Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Ifill on Imus
Gwen Ifill has an odd commentary on Don Imus in this morning's New York Times:
I was covering the White House for this newspaper in 1993, when Mr. Imus’s producer began calling to invite me on his radio program. I didn’t return his calls. I had my hands plenty full covering Bill Clinton.
Soon enough, the phone calls stopped. Then quizzical colleagues began asking me why Don Imus seemed to have a problem with me. I had no idea what they were talking about because I never listened to the program.
It was not until five years later, when Mr. Imus and I were both working under the NBC News umbrella — his show was being simulcast on MSNBC; I was a Capitol Hill correspondent for the network — that I discovered why people were asking those questions. It took Lars-Erik Nelson, a columnist for the New York Daily News, to finally explain what no one else had wanted to repeat.
“Isn’t The Times wonderful,” Mr. Nelson quoted Mr. Imus as saying on the radio. “It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.”
I was taken aback but not outraged. I’d certainly been called worse and indeed jumped at the chance to use the old insult to explain to my NBC bosses why I did not want to appear on the Imus show.
I haven’t talked about this much. I’m a big girl. I have a platform. I have a voice. I’ve been working in journalism long enough that there is little danger that a radio D.J.’s juvenile slap will define or scar me. Yesterday, he began telling people he never actually called me a cleaning lady. Whatever. This is not about me.
Can it really be that difficult to ascertain whether Imus' denials are true? If so, this oped should never have run. If not, then "Whatever" hardly begins to be an adequate response.
Update. A reader who used to listen regularly to Imus - and whom I know to be a person of scrupulous accuracy - writes:
Imus has said Gwen Ifill was a cleaning lady, more than once. Gwen Ifill's "whatever" in that piece is just an expression that she does not want to get into it with a liar.
Double Update. Belated kudos to Tucker Carlson, one of the few guests on the Imus program with the integrity not to truckle to the boorish host. Here's the clip. Note that at the end, after hanging up on Tucker and calling him names, Imus criticizes him for picking a fight with somebody powerful.
IMUS: Some people are just insane aren't they? This is a guy with no access to an audience - starting a fight with me. I mean, that's just insanity. Pick your fights, you know?
There's the Imus method in a nutshell isn't it? Pick your fights - with people who can't fight back! It works for him ... at least it did till now.
Triple Update. A reader from Pennsylvania writes:
Gwen Ifill has been around. She knows full well that when you get in a pissing match with a skunk you usually wind up smelling just as bad. She took a pass . . . . smart girl!
04/10 07:59 PM