Imus Producer: Sharpton a 'Race-Baiter'
Published: 5/12/07, 7:25 AM EDT
NEW YORK (AP) - Don Imus' former producer on Friday called Rev. Al Sharpton a "race-baiter" who was looking for attention when he led a campaign to fire the radio host, while Sharpton said Imus and his producer got what they deserved for making a racist, sexist remark on the air.
Bernard McGuirk and Sharpton appeared together for a combative debate on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" show. The producer was fired last month for his part in an exchange on the "Imus in the Morning" program in which the members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team were called "nappy-headed hos."
MSNBC took Imus' show off the air on April 11 and CBS fired him from his syndicated radio program a day later for the slur. McGuirk, a 20-year producer and on-air jester for the show that originated on WFAN-AM in New York, called the team "hardcore hos" in the April 4 exchange with Imus. Sharpton held protests and lobbied both networks to fire Imus.
McGuirk called Sharpton a "crude ... opportunist, a race-baiter" who campaigned against Imus to help his own career and raise his profile.
While McGuirk acknowledged that "these words did hurt these girls," he added, "until you, Reverend Al, got involved, they probably never would have heard of it. They would have probably never, quote unquote, got scarred for life until you got involved for your own self-serving interests."
Sharpton said he wasn't looking for more attention - "if you have any recollection at all, I had been in the papers all year," he said. He said Imus and McGuirk may have apologized for the remark, but "forgiveness is not the point. The question is the penalty."
"Consumers have the right to say to advertisers, are your standards going to be where people are attacked based on your gender and race?" Sharpton said.
McGuirk countered that Sharpton "terrorized these spineless, thumbsucking executives" into taking Imus off the air. In an earlier appearance on "Hannity & Colmes," he said the executives "were in a fetal position under their desks sucking their thumbs on their BlackBerrys, trying to coordinate their response."
Sharpton responded: "What he is saying is we want to apologize and we want to decide what the penalty is." He said that most people wanted Imus fired, including a minister who arranged Imus' meeting with the Rutgers team, and many NBC employees.
"Is Al Roker one of these guys hiding under the desk with a BlackBerry?" Sharpton asked.
McGuirk said that Imus "made one small mistake. He ran a red light" and shouldn't have been fired.
He asked Sharpton. "Who elected you the PC police chief? Who elected you to anything?"
Imus has not spoken publicly since his dismissal, but his lawyer has said he intends to sue CBS for $120 million, and said that the network encouraged irreverent, off-color comments on the program.