Oberman are not credits to TV==============find something that is pleasant and easy to watch-Imus has gotton much too political-this program gives new meaning to morning sickness----------------

Carol from Olympia, WA writes:
August 7, 2006
There must be some trouble in Imus land, because there was no announcement that the show was not going to be on MSNBC for this long, and now all of a sudden it is day after day of the Best of Imus hosted by Monica Crowley (another yuck IMO). I do believe they are still doing the radio show, just not the simulcast on MSNBC.

They did mention that they would have the Best show for one day, but it has stretched into several now, so, something must have happened.

I hope so, while he is a great interviewer, since the Contessa thing, I have noticed that he has less and less variety in his call in interviewees, several seemed to have dropped off his 'rotation'. In their place, they have some goonie guy doing poor imitations of Dr Phil, Clinton, Jack Nicholsen etc, for what point, I have no idea.

I certainly would not want to be associated with him and his crew after that embarassing debacle. Some I feel are probably forced to call in due to their being reporters for NBC.

It is too bad he and his crew are so hateful towards women, and it doesn't help that he has his wife and that overweight, foul mouthed child of his on the show, the hatred between Imus and Deidre just jumps off the screen, it is painful to watch frankly, I have to change back to CNN when they come on the show, just too antagonistic for me.

Be nice if he could just be a bit cantanerous and still do his great interviews without all the smut--maybe if he got rid of some of his crew, like that horrible Bernie, he is as bad as Sid ever was, maybe worse, things would improve and the tone of the show would go up.

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