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Forum: Imus had to go, but more care needed

Published April 27, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Even Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, the shock jock who was fired from his radio show for sexually explicit comments in 2004, says ousted radio personality Don Imus went too far.

Speaking Thursday at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg about Imus' dismissal, Clem said the 66-year-old Imus crossed a line calling the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy headed hos" during a radio broadcast April 4.

"Don Imus is a geek old man who tried to be hip but couldn't pull it off," Clem told a group of about 75 people attending a discussion hosted by the university and the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists.

"Some people could do that thing," said Clem, who now has a show on satellite radio. "He's not one of them."

The panel discussion, entitled "Race, Gender & Media Post-Imus," put Clem and radio host Chris Fisher alongside black and Muslim leaders and community activists. The event was moderated by Eric Deggans, the TV/media critic of the St. Petersburg Times.

Fisher, who hosts a morning show on the alternative rock station WSUN-FM 97.1, agreed with Clem that Imus should have been fired.

But he said radio personalities also are being targeted. If you don't like what you're hearing, change the dial, he said.

"Everybody thinks they can get you fired over the littlest things," said Fisher, mimicking some radio listeners. "Wait to be offended. Wait to be offended. Oh, I'm offended. Start calling (to complain)."

Carolyn Lighty, who hosts a show on WMNF-FM 88.5 and is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said it's not enough to simply tune it out.

Imus "needs to understand this is wrong," Lighty said. "Everyone else who does this needs to know it was wrong."

The African-American community has responsibilities of its own, said Leon W. Russell, the director of the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights.

"We model language that gets used by the Don Imuses of the world," said Russell, who also serves on the NAACP national board of directors. "And because we model it, it becomes okay. If we say it to each other, people feel they have license to say it about us."

[Last modified April 26, 2007, 23:40:15]

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