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Don Imus: Shock Talk Show Host or Great Humanitarian?

         There is no meaningful reason for me to pen this essay since I do not know Don Imus, nor have I ever had contact with him. My interest in Imus, as a person, came ...

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         There is no meaningful reason for me to pen this essay since I do not know Don Imus, nor have I ever had contact with him. My interest in Imus, as a person, came about because he has some interesting and knowledgeable people as guests on his morning talk-radio show. What makes Don Imus what he is? Why is he so famous, given how he behaves? These questions were and are troublesome to me since he is a complex person and it is his complexity that feeds my curiosity and his fame.

         Imus hangs-out, geographically, in or near the Grand Canyons, and in my opinion, he has a heart just as big, if not bigger, than the Canyons where he doffs his large cowboy hat. His, is a strange heart though. Some have described Imus as notorious, given his Don Rickles style of humor and his confrontational methods of interaction. A person may not care for his politics. One talk show colleague described him as a left-wing liberal who caters more to liberal-types than he does to conservatives. This description seems accurate since he once explained, not too long ago – that “all my friends are card-carrying communists,” and then he went on to name one of them.

          To be certain, it is difficult to lose sight of the fact that Imus and his wife, Deidre, and their son, Wyatt, have, over time, opened their home to hundreds, if not thousands of cancer-infected children who may have only one stop remaining following their stay at the Imus Ranch for Cancer Kids. One can become confused about why Imus gets a pass on some of the statements he makes to people and how he behaves on his morning talk show. For example, his wit and humor are as sharp as a razor’s edge – and when he speaks – he has been known to be both cunning and cutting. Only after listening to him regularly does a person, perhaps, understand how deep his intellect actually penetrates at times especially when he is relentlessly questioning some poor soul. Is it what he does for these unlucky children - his “kids-at-the-ranch” that gives him a “bye” for some of the comments he makes - I wonder?

          I once considered myself to be much more of a humanitarian than Don Imus. Yet, I do not know any people who have cancer-ill children in their home for any length of time and do everything for these youngsters to enjoy what might be their short lives caused by their unpleasant condition. Caring for a few seniors is one thing, but caring for children with cancer is living in a different world. Perhaps, Imus’ harshness comes from his depth of caring for these youngsters? I have never cared for a cancer-child or attempted to make one happy so when I think of a child inflicted with cancer it makes me uncomfortable and somewhat sad. Imus for sure, at times, is sad, and in fact, there are moments his own staff points out to him that he seems more morbid than alive.

          Yet, in the midst of these morbid moments, he reaches deep inside himself and finds something amusing to make people laugh! Recently, he lost his brother Fred and a considerable outpouring of sympathy and regret from people everywhere took place. There are times when I try to conceptualize within the caverns of my own mind just how Imus does what he does. It is a challenge to form a picture in my mind’s eye of what he does, but one thing seems clear and that is that Imus lives in a ledger environment.

          His religion is unknown to me, but I am a practicing Catholic and this fortifies my belief in a ledger-life system that adds up to where we go in the here-after and what will happen to me in the after-life. One might try to set such a system up for Imus. For example, he is considered a “political king-maker” and he is amused by such recognition, it fills his ego. Yet, he is sparked to anger and can ferociously go on the attack and become cynical, raw, and caustic - at the drop of a hat. And, of course, he repeatedly infuriates Deidre when he unwittingly refers back to - almost subliminally - his previous life’s adventures in a nether-world at a time when he was young and reckless, and then broadcasts these adventures to his audience. Nevertheless, one should not lose sight that he is always pre-occupied with the ranch and his family of cancer-ill children who he cares for 24/7.

          One morning, creating somewhat of a paradox, he is lecturing the world on how Chris Wallace should have been cut some slack by Michele Bachmann for calling her a “flake.” Wallace is considered by some to be a member of the “drive-by media.” Do the “drive-bys” ever cut anyone slack? Furthermore, one is quick to reflect - “who has Imus ever cut some slack?” Then there are times when he will launch one of his famous, “I really like the guy, but” and then proceed to tear someone’s head off. Most recently, it was interesting to listen to Imus doing a review of his emails and described them as hateful towards him and his show. Present in his voice was the faint sound of personal hurt he experienced from the words of his listeners. To me, his reactions were interesting since Imus resides regularly in a world of self created harsh words. Yet, he seemed offended by his audience who appeared to be simply following his lead.

          Meanwhile - as one old rock-n-roll song tells us: “Meanwhile, back at the ranch” the not so well youngsters are being cared for, bathed, dressed, fed, laughing and having fun while getting ready for a little more make-believe life as a cowboy or cowgirl. Plans are being made for the next big Imus fundraiser, and of course, in his quiet mental moments he is always defending against saying something that would have him punished by affirmative action hypocrites who did exactly that to him and Jimmy-the-Greek for what were considered serious racial comments that probably would have gone unnoticed at a political fund-raiser and unworthy of job-loss.     

          After all of the above and much more not recorded here – one attempts to calculate the I-Man’s Ledger. As I ponder the positives and negatives; the likes and dislikes; the hates and real emotions that Don Imus can stir – my heart and mind always race back to the ranch and all those youngsters who are terminally ill and who, he and his family are giving a good-time, quality moment paid for out of his own pocket. My ethical scorecard does not see Don Imus as an “ethical quandary” as he is described online - my ledger only depicts Imus as a GREAT HUMANATARIAN!


This article was written by Dr. Nicholas J. Mauro, who is currently a professor of Management, Leadership, and Quality at Dowling College. For more information on Dr. Mauro's work and achievements, please visit his page on Dowling's website. To read more of Dr. Mauro's insights, make sure to check out his website, and blog.

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