CBS Exploits Imus Remark to Expound on How Blacks Are Victims of Economic Inequality

ABC, CBS and NBC led Tuesday night with two stories each about the Don Imus racist-insult controversy, but only the CBS Evening News exploited Imus's “nappy-headed ho's” racial insult, directed at the Rutgers University womens' basketball team, as an opportunity to portray all African-Americans as economic “victims” of an unfair U.S. society. Reporter Richard Schlesinger highlighted Democratic U.S. Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Detroit: “We're always the last hired, the first fired. We're always the one, we have the highest crime, the worst schools. It's unfortunate in the richest nation in the world, but those are the facts of reality.” Schlesinger elaborated, over matching graphics: “Here's part of what Congresswoman Kilpatrick is talking about. The latest Census figures show the median income for African-American households is almost $20,000 less than white households. Whites are about twice as likely than blacks to get a college degree, and the Justice Department says blacks are five times more likely than whites to go to jail.”

Later in his piece framed around victimology, as if African-Americans have no control over their destiny, Schlesinger showcased Susan Taylor of Essence magazine who, Schlesinger explained, contends that “to describe black women in Imus' terms...ignores generations of suffering that has been left to African-Americans today.” Taylor used the Imus incident to bring up slavery: “If you think about black women being auctioned off on an auction block naked, standing before the crowds, bidding on them, all that is race memory.”

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the April 10 CBS Evening News story:
Anchor Katie Couric: "Don Imus is a big money maker, bringing in hundreds of millions of advertising dollars every year with his radio show. And as financially appealing as he may be, he has a history of hurling insults at people because of their ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation. But he has never had to face this kind of reaction. We continue with Richard Schlesinger."

Richard Schlesinger: "The Rutgers players now find themselves part of history, but not the part they probably wanted -- not as victors but as victims of what a chorus of millions considers the latest display of racism."

Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI): "We're always the last hired, the first fired. We're always the one, we have the highest crime, the worst schools. It's unfortunate in the richest nation in the world, but those are the facts of reality."

Schlesinger: "Here's part of what Congresswoman Kilpatrick is talking about. The latest Census figures show the median income for African-American households is almost $20,000 less than white households. Whites are about twice as likely than blacks to get a college degree, and the Justice Department says blacks are five times more likely than whites to go to jail."

Kilpatrick: "Are we sensitive? You bet we are. We want good schools. We want opportunities and access to cash. We want advertising to depict who we really are."

Schlesinger: "Observers, both white and black, think Imus' comment was especially stinging because of its timing, when young players should have been celebrating an extraordinary season."

Sally Jenkins, Washington Post columnist: "They were great kids, knocking down great shots all over the the court, and it just was the furthest thing from anybody's mind."

Schlesinger: "Well, not from anybody's mind."

Jenkins: "Well, not from anybody's mind, but-"

Schlesinger: "Sally Jenkins is a sports columnist for the Washington Post."

Jenkins: "You imagine in sports that the winner's circle is genderless and colorless, and they got disabused of that notion rather abruptly."

Schlesinger: "And the insult was taken personally by more people than just the members of the basketball team."

Jenkins: "I think it was more than racist and sexist. It really, it really touched a nerve."

Schlesinger: "Susan Taylor is the editorial director of Essence magazine."

Susan Taylor, Essence magazine: "If you think about black women being auctioned off on an auction block naked, standing before the crowds, bidding on them, all that is race memory."

Schlesinger, over black and white video of hoses being used on blacks, presumably in the 1960s in the South: "And to describe black women in Imus' terms, says Taylor, ignores generations of suffering that has been left to African-Americans today."

Taylor: "There's really a lot of ignorance about our history and our culture, and certainly our feelings."

Essence Carson, Rutgers University basketball team member: "There's no more hurt than being hurt in a public eye in front of millions of viewers, listeners, and even readers."

Schlesinger: "So if Imus does meet with the Rutgers players, there could well be a curious role reversal. Young women in their teens and early 20s could hold to account a man in his 60s, and those ten students could well become teachers."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center