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Don Imus: Meet Michael Richards, Mel Gibson, Andrew Young, and George Allen

Apr 11, 2007 Don Imus: Meet Michael Richards, Mel Gibson, Andrew Young, and George Allen

The First Amendment should keep the FCC out of Imus-gate. (From the public domain.)

Don Imus gets added to the long list of celebrities — a list so long that I cannot keep up with it — making outrageously insensitive comments about race, ethnicity, and gender. News coverage and commentary on Imus’s pathetic comments is here and here.  

I have not examined the story of Imus’s bigoted comments closely enough to get a sense of the extent to which his radio network fired him out of any fear of any backlash from the Federal Communications Commission than to take a principled stand against such comments.

Imus-gate presents a clash between my rabid anti-racist views and my free expression zealousness. It is not even easy for me to reconcile that clash by drawing a line between private entities penalizing their private employees for bigoted actions and words versus government getting involved, because drawing such a line would prevent employees of private companies from suing them for unlawful discrimination. Such employment discrimination lawsuits are permitted because of government-made laws enforced by government-run courts. I address this clash in the criminal court context here. At minimum, I oppose the FCC getting involved with such matters. Jon Katz.

ADDENDUM: May 3, 2007: CNN reports that Imus’s contract with CBS called for him to be irreverent and controversial, and that he plans to file a lawsuit for breach of his contract. Pathetically and ironically, it is possible that Imus’s pathetic comments were partly driven by his very desire to honor his contract.

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