Washington Week managing editor Gwen Ifill specifically named Tim Russert and David Brooks as two people who have been silent on the Imus issue, but could have spoken up. Russert and Brooks have appeared on Imus’ show several times and did not have any vocal reaction to the former radio hosts’ racially insensitive remarks while the rest of the world couldn’t stop talking about it.
MS. GWEN IFILL: You know, it’s interesting to me. This has been an interesting week. The people who have spoken, people who have issued statements, the pop—the people who haven’t. There’s been radio silence from a lot of people who’ve done this program who could’ve spoken up and said, “I find this offensive” or “I didn’t know.” These people didn’t speak up.
Tim, we didn’t hear that much from you.
David, we didn’t hear from you.
What was missing in this debate was someone saying, “You know, I understand that this is offensive.” You know, I have a seven-year-old goddaughter. Yesterday, she went out shopping with her mom for high-top basketball shoes so she can play basketball. The offense, the slur that Imus directed at me happened more than 10 years ago. I like to think in 10 years from now that Asia isn’t going to be deciding that she wants to get recruited for the college basketball team or be a tennis pro or go to medical school and that she’s still vulnerable to those kinds of casual slurs and insults that I got 10 years ago, and that people will say, “I didn’t know,” or people will say, “I wasn’t listening.” A lot of people did know, and a lot of people were listening, and they just decided it was OK. They decided this culture of meanness was fine until they got caught. My concern about Mr. Imus and a lot of people and, and a lot of the debate in the society is not that people are sorry that they say these things. They’re sorry that someone catches them.
When Don Imus said this about me when I worked here at NBC, when I found out about it, his producer called and said, “Don wants to apologize.” Well, now he says he never said it. What was he apologizing for? He was apologizing for getting caught, not apologizing for having said it in the first place. And that, to me, is the debate that we need to have. David’s right, about the culture of meanness, about the culture of racial complaint, about the internal culture in our community, about the way we talk to one another. But this week, just this week, it was finally saying “Enough.”