Mark Steyn on Imus’ abrupt departure from the airwaves…before Mark’s abrupt departure from the airwaves.
HH: It’s Hugh Hewitt on a news-packed April 12th. Welcome, thank you for listening. Coming up after the break, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Later in the program, Dennis Prager and Michael Medved join me to talk about the demise of Don Imus. Lileks comes along, Grover Norquist, the Washington Posts’ Thomas Ricks on the surge and its success. But we begin as we do every Thursday when we are lucky with Columnist to the World, Mark Steyn. Mark, good to talk to you.
MS: That’s quite a show you’ve got. I feel like I’m the lame juggling act that comes on before the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.
HH: (laughing) Hardly. In fact, one of my e-mailers demands to know where your obituary is in the Atlantic Monthly. Once you get people hooked, Steyn, you’ve got to deliver. What happened?
MS: Well, the Atlantic and I have had a falling out.
MS: So I probably shouldn’t be talking about this on air, but you know, I, as the Australian foreign minister said to me in another context, there’s no really off the record conversation with me, and so I’m happy to tell your guys, if you ask me a straight question, we’ve had a falling out.
HH: So you’re not going to be writing your obituaries anymore?
MS: No, I’m not. I don’t know what they’re running instead. Maybe they’ll run an obituary of me, and that will nicely round out the whole business. But that’s…
HH: That’s the worst trade, that’s Steyn for Andrew Sullivan, since the Indians sent Chris Chambliss and Greg Nettles to the Yankees for people you’ve never heard of. I can’t believe that, but I’ll leave it at that.
MS: Well, we had a bit of a clenched teeth showdown, and that’s the way it goes. I like the Atlantic, and I must say, the guy who owns the Atlantic, David Bradley, is one of the nicest press barons I’ve had the opportunity to be in the employ of, so I have…my only complaint is that the one time I went to Washington, flew to Washington to have lunch with him, and living in the culinary wasteland of New Hampshire, as we’ve talked about before in my, when we were talking about red state cuisine, I thought he’d give me one of these really rarified Washington restaurants. And he thought, as I was a simple country yokel, I’d like it if he took me to the diner he owned in the Watergate building. (laughing) So I wound up having exactly the same diner special of the day I would have had at my local diner in New Hamphire.
HH: Well, I’m hoping to put a…to start the Townhall.com rush for the available space on the Mark Steyn calendar to get the obits switched over to Townhall.com. As they say in the business, we’ll talk.
HH: Let’s get to a couple of key stories. I am not sympathetic to Don Imus at all, Mark Steyn, because I thought it a vulgar and repulsive attack on college athletes who had no idea of this drive-by that happened to them. I don’t think it’s freighted with all the other stuff at all, but what’s your take?
MS: Well, I agree with that. It’s not even, it’s not a joke. I mean, I’ve never listened to the Don Imus show. The only time I ever hear him is occasionally a radio station in Vermont that carries him in the morning, I’ll hear the trailers later in the day of the best of the Imus show. And I’ve never heard anything on the so-called best of the Imus show, these little 30 second, 40 second clips they run, that I’ve ever thought in the least bit funny. It seems clear to me this remark, I’m all in favor, by the way, of rude and politically incorrect jokes. But there has to be a joke component, and there isn’t to this. It’s just a straightforward, race-based, sneer. Having said that, you know, the reasons these words are in currency, I believe the reason, the only reason white folks know the word nappy in relation to hair, by the way, is because an awful lot of black people use it. Similarly, I think the reason, the only reason a lot of square white guys know the word ho is because a lot of hip black guys also use that word. And I don’t think you can really have a double standard, where every black comic can go around saying who was that ho I saw you with last night. That was no ho, that was my bitch, and that’s perfectly acceptable coming from a black comic. But if a white guy makes a reference to it, then somehow, he has to be shaken down by Al Sharpton and all these usual racial…
HH: If a black comic had attacked the Rutgers basketball team in the same terms, do you think that comic would still be working on the public airwaves?
MS: I think probably not.
HH: I agree. That’s why I don’t think it’s quite the double standard, because it’s really the target, not the language.
MS: No, but also, I don’t believe in the double standard argument. You know, I think if you take the view that our culture is coarser than it needs to be, then it’s not a good argument to say I’m not as coarse as the guy over there.
MS: So I don’t think the loss of Don Imus to American show business is any great loss. Having said that, I must say when I hear these things like the NAACP guy saying that Imus should have paid some fine for some sensitivity course relating to black women or whatever, I think that sort of institutionalization of racial grievance is one of the most destructive things, not just for American life in general, but for the black community in particular. And so I don’t like hearing from these Al Sharpton’s and all the rest of it. It’s wrong…what he said was wrong and stupid and ugly, but going and kissing up to Al Sharpton only makes it worse and even more stupid, and even uglier.
HH: I’m talking with Mark Steyn, columnist to the world, although I’m still reeling from the knowledge that I shall not be chronicled if I predecease him in the Atlantic. I’m just upset about that. That means your last Atlantic obituary was about the last of the Papas.
MS: (laughing) Look, I don’t know…I don’t want to make you a casual promise, Hugh. You know, if you get hit by the bus as you’re leaving the studio this evening, then I’ll come back for a one-off special.
HH: (laughing) But it’s so sad.
MS: You know, I’m willing to do that if it’s distressing you that much.
HH: Well, it reminds me of when I took my Dad to his last movie before he went to his reward, and it was Charlie’s Angels II. That was so wrong in many ways.
MS: Well, it is, but you know, on the other hand, I actually think, I think I would least like to have to sit through Truffaut or Bergman for my final night at the movies…
HH: That’s true.
MS: And while Charlie’s Angels II wouldn’t be high on the list, it would come higher than a lot of the heavier films.
HH: That’s true. Let me turn to a couple of high headline things. Fred Thompson has cancer. Does it matter?
MS: I’m not so sure that it does. You know, the fact of the matter is, that I believe in older presidents. I don’t really like young…I thought Bill Clinton, in some ways, was too young to be president. I actually like older guys as president. And if they’re in their late 60’s and 70’s, I’d prefer that to guys in their 40’s. So I look on the health thing slightly different. If he’s got some manageable illness, I don’t think it matters.
HH: All right. Now are you acquainted with the controversy around the PBS film co-produced by Frank Gaffney, which has been suppressed by WETA and PBS?
MS: Yes. I’ve read a few bits and pieces on that, and in fact, I think CAIR have accidentally stuck me on there. They keep trying to get me fired from things, The Council on American Islamic Relations. And as a result of that, I actually got stuck on their mailing list. So I go the e-mail about the sinister Zionist involvement in this documentary, allegedly.
HH: And so, what do you make of an American taxpayer-funded film being sent down the memory hole? What’s that tell you?
MS: Well, I think it speaks very poorly for PBS…
HH: Uh oh. Mark Steyn alert. The Atlantic came and got him. It speaks very poorly for PBS, and that the Atlantic Monthly got Mark Steyn. It could have been their final obit, you’re right.
End of interrupted interview.