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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Imus Suspended; Art of Apology
Aired April 10, 2007 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: ... and their coach, but also slamming the African American community for regularly using the same words that he did.
All the angles this hour, starting with his appearance this morning on NBC's "Today Show" along with the Reverend Al Sharpton who wants Imus fired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There had been other apologies in the past and there had been pledges taken by you in the past to curb your behavior, and yet here we are different year, same problem.
DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don, I'm responsible for what happens on our program.
IMUS: So am I.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. So you have to be responsible for...
IMUS: I am responsible for...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... for what the content is.
IMUS: Absolutely. But it was comedy. It wasn't a malicious rant. I wasn't angry. I wasn't drunk. I wasn't stating some sort of philosophy. As I said yesterday morning, I'm not a racist and I've demonstrated that in my deeds and my work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me bring in the Reverend Al Sharpton, whose radio program you were a guest on yesterday.
Reverend Sharpton, good morning to you.
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of the punishment?
SHARPTON: I think it is not nearly enough. I think it's a little too -- too little too late. I think The fact of the matter is that the gravity of this kind of use of the airwaves must be stopped. You're talking about a show that leading political figures, presidential candidates, news anchors go on. These young women are -- have excelled academically. They've yet -- Rutgers University, being called nappy-headed hos. What precedent are we setting down? That you can apologize every 10 years when you go over the line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: don, first of all, you said you would like to meet with the Rutgers University players. What exactly would you say to them?
IMUS: I am going to apologize to them and ask them for their forgiveness. I don't expect that, and I don't think they have any obligation to either forgive me or to accept my apology. But I have a responsibility to -- and I think it's important and everybody can say the context is not important, but in every aspect of our lives, it is.
COOPER: Late tonight we got word of some bottom line consequences for the Imus program. Proctor & Gamble and Staples, both pulling the ads from the MSNBC simulcast.
Some perspective now from Amy Holmes, featured writer for former Republican Senator Bill Frist. Also, Radio Host and CNN Contributor Roland Martin; and Robert George of the "New York Post."
Good to see you all again.
Robert, Al Sharpton is still calling for Imus to be fired. Does Sharpton have any clout here?
ROBERG GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST" OPINION WRITER: That's a good question. I mean, he has clout in the sense that he is a black leader who can get -- who can get attention on a number of media platforms and he has a specific voice. But the actual group or individuals that he speaks for, the numbers there are somewhat unknown. I mean, he doesn't necessarily speak for myself or for any of the people on this particular panel.
And it is -- and given the fact that he has had a history of saying some, shall we say, intemperate things, he's not exactly the best messenger on this particular topic.
COOPER: Amy, does it make sense that Don Imus would go to Reverend Sharpton's program like he did yesterday?
AMY HOLMES, CONSERVATIVE ANALYST: Well, it seems so many of them do and so many of them have before. Al Sharpton case in point of our short memory. Al Sharpton was found guilty of defamation for repeatedly calling an innocent man a rapist. And now he has his own radio show and politicians go on his show and he can sort of disinfect himself and reemerge as a national leader.
I think what we need to keep our focus on here is that the people who really count are these women of the Rutgers basketball team; the private meeting that they're going to have with Don Imus; and whether or not they forgive him. You know, setting aside Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson or any of interest of them.
COOPER: Roland, what should...
COOPER: Go ahead.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I got to say this. First and foremost, it was not the Reverend Al Sharpton who initially called for Don Imus to be fired. It was the National Association of Black Journalists. Reverend Sharpton did not his news conference until Saturday.
Part of the problem is that folks in the media -- our brethren -- we go to the various sources versus the people who actually made the comments.
The real issue is not whether or not Reverend Al Sharpton can get Don Imus fired. The point is going to be are advertisers going to respond? What you're seeing right now, you're seeing grassroots organizations getting together and applying the pressure to the advertisers.
You talked about Proctor & Gamble. I just got an e-mail from Alpha Cappa Alpha sorority, 200,000 members worldwide. They're calling for their members to boycott the various advertisers. That is what you're going to see.
I got a phone call earlier today from a board member of the NAACP. They are doing that. Once you begin to see that happen, that's where the pressure comes in.
The point here is not the Reverend Al Sharpton. He is simply one of many voices that has been involved in this conversation. The key for us is to make sure we speak to the various voices, and not just one.
COOPER: But Robert, is Don Imus being held to a different standard? I'm getting some e-mails from viewers who are saying he's being held to a different standard, that a rapper gets away with saying all sorts of things, denigrating women, denigrating all sorts of groups, and sells millions of records and gets millions of dollars.
MARTIN: Well, yes. But Anderson, we were talking about this in the previous hour as well. There is a double standard here. Don Imus is a 66-year-old man. He's been in the broadcasting industry for 30 or 35 -- 30 or 35 years. He has a much higher -- he's got a much higher platform. He uses the public airwaves on CBS radio. I am not going to condone any rapper from using certain language. And I think when all of this is over, definitely there should be a number of members of the black community should talk about how we could clean up our own...
MARTIN: I absolutely agree with that. But the fact is, Don Imus is somebody who he sits down on a -- on a daily basis and talks with presidential candidates, vice presidential candidates. So that's the platform that he has. And I find it incredibly...
MARTIN: I find it incredibly ironic, really, that he's saying oh, well those -- well the people of the black community can do it, so I can do it. I mean, I -- didn't we all learn when we were growing up, you know, just because the kid down the street gets away with something, that means that you should be doing...
COOPER: Roland, make your point and then I got...
MARTIN: Please. I hope the people who are sending you e-mails put all of this in context. When you have politicians use the phrase "tar baby," and they apologize. It's a different standard for them than it is for a shock jock.
When somebody says some other kind of comment. When Ann Coulter (ph) makes a gay slur, she has a different standard than the person who is probably in Georgia or Virginia doing some radio show. There are standards across the board based upon where you stand. So to say, well, a rapper said it -- we all have standards.
I cannot say certain things because I'm a CNN contributor, versus somebody who isn't.
Anderson -- Anderson, Anderson, last year, a jock on a black radio station, a guy by the name of Star -- he was fired because he used abusive language, racist and sexist. So, that's -- there's a history of that right there as well.
COOPER: We're going to come back to all of you in just a moment. We're also going to be taking calls and e-mails from viewers in this broadcast.
But first, tell me what Coach C. Vivian Stringer and team member said today in their own words. Let's listen.
C. VIVIAN STRINGER, RUTGERS WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH: In my mind, there is time for change. You see, because it is not about these young women. The truth of the matter is that I would ask you, whether you're a businessman, whether you're a camera person, whether you're a governmental official or whatever. Who amongst you could have heard the comments and not been personally offended?
It's not about the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team. It's about women. Are women hos? Think about that. Would you have wanted your daughter to have been called that?
HEATHER ZURICH, RUTGERS BASKETBALL PLAYER: What hurts the most about this situation is that Mr. Imus knows not one of us personally. He doesn't know that Matee (ph) is the funniest person you will ever meet. He is the big sister you never had, but always wanted. And Piff (ph) would make an unbelievable lawyer one day.
These are my teammates, my family. And we were insulted and yes, we are angry. Worst of all, my team and I did nothing to deserve neither Mr. Imus, nor Mr. McGirk's (ph) deplorable comments.
ESSENCE CARSON, TEAM CAPTAIN, RUTGERS BASKETBALL PLAYER: There are a lot of positives that can come from this. One thing is that we finally speak up for women, not only African American women, but all women.
And that's just going to be a major step forward in society, just to finally understand that there quite isn't an equality that we all wish was there. It's something that we continuously hope for. And until we make great strides to actually achieve that, I believe that we will continue to fall short.
But with this, that -- since we're finally speaking up, and I'm glad that we are, I believe that we can achieve that.
COOPER: And we're joined again by Amy Holmes, Roland Martin and Robert George.
Amy, if there's any bright light in all of this, it is certainly the behavior and the grace of those young women.
HOLMES: Oh, I -- today -- it gave me shivers to watch them. They comported themselves with so much class, so much dignity. They have a lot to Don Imus about those things. And I -- I would also any other bright light in all of this is the overwhelming public outrage at his remarks, that he is right now being punished for what he had to say on the air last wee, the fact that he did not come forward quickly to apologize, that it took pressure. Now it's taking pressure from advertisers. Now, it's taking pressure from advertisers. But the bright spot here were those classy, terrific young ladies who were -- I was just so proud of them. And they were a real asset and a tribute to this country.
COOPER: Roland, does this begin a -- I mean, is this the end of the story, the end of the debate? Does it end with Don Imus? Or does this actually -- unlike so many other news stories which, you know, people get upset about and then everyone seems to move on to the next thing. Does this begin an actual debate about language and about what is appropriate and about this society, this culture which we now clearly have in which, you know, denigrating others is a way to make profit?
MARTIN: Well first, I don't believe that this is the end of the Imus conversation. There are many people who are saying, look, Don Imus is not going to get fired. But how do you restructure the show? He said he wants more African-Americans on the show. What does that mean? Does it mean hiring African-Americans, having more of them on the show, politicians, journalists?
COOPER: He was saying about having a regular African-American contributor...
COOPER: ... one person who was always on the set...
COOPER: ... as part of his regular group. Does that make sense to you?
MARTIN: Well, first of all, you have an all-white team, and then you have nearly an all-male team, and so it needs -- you need some kind of diversity there, whether it's gender as well as race. And so there should be structural changes to his show to make it more (UNINTELLIGIBLE) dealing with different people.
I certainly hope, Anderson, and that's why -- you know, I've gotten criticism for pushing feminists, for being quiet and pushing, you know, "Concerned Women for America" and "Focus on the Family," NAACP on this issue, but I'm trying to -- I believe those groups should say, look, we may disagree on a bunch of different stuff, but here are one or two issues that we can come together and say this is not right. This is not proper. And I certainly hope that we do. But Anderson, it's up to us. Let's be frank. Those of us in the media -- your television show, my radio show, syndicated column -- for us to be able to say we're not going to drop this, we're going to tell America this is what is happening. But also what are you prepared to do? Are you prepared to change your ways? Are you prepared to speak out and say, don't just let it go by, don't just let someone make the statement and say, oh well, he's just some radio jock. No. Say enough is enough. And you must change now because it impacts young girls.
GEORGE: Anderson, too, I don't think, you know, making some kind of token hire so he can have like he's got -- he now has his black employee and he'll have his woman employee and all of that kind of stuff. I mean, that's not going to do anything. I think it would be very interesting, though, for him to take note of the fact that he has this sort of a clubbish, this clubbish, this frat boy mentality that permeates his program. And most of the people, most of the politicians that he has on, most of the journalists that he has on all happen to be white. And he might take note of the fact that we do actually live in a rather diverse, you know, diverse culture and realize that there are rather talented, whether it's journalists, politicians whatever of various backgrounds out there.
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: I don't listen to the show, but it certainly seems to me that that frat boy atmosphere is part and parcel of who he is and what he is. And I mean, that's what they do and that seems to be what the popularity of it is.
We're going to talk with you all...
COOPER: We're going to talk to all of you more on our panel. Stick around to take your calls. We want to hear what you think about the Imus outrage. Call us toll free, 877-648-3639, 877-648-3639, or e-mail us CNN.com/360. Click on the instant feedback link.
Also tonight, Whoopi Goldberg weighs in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): Whoopi isn't laughing.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTRESS: You called someone's child a ho.
COOPER: The outcry over Imus.
Also, his DNA is A-OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told you so!
COOPER: So now that he's the daddy, what about his baby and all that money?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This baby, who's in the news, isn't a meal ticket. She's not a lottery ticket. She's a baby who has tragically lost her mother.
COOPER: There could be a few surprises in store. The latest on the Anna Nicole Smith saga from the Bahamas, just ahead on 360.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IMUS: I understand it's not funny. I understand there's no excuse for it. I'm not pretending that there is. I wish I hadn't said it. I'm sorry I said it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Don Imus on Reverend Al Sharpton's radio program yesterday.
Imus is not the first high-profile personality, of course, to apologize. You can be sure he won't be the last.
It is the spin cycle of saying I'm sorry.
CNN's Tom foreman explains.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to apologize.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW": I will bigly, hugely, admit that I was wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have apologized for it as well I should.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Apologies are all the rage from Hollywood to Washington. Even folks in the business of insulting others are suddenly saying they regret it.
IMUS: I'm sorry I did that. I'm embarrassed that I did that. I did a bad thing.
FOREMAN: But successful apologies require more than words. According to folks who study such things, like Dr. Bruce Weinstein, who writes about ethics.
BRUCE WEINSEIN, THE ETHICS GUY: The most important thing about a good and proper and ethical apology is first and foremost it should be done quickly.
FOREMAN: Call it step one. If you take too long to admit your wrongdoing or you deny it...
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.
FOREMAN: A convincing apology later is that much harder to pull off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty Senators have pronounced William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States, guilty as charged.
FOREMAN: Step two, take your medicine. When confronted with allegations of wrongdoing, many of us try to suggest, yes, something went wrong, but it was not really our personal fault.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: ... mistakes were made here.
WEINSTEIN: What we should say is, I made a mistake, not we made a mistake, I made a mistake.
FOREMAN: Three, no sugarcoating. Don't apologize unless you mean it. But if you've done something that requires an apology, don't blame it on panic or alcohol or circumstance.
IMUS: Now our agenda is to try to be funny and sometimes we go too far. Sometime we go way too far.
FOREMAN: And step four, change your behavior. Don't be a repeat offender. APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK: Just say I'm sorry, no excuse, it will not be done again, and I apologize. What can I do to make this better? That's all that needs to be done.
FOREMAN: Elton John said, sorry seems to be the hardest word. And that may be true in any language.
But with so many folks saying sorry these days, the hardest job may be convincing people that you mean it.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Well, while Imus continues to apologize, his TV audience at least for yesterday slipped. Here's the raw data.
On Monday, according to Nielsen, "Imus in the Morning" averaged 147,000 viewers on MSNBC. That's down 6 percent from its quarter to date average of 157,000. >
We want to hear what you have to say about the scandal. Just ahead, we'll be taking your calls. Toll free number, 877-648-3639. If you've got a question, a thought, or just want to share something with us, give us a call.
Also ahead, my interview with Actress and Comic Whoopi Goldberg. Why she thinks Imus crossed the line and should have known better. She's also a radio talk show host now. That, when 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STRINGER: We have all been physically, mentally and emotionally spent, so hurt by the remarks that were uttered by Mr. Imus. But you see, we also understood a long time ago that no one can make you feel inferior unless you allow them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was Rutgers women's basketball coach Vivian Stringer, whose players were the target of insults, of course, by Radio Host Don Imus.
Now, calls for his dismissal are growing. As an actress, a comic and an activist, Whoopi Goldberg comes to the issue from several perspectives. She's also the host of her own syndicated radio program. She's also been the focus of controversy herself.
I spoke to her earlier tonight.
COOPER: Do you think a two-week suspension is enough for Don Imus? WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTRESS: I don't know. We'll find out. We'll find out. I mean, he's going to luck out, isn't he, really?
COOPER: How do you mean?
GOLDBERG: Well, you know, when Rush Limbaugh said something on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the television when he was a sportscaster.
COOPER: On ESPN.
GOLDBERG: He was gone.
The other sportscaster who cast (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on a Spanish player. Said he was concerned his wallet might not be there. He was gone.
Jimmy the Greek, he was gone. So if all Don Imus gets is two weeks, I think he's getting off rather well because everyone else, including Trent Lott, got busted down for saying stuff. And it's kind of funny to me that people are shocked and surprised that people are calling really for Imus's head.
COOPER: You know, there are some people who are watching this today -- I got some e-mails from people last night, saying, look, this is phony outrage. People aren't really upset about this. And you're talking about this stuff, kind of smiling. But are you upset about this? Are you angry?
GOLDBERG: I'm aggravated because you know this is -- you know, for Don Imus, this is not the first time he's been spoken to about some of the things he said, you know? He's made other comments about different people. And everybody's let it go.
COOPER: You think this thing kind of bubbles up and then these things just disappear?
GOLDBERG: They disappear, I think because people really sort of say, well, it's not a big deal. But it really is.
COOPER: And it's a big deal because why?
GOLDBERG: Because you call someone's child a ho. These girls did nothing to encourage this. They didn't invite it. They played the game. They played their heart out. And it's disheartening in a way because we now have to explain to all kids, all little girls, that this is not the way it is. This guy, yes, this is a famous guy, this guy has a television show, this guy has a radio show, but he does not speak for the majority of the people.
And you got to -- it's like five steps forward and 12 steps back.
COOPER: So, as a 30-year broadcaster, however many years Imus has been doing this, he should have known better?
GOLDBERG: I think so. He should have known better in that once he said it and realized that he had said something, now that's the thing that I'm wondering. When did it occur to him that he had actually said something that could possibly be really misconstrued? Because it went on for a little while.
COOPER: It wasn't even a question of it being misconstrued -- I mean, being taken for what it was.
GOLDBERG: Well, he says that's not what it was. He said he was being comedic. You know. It was -- he's saying it's been misconstrued as being racist. But it's hard to know because when you're watching it, you go, well, why didn't you just go, whoa.
COOPER: So do you think he should be fired from radio permanently or from MSNBC?
GOLDBERG: You know what? I think a little vacation would be in order. I think a little --
COOPER: More than two weeks?
GOLDBERG: More than two weeks. But I tell you, you know, my true feeling is, if we've taken other people to task and fired them because a lot of people have gotten fired over doing this kind of thing, then what are we saying if they don't fire him?
COOPER: You've been on both sides of this. You've been at the center of a firestorm and you are watching this as well. What is your advice to Imus?
GOLDBERG: The best advice I can give to him, get over to that campus. Get over to those parents and those kids and make some allies and really, you know, talk about whatever what's happening, what you thought you were doing and be honest.
COOPER: Whoopi Goldberg, thanks.
GOLDBERG: thank you.
COOPER: We want to hear what you have to say about the Imus scandal. Our panel is ready to take your calls.
Joining me once again, Amy Holmes, a speech writer for former Republican Senator Bill Frist.
Also, Radio Host and CNN Contributor Roland Martin and Robert George of the "New York Post."
All right. We got a lot of calls on the line already.
A.J. in New Jersey, what's your question, A.J.?
A.J., CALLER: Yes, how are you doing tonight?
COOPER: I'm doing well. Thanks for calling. A.J. Great. I'm a Democrat. And I am African-American. And what Don Imus said was definitely wrong. Okay? But if I'm not mistaken, Mr. Sharpton came out a few years ago, talking about Ms. Wanda Brawly (ph) being sexually assaulted, and then it was false. And I didn't hear him apologize and I did not hear him say he's going to resign or anybody wants to fire him.
And I also want to know -- I know these girls, not probably all of them, but most of them have iPods. I want to hear what they have on their iPods.
And I'm sure if they have any iPods, it's the stuff that they're saying now. Not that what Don Imus said was right, but I want to hear what they have in their on their iPod.
C: It's an interesting point. Appreciate your call.
A.J., Rolland, what do you think about what A.J. said?
A.J.: Well, oh, this is the fundamental issue that I saw earlier. And that is men of conscience, men of integrity, men of honor should be standing up for these women.
I don't care what they have in their iPod? I don't care what they listen too. You don't call a woman a ho. Simple as that. So I wish guys like A.J. would stop making excuses and stop trying to, you know, try to cover something up. What was said was wrong and men should stand up and say enough is enough.
COOPER: Amy, do you think he's trying to make an excuse?
GEORGE: I think, though, I think what A.J. was trying to say, is he was speaking of this, what we said before. He was speaking to the question of the culture and the fact that bitch and ho have been mainstreamed to a point where, you know, you can say them on cable TV. And Imus thinks that he gets a free -- And that...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand.
GEORGE: That is something that has to be -- that is something that has to be addressed.
-- that is something that has to be addressed.
COOPER: Amy, Amy -- what's your point?
HOLMES: And I'd like to follow on to a point that A.J. made that is exactly right, which is Al Sharpton has refused to apologize for accusing an innocent man repeatedly of being a rapist. I think that's a very important point.
MARTIN: And let me repeat, Al Sharpton is not the issue! HOWE: And I would also like -- I was interested by him saying what's on our iPods? Because I think we can all remember when hip-hop did not use this language, did not use these words...
COOPER: But certainly, the money now is in the -- the more violent, the more gang. I mean, there's not even a issue!
HOLMES: As I would also like -- I was interested by him saying what's on our iPods? Because I think we can all remember when hip-hop did not use this language, did not use these words, a Tribe Called Quest, any number of groups. But we have become so...
COOPER: But certainly the money now is in the more violent, the more -- I mean, there's not even a separate term, gangsta rap, anymore, it's sort of all become -- at least some of the best-selling stuff is gangsta.
MARTIN: And also, 80 percent of those who buy it are white kids, 80 percent who buy it. So come on.
GEORGE: But, Roland, that speaks to the point that we are having here. We have allowed a black culture to inform the impressions of what is appropriate, what is appropriate language for white teenagers to use. That is a problem.
COOPER: We're going to do a whole other show on this. Because it's a fascinating topic. And I also want to get more callers in, because it's not fair to those who have called. George in California is on the line. George, what is your question or comment?
CALLER: My comment is this. Thank you for taking my call, Anderson. As an African-American male that was brought up in the South in the '50s, I know the pain of racism. But in this case with Imus, I think his apology is sincere. I don't think he's a racist. I don't think he's a bigot, like I said, I watch his show.
I think -- and in the past we have fired all of these people and chopped them up and threw them to the hogs and everything, and nothing has changed. Maybe we should try a little forgiveness this time and Imus and those young ladies can get together and delineate something that can make a difference in his show and we all can benefit from.
And about the sponsors and MSNBC fining Imus a lot, they are waiting to see which way the financial wind blows, I'm not impressed with that at all.
COOPER: Amy, I think we'll all agree that clearly these companies are waiting to see -- they're basically going to make a cost benefit analysis on this thing.
HOLMES: That's what it looks like. And I think all of us on this show would agree that if any of us would said any of these things that we would have been fired instantly. Now, you know, I've said before, being a radio show host, it is a privilege, it is not a right.
And MSNBC, CBS, or any of these sponsors are not obligated to subsidize or financially sponsor someone who regularly is spewing out these types of slurs.
COOPER: We have got a lot of calls. We're going to take a lot more of them coming up. We'll be right back.
COOPER (voice-over): What do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are my teammates, my family. And we were insulted, and yes, we are angry.
COOPER: Now it's your chance to speak out, we're taking your calls live.
Also, his DNA is A-OK.
BIRKHEAD: I told you so.
COOPER: So now that he's the daddy, what about his baby and all that money? There could be a few surprises in store. The latest on the Anna Nicole Smith saga from the Bahamas just ahead on "360."
COOPER: Radio host Don Imus has been making a career out of saying outrageous things, nasty insults are his stock in trade. But has he gone too far this? We're going to take more calls now. If you want to weight in, call us toll-free, 877-648-3639. Joining me again, Amy Holmes, Roland Martin, and Robert George.
We have an e-mail from Robert in Nashville, Tennessee. He says, and I quote: "If Imus had said, to quote Nelly the rapper: 'Those are nappy-headed hos,' how would they have reacted?" He is talking about our panelists. "I find it frustrating that none of your black guests address the fact that rappers and rap music perpetuate language and slang that has permeated American culture." Amy?
HOLMES: Well, I wish he had been watching us earlier. Because...
GEORGE: I thought we just said that.
HOLMES: That's what we've been talking about on this show. And Robert has made the point, as have I and as have Roland. I mean, and let's also look at this, that the Tennessee women who won this championship, they've had their moment ruined as well. That this has all about this ugly racial slur that Don Imus made and so this was a moment that blew it for a lot of people. COOPER: On the phone we have Olisa in Georgia. Olisa, what's your comment or question?
CALLER: I have a comment. At no point is it ever acceptable to address anyone as a gardening tool. I venture to say the response by many would be different if the roles were reversed or if his daughter was on the court. He should not take what he has created and place blame on others for his action.
Mr. Imus is an autonomous being, he should look at his privileged position and realize the context at which he speak from. Not every black woman listens to degrading music, nor does every rap song engage in degrading dialogue.
So again the comment to say one does it because rappers would mean that he should also be uplifting black women because some music does that as well. Were they eliciting sex on the court? No. Which tells me that your basis was out of context and you base it on a previous conception.
Plainly and simply put, we as a human race must make an example of anyone who assumed that they may say whatever so long as they follow it with an apology.
COOPER: Olisa in Georgia, well said.
MARTIN: And you know...
COOPER: Roland, does -- has he been on the air so long -- I mean, there have been promises made in the past, can he change? He says, well, look, I'll have a black voice on the show on a daily basis, will that make a difference?
MARTIN: Well, again, the point is not just having a black voice on the show. Don Imus must have structural changes to his show, not just those who are decision-makers, but also in terms of, I mean, it's a matter of creating internship programs, looking at his content, expanding the people who are actually his guests. There must be structural changes.
COOPER: Robert, should...
MARTIN: But you know what, Anderson...
COOPER: Robert, should big-named people continue to go on his show? Should the John McCain, should the presidential candidates, should these journalists go on the show?
GEORGE: Well, they should go on the show if they are prepared to be asked every single day, what about what Imus said five minutes before you were on?
MARTIN: That's right.
GEORGE: And what about what he said five minutes after you were on? I mean, I think just like he wants to have it both ways, a lot of...
MARTIN: That's right.
GEORGE: ... the journalists and the politicians who are on there, they also want to have it both ways. On the one hand, they want to have a forum to talk about Iraq policy, but they also want to be seen as like cool and hip.
MARTIN: That's right.
GEORGE: And if you are John McCain, a 66-year-old Don Imus does look like he's cool and hip, I guess.
COOPER: Let's -- Debbie in Louisiana is on the phone. Debbie, do you have a comment?
CALLER: Yes. You know, I've been reading some of the comments on your blog tonight and I'll put up a couple up there. Because what disturbs me most about this is people are calling this freedom of speech. I don't categorize racism and sexism as freedom of speech.
And I agree with Amy, the bottom line here is this guy has got to be held to the same standard that I'm held to and that everybody else is held to. And if I said what he said and it had ignited this kind of backlash, I would expect to be fired.
COOPER: Well, let me voice what some on the blog had been saying and which Debbie raises quite rightly. Is this a freedom of speech issue? Is this a -- there have been some who have said, I think we had Glenn Beck on the program last night, who kind of worried about almost a mob mentality now going against Don Imus.
And then he said, I think, who could be next?
HOLMES: No, Anderson, it's not a freedom...
MARTIN: Wait, wait, wait. You know what?
HOLMES: Hold on, it's not a freedom of speech -- it's not a freedom of speech issue. He can stand on a corner and shout whatever he likes at the top of his lungs. He's getting a paycheck, he's getting paid to say these things. He's being handed money to say these things.
Now if he wants to host his own show with a transistor radio in his house basement, he's free to do so. There's no government authority that would keep him from doing that.
GEORGE: And the other things is too...
COOPER: Let Robert comment. GEORGE: Look, there is freedom of speech, but there's no freedom from responsibility that comes with that speech. If you say something and somebody vehemently disagrees, feels outrageously offended, they certainly have freedom of speech to say that you should be fired, you shouldn't be on the public airwaves.
I actually don't think that Imus should be fired. I think he should take his two-week vacation or whatever and then figure out some ways to make amends at this. But there is certainly -- everybody else certainly has a freedom of speech to say that this guy said something that was offensive, was bullying to women, and to black women in particular, and he should pay a penalty for it, that's freedom of speech as well.
COOPER: Roland, want to give you your freedom of speech in this?
MARTIN: Anderson, I have a three-hour day radio show on WVON in Chicago. All right? I've been hosting on Syndication One three hours a day all week. I can't say whatever I want.
Plus, these are public airwaves. Now what also amazes me is that there is a freedom of speech, there is also a freedom to protest. And that's what happens. And so you can't just say, well, hey, I'm going to hide behind the freedom of speech. There are standards and you have to follow them.
Again, Don Imus -- and we must stop referring to him as a shock jock. He is not the guy he used to be. He is now a respectable member of the media, and again, his morning show is along the same lines of "Today," "Good Morning America," "The Early Show," "AMERICAN MORNING," "FOX and Friends," that's the deal. That's the reality.
COOPER: We're going to have more questions for our panel from our callers and e-mails. So stick around for that.
Also ahead, another over-the-top day in the Anna Nicole Smith story. I think we are just about done with that story. Her baby's father isn't a secret anymore. Today he got to tell, I told you so. We'll have that when we return.
COOPER: OK. We're back, we're ready to take more of your calls and your e-mails about Don Imus. Joining me again are Amy Holmes, Roland Martin, and Robert George. It has been a fascinating discussion so far.
Mary in Santa Barbara, California sent in an e-mail and she writes: "Could the Federal Communications Commission have any ruling in this Imus mess?"
Roland you're on radio, I assume you might know.
MARTIN: Yes. Folks can certainly make complaints to the FCC. They can rule on it based upon the speech. Now of course it's going to be very hard to show that this is different than what you hear on some other stations. That's the real issue there. But, yes, they could take this up.
COOPER: Lauren in New York is on the phone. Lauren, question or comment?
CALLER: Comment. I wanted to say, I think it's reprehensible that he's given only a two-week suspension. Just because he has been on the air for so long doesn't mean he should get this leeway. I'm a third-year journalism student. And if I went on my college radio station saying these things, I'd be kicked out of the journalism program and probably even the college.
As a matter of fact, last year someone appeared on the college TV station in blackface and he was suspended and the TV station was forbidden from doing live programming.
COOPER: Robert, you think he should -- you think the suspension is enough, why?
GEORGE: I think that it's -- I think it's relatively appropriate, given that this -- he's a known quantity. CBS and MSNBC knew that they were getting this nice unique combination of a guy who can do locker room humor on the one hand and talk politics on another.
He was fitting this very nice advertising demographic obviously that they were looking for. So in a sense, he was doing what he was paid to do. Then suddenly he's realizing that, yes, once again, he's going to cross the line. So, you know, firing him, I don't necessarily think that's going to necessarily accomplish anything.
Though if he takes off this next two weeks and then he uses that platform to try and, you know, create a different kind of a conversation, that would be something of a victory.
Now, whether the advertisers will support that or whether the ratings will support that is another question which could force him off the air in a completely different way.
COOPER: We have another caller, Marie in Florida. Marie, good evening.
CALLER: Thank you. I really believe that it was a very irresponsible statement to have been made and very untimely. And the reason why I say that is the time when our country has finally made a decision that we need to go through a healing process and in that healing process that means that we have to deal with racism, we have to deal with racial remarks and sexism and in that process we need people and positions that could walk us through that process.
COOPER: Marie, do you have any question for our panel? I hear what you're saying, yes.
CALLER: For the panel? Other than...
MARTIN: Well, actually, I think she did have a question there.
CALLER: Pardon me? COOPER: Roland, go ahead.
CALLER: Yes, if he wants a question...
MARTIN: No, no, I think her question really was, do we have people who can walk us through that healing process? And I think this is where our moral leaders come in. I think Bishop T.D. Jakes made a profound statement that has not gotten a lot of media attention where he questioned the integrity.
He said, I hold the advertisers as well as the conglomerates to a higher standard. He said, they should fire Imus. We are a people who are speaking out on this -- or certainly there are people who are there to do that.
The question is, will we listen to them and then follow them?
HOLMES: And, Anderson, I'd like to jump in there. And I think that what the caller is referring to is that there is this yearning, this collective yearning for us to be moving past this culturally.
And I think each and every one of us, when we look at what he had to say, our own personal reaction to that is helping move us forward. You know, Pat Moynihan had a -- coined the phrase, "defining deviancy down." Well, I would hope that we have just hit rock bottom here and that we start to move up.
COOPER: Marie had a great call, and Lauren as well. We appreciate those calls. We're going to take more call after this break.
And the one call that means to world to the Anna Nicole Smith -- well, to her baby daughter at least, who is her father? we'll have that story ahead.
But also, more of your calls. So stay with us.
COOPER: We're back. Ready to take more of your calls about Don Imus. Joining me, again, Amy Holmes, Roland Martin, and Robert George. We have Pat in North Carolina on the line -- Pat.
CALLER: Hi. I would just like to say that why is it that these public figurers use their microphones and their position as a pulpit to degrade others? I don't understand why we have to resort to the degradation of persons, personalities and the characteristics of individuals.
COOPER: Well, any one of you want to take it, Roland?
HOLMES: You know, if I could jump in there, it was baffling to me that Don Imus would watch a basketball game of the student athletes at the peak of their basketball careers and in pops his head racial comments, racial slurs. It's baffling. COOPER: Does it surprise you, Amy, that no one has called him on this kind of stuff to this extent before? I mean, he has denigrated just about every group there is.
HOLMES: He has, and I think he should have been taken up on it much earlier. I think in this case that we could see that these were innocent young women, as Whoopi Goldberg said, they did nothing to provoke this, nothing to encourage this.
GEORGE: Anderson, I think that the problem was that he didn't insult a group, it was the specificity of his statement, he was talking about these girls, and he used it to calling them "nappy- headed hos" and suddenly there was a face, you know, a picture that could go with the insult rather than just saying it was a group.
MARTIN: But, Anderson, here's the other issue, when he was a 60- year-old guy acting like a 12-year-old in the corner as a shock jock, we were not paying attention. When he elevated himself to interviewing prominent people, he changed the standard. That's the whole deal.
And it all changed when he became -- when he hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner. That changed the whole deal. He now was a major player versus just a wild guy on the radio.
GEORGE: That's why not having discussions about Howard Stern, for example.
MARTIN: Precisely, precisely.
HOLMES: I think that is true.
COOPER: I want you all to hear this e-mail that we got, it's from Alex, a first-grader at Gorey (ph) Elementary in Tampa, Florida. Alex wrote: "I think Imus should look into the camera and say, 'I'm not smarter than a first-grader.' I am in first grade and 7 years old, even I know that you shouldn't judge someone by the color of their skin. Just think how you would feel if someone said that you. You should treat people how you would like to be treated." Tampa, Florida.
MARTIN: Alex, thank you.
GEORGE: The golden rule.
HOLMES: Wise words, Alex.
MARTIN: Anderson, finally, a guy who is actually speaking some sense. I've been so sick and tired of these men excusing the sexism. Way to go, 7-year-old Alex.
GEORGE: He's a first-grader. He doesn't know what sexism is. COOPER: He's going to get his own radio show if he's lucky. Hey guys, thank you. It was a really interesting discussion. Roland Martin, Amy Holmes, Robert George, appreciate you sticking around. Thanks.
Still to come tonight, the DNA test results are in. Find out who is and who isn't the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby, if you care. Stay tuned.
COOPER: Well, the waiting and speculation are over. It is not good news for Howard K. Stern. The world finally knows who the father of Anna Nicole Smith's now 7-month-old baby girl is, turns out, yes, father knows best, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY BIRKHEAD, : I hate to be the one that told you this but, I told you so.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Yes, Larry Birkhead, he won the paternity case. Still at stake, though, how much of J. Howard Marshall's money little Dannielynn will or will not inherit. They've been fighting oh his legacy for a dozen years. So no doubt stay tuned.
Erica Hill joins us now with a "360" bulletin -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, a House Committee is seeking answers from the Pentagon. Lawmakers want know whether U.S. military leaders intentionally misled the public about the friendly fire death of former NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and the rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq. That hearing will be held April 24th.
President Bush wants to meet with congressional leaders next week to discuss the standoff over the war spending bill. The legislation calls for the U.S. to pull combat troops out of Iraq in 2008. President Bush says he will veto the measure.
Democratic leaders say President Bush is ignoring the message from the American people by continuing the war.
A new report shows Catholic dioceses and religious orders faced 714 clergy sex abuse claims in 2006, and paid nearly $400 million to settle them. Most of them date back decades. Those figures, by the way, are actually down from 2005.
And when police searched former astronaut Lisa Nowak's car, they found bondage photos on a computer disk. They also found $600 in British currency and dozens of orange pills. That's according to some new documents released today by prosecutors in Florida. Lisa Nowak is accused of trying to kidnap her romantic rival to which she has pleaded not guilty, Anderson.
COOPER: I guess I -- well, I'm not even going to say it.
HILL: What do you say? Yes. It's better not to.
COOPER: Yes. It's better just let it go. Erica, thanks.
And don't miss the shot of the day's headlines on the "360" daily podcast. You can downloaded it every morning, cnn.com/ac360 podcast, or get it off iTunes.
And a reminder, be sure to watch "AMERICAN MORNING" for all of the latest news tomorrow morning beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. Thanks for watching tonight. Larry King is next. I'll see you tomorrow night.
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