We love him, but sometimes… we hate him.
Originally published February 10, 1999 at americanpolitics.com
February 10, 1998 – New York (apj.us) – As we were recently traveling by Rover over the Masai Mara in Kenya last week, on our way to the Middle East, my thoughts turned to Don Imus.
Why? Who knows?
Perhaps there is something leonine about him, maybe his "mane" – sometimes uncontrollable, and for which he is almost ceaselessly taunted. My notebook told me I was slated to finish a piece on him this week. The only contact we'd had with him was through MSNBC staffer Terry Irving, who fields Don's voluminous internet traffic. Irving is a good guy, and once in a while posts our web site to Imus readers. I thought about interviewing Imus, but decided to forego that and rely on whatever insight I'd gleaned from watching his morning show while reviewing our galleys.
I hope to interview him later this year.
Don Imus is the kind of guy you step away from in any cowboy bar. He looks like someone who has seen it all, done most of it, and left it for another time – on a Harley. But the mask disguises a loving husband, brother and son who just wants to be Imus. He battles Howard Stern on New York and syndicated radio every morning and usually doesn't come up number one, but Imus' target audience isn't Stern's, and although both appeal to a variety of "smart" listeners, Imus attracts a more upscale "university" crowd. Imus also has the advantage of simulcasting on MSNBC television each morning, but takes great pains to criticize the cable network's posing that he must rue the day he every agreed to be televised.
Imus openly loathes Al Gore – or at least seems to. And today he's making big yocks out of Jeff Katzenburg's having hugged Gore at the White House complete with voiceovers chanting "I'm your bitch." Middle-class, middle-aged, grain-belt America might find this repulsive, but we at American Politics were rolling on the floor at this segment.
It isn't clear exactly why Imus wants to lynch Gore, and he doesn't exhibit much love for the President either. However, with Clinton, Imus himself is semi-careful, leaving his cohorts to do the damage. That's not to say he always holds his punches when it comes to the Clintons – quite the opposite is true. During a dinner last year at which the Clintons were honorees, Imus referred to Bill Clinton's peccadilloes in a not-too-sensitive way and was skewered for it the next day by his television and radio colleagues – all of whom displayed a level of absolute hypocrisy we haven't seen in a generation.
Today, these same men and women – the Beltway's "professional journalists" – are beside themselves with glee as they pillory Bill Clinton and his family over Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky. They all could not care less about the innocents involved. Anything for a story.
And Imus doesn't soft peddle on Jones and Lewinsky either. The only difference between Don Imus and Tim Russert is that Imus is consistent and hilarious about it and Russert is simply cashing in on Clinton's misery – in a mock-serious manner.