JENKINS (4/12/07): When Essence Carson took the microphone to speak for the Rutgers team, you saw Imus's problem and why it hasn't gone away. In comparison with that blameless face and voice, his slur seemed tangibly, specifically abhorrent, and you felt it all over again. How could any intelligent person conjure such verbiage as "nappy-headed hos" in the first place, much less apply it to such a nice kid?Meanwhile, these players—and their coach—arent pre-judging Imus, Jenkins writes. Asked in a radio interview yesterday if she thought Imus was a racist, [Coach] Stringer pointedly replied that she would wait to meet him in person before deciding.
JENKINS: The Scarlet Knights have decided to meet Imus face to face. And personally, I believe it's the right thing to do. They aren't looking for a punishment that fits the crime, or to join a mob action, and they can reach their own conclusions without being stampeded by Jesse "Hymietown" Jackson into demanding Imus's resignation. They have a chance to get something more meaningful from him: a full-fledged conversion.By Jesse Hymietown Jackson! As so many others have done this week—as Imus himself keeps doing—Jenkins reaches back some 23 years to recall a statement Jackson once made. Why does she have to go back all those years? Duh! Because Jackson has made no other such statements in those 23 years! But so what? A string of pundits have filed forward this week 1) condemn the I-mans remarks and 2) condemn the people who stood up to confront them. For example, Dennis Miller offered this twofer on last evenings OReilly Factor. He criticized Imus—then railed about Sharpton. For the record, OReilly defended Sharpton. I have to disagree, he said. I think that Sharpton had a very well thought-out argument, at least on this program.
Poor Steinberg! The evil is all around him today—although a Nexis search shows that hes never bothered to comment on Imus before. (Before his cohorts consensus had formed.) Silent before, he sees it all now! Here he is critiquing a recurrent feature on Imus:
STEINBERG (4/12/07): [Imus sidekick Bernard] McGuirk, for example, periodically fashions an oversize FedEx envelope into a cone on his head to do a profane caricature of Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York. Using a high-pitched Irish brogue (the same voice Mr. McGuirk long used to lampoon Cardinal John O'Connor, before his death), the producer-as-cardinal said on the March 16 installment of the show that ''the only thing Hillary Clinton has in common with the late great President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, God rest his soul, is that they both enjoyed extramarital affairs with women.''By the way: Does that last sentence mean that McGuirk has accused Clinton of enjoy[ing] extramarital affairs with women? Does it mean that Imus himself has done so? Well return to these puzzling questions below. First, let Steinberg wring his hands further:
STEINBERG (continuing directly): A former altar boy who is the son of Irish immigrants, Mr. McGuirk, who is in his mid-40s and writes his own material, also had his Cardinal Egan make homosexual slurs about Anderson Cooper and describe Mr. Imus's wife as having multiple sexual partners in her husband's absence. Mr. Imus, watching from alongside Mr. McGuirk onstage in Boston, where the show was being broadcast live, could be seen laughing but said nothing in response.For the record, this is part of what Imus means when he says his program trashes everyone hard, not excluding himself.
As he always does, Mr. McGuirk's cardinal ended his homily: ''In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,'' he said, ''it is Imus on life support we want the most.'' The other players, including Charles McCord, Mr. Imus's news reader, responded in unison, ''Lord, hear our prayer.''
STEINBERG (continuing directly): Similarly Rob Bartlett, another impressionist who often appears on the show (and who has appeared on Broadway) visited on Dec. 4 to do one of his regular characters: Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, only reimagined as a belligerent illiterate evocative of Jose Jimenez, the Spanish-accented simpleton from the old ''Steve Allen Show.''Does that mean that Bartlett has compared George Bush to Helen Keller? Does it mean that Imus has done so? And by the way: Is there any reason why comedians shouldnt be mocking, picking at, the connection between Gonzalez and Bush? But now that Imus is the target, the Steinbergs are bothered by every vile nuance. Here he is, saying eek-a-mouse about one more Imus feature:
On Dec. 4 Mr. Bartlett as Mr. Gonzalez lamented the intransigence of President Bush, whom he addressed as ''el jefe,'' on a host of issues, saying, ''He don't listen to nothing from nobody,'' before adding, ''I'm talking Helen Keller time here.''
STEINBERG: For the most part the Imus supporting cast is a group of middle-aged white men, all of whom do some comedy writing or performing on the show. Sometimes their fingerprints are little seen. For example Mr. McCord, who has served as Mr. Imus's straight man (and often straitjacket) for more than three decades, ghost-writes [impressionist Larry] Kenney's outrageous monologues as Mr. Falwell and Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Kenney said.Did Kenney say that about that event? Or was it really his fake Mr. Falwell—his parody Falwell, the parody figure who is constantly warning Imus about the whores and the scarlet sisters? For ourselves, we dont (wouldnt) do this type of comedy. But it isnt perfectly easy to say where McGuirk leaves off and fake Egan begins; ditto Kenney and his fake Falwell. Similarly, it isnt easy to say what is (and isnt) over the line when parody characters make stupid, obsessive, even unpleasant comments. For example, was it wrong for McGuirks fake Cardinal Egan to make that sex-obsessed charge about Clinton? As weve said, we wouldnt (dont) do that sort of thing ourselves—and yes, we think the overall content of this show has been problematic, even in the parts of the show which arent plainly objectionable. But the judgments here arent quite as easy as people like Steinberg are now pretending—as they break their decade-long silence and eagerly jump on the pile.
On Feb. 26, for example, the fake Mr. Falwell said of the N.B.A. All-Star weekend, ''Congratulations to Commissioner David Stern for staging a, well, basically a race riot—403 arrests, brother Don, over half for prostitution. Whores, Brother Imus. Scarlet sisters.''
IMUS (4/10/07): OK. To try to hang the Gwen Ifill thing on me, which I discussed with Reverend Sharpton yesterday, that happened back during the Reagan administration and it was a—this is a comedy show. I'm not a newsman. This is not Meet The Press. We don't—anything we say—it's not an excuse, but context is important. There's a difference between premeditated murder and a gun going off accidentally. I mean, somebody still gets shot but the charges are dramatically different. I never said anything about Gwen Ifill. This was a—this was a comedy routine called—where we make up the news which we have doing since 1968 on the radio.Lauer didnt follow up, and Imus, who isnt especially articulate, didnt clarify further. We havent seen his two hours with Sharpton, so we dont know what he may have said there. But trust us—in this, as in a thousand things, youll never learn what actually happened from reading or watching the mainstream press corps. Endless scribes have written this week that Imus called Ifill a cleaning lady. (Those who are a bit more clever add some version of reportedly.) But weve seen no sign that any scribe has actually tried to find out what happened. (Could it have been McGuirks fake OConnor who made this comment? Could it have been McGuirk himself? If so, does that mean that Imus said it?) And omigod! Theyre so predictable! Heres the way Imus comment to Lauer was edited, in a taped excerpt that was played on Countdown and Scarborough Country that night:
IMUS (4/10/07): OK. To try to hang the Gwen Ifill thing on me, which I discussed with Reverend Sharpton yesterday, that happened back during the Reagan administration and it was a—this is a comedy show. I'm not a newsman. This is not Meet The Press. We don't—anything we say—it's not an excuse, but context is important.Perfect! They omitted his claim that he didnt say it—then continued to scold him for saying it! But so it goes, whenever this gang falls in love with its latest group script. Theres little attempt to find out what happened; every matter must be hammered until it fits the pre-approved pattern. And be clear, be very clear: Over the course of the past fifteen years, these disgraceful practices has most often been used to harm the interests of Dems and progressives. The U.S. Army is in Iraq because we kept letting them do this.
The Rutgers women are waiting to judge. We know one thing—theyd make lousy journalists!
Special report: The 90 percent conundrum!
PART 3—DIALING IT DOWN: Have we mentioned yet that our national press corps has an instinct for getting its basic facts wrong? Even at the New York Times, that brain-jangling 90 percent conundrum would turn out to be a bit too much for the various writers and editors. On February 3, when the world was young, the mighty Times had gotten it right; the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had released Part 1 of its three-part report, and the mighty Times had correctly described one of the panels key findings (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/11/07). Human-generated greenhouse gases had caused most the warming of the past fifty years, and the IPCC had stated this judgment with near certainty—more than 90 percent confidence. Other papers misstated the level of certainty, saying it was 90 percent—nothing more. But at the Times, an editorial and a follow-up report kept stating the accurate value:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (2/4/07): A distillation of the best peer-reviewed science, the report expresses more than 90 percent certainty that man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have caused the steady rise in atmospheric temperatures, with the destruction of tropical rain forests playing a lesser but important role.Each passage could have been worded more precisely—but Revkin, and the papers editors, both had the level of certainty right. But people, nothing gold can stay! By last weekend, the IPCC had released Part 2 of its report—and in a new editorial, the editors bungled the degree of certainty which had been expressed in Part 1. Meanwhile, for unknown reasons, Revkin himself has changed his construction about the certainty in Part 1, using a totally new construction. His new construction is close to correct. But alas! Its slightly wrong.
REVKIN (2/6/07): The [report], released on Friday in Paris, was the first from [the IPCC] to pinpoint with greater than 90 percent certainty that humans had become the main force driving warming and that centuries of increasing temperatures and seas could be blunted only if emissions of heat-trapping gases were promptly reduced.
DINAN (2/3/07): The White House yesterday embraced a new international report faulting humans for global warming, marking the furthest President Bush has gone in placing blame...Give them credit! Yes, they put it inside, on page 3—but they didnt engage in outright lying. According to Dinans somewhat clumsy presentation, the IPCC said it was very likely that human activity was causing much current warming. (The panel said most.) But uh-oh! Dinan failed to tell Times readers what the highlighted phrase very likely meant! He didnt tell readers that the IPCC had expressed a high level of certainty—more than 90 percent. Readers were left to make what they would of that vague phrase: very likely.
The report, released in Paris by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the fact that the Earth is now warming "is unequivocal," and said it is "very likely" that human activity is responsible for many of the changes.
DALE (2/7/07): As I braved the bitter cold and howling winds on Monday night, dragging our two reluctant dogs dressed in their overcoats out for their final walk of the day, fond thoughts of global warming presented themselves. Why is it, I wondered, that human beings assume that the Earth has reached its absolutely ideal temperature and that any change is considered a disaster of apocalyptic proportion? Wellington, Ripken (they would be the dogs) and I would gladly have traded a few degrees up and one imagines so would the recipients of the giant snowfalls that paralyzed the Midwest at Christmas time.Dale is nothing if not a deep thinker. Soon, she was rolling her eyes at [t]he chorus of cheers that on Feb. 2 greeted the release of the IPCC report. Troubled by the orthodoxy that you question at your peril if you are a scientist or a politician, Dale decided to dial it on down! How did she defeat this troubling orthodoxy? Simple! She invented a fact:
DALE: Al Gore is now being solicited for a second run for the president by enthusiastic supporters and the fact that he was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his movie "Inconvenient Truth" and other emissions, as good as proves he is right...Given that the policy implications of the climate change agenda could very well have highly detrimental effects on real human lives in terms of jobs, living standards, etc., all of this is very disturbing. That global warning is real and the cause of human activity is now being discussed as a fact, even though the U.N. panel only found it "very likely" that human activity caused a rise in temperatures in the second half of the 20th century. "Very likely" according to the U.N. report, means "66-90 percent" likely which seems a far cry from certitude.Good old Helle! She knew what the IPCC had found—that human activity has very likely caused most warming in the past fifty years. But then she worked some familiar magic, running the IPCC right off the rails. Omigod! She misstated what the term very likely meant—and when she misstated, she misstated big! Then, she said that her new, reduced level of confidence seems a far cry from certitude!