EEOC CHAIR SPEAKS OUT ON THE DON IMUS CONTROVERSY

by Patricia A. Schaeffer, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs

EEOC Chair Naomi Earp wrote an open letter to Don Imus, Bernard McGuirk, MSNBC and CBS in which she publicly called on the media and entertainment industry to make greater efforts to combat racism, in light of the dialogue spurred by Imus’s remarks that led to his firing.

In her very candid letter, Chair Earp makes the following key points:

1. Chair Earp criticized both Imus and his producer Bernard McGuirk for using the airwaves to “assassinate the reputations and denigrate the accomplishments” of the African-American female players on the Rutgers basketball team.

2. Racial and sexist slurs may only be words, but they “can and do hurt,” according to Chair Earp. She said it’s one of the reasons the EEOC recently launched its E-RACE initiative (Eradicating Racism and Colorism From Employment), a national campaign designed to hold businesses accountable for the discriminatory conduct of their officials, managers and employees.

3. Chair Earp said the offensive remarks made by Imus and McGuirk, the belated reaction of the networks and radio station, and Imus’ defense of his remarks by pointing to rap lyrics indicated the need for a “clear and unambiguous dialogue” about racism in America. She said it also points to a need for a change in the entertainment industry’s corporate culture.

4. Chair Earp urged all of corporate America, and the entertainment industry in particular, to be more proactive in preventing and eliminating racist and sexist behavior in the workplace. “Firing Imus does not address the real issues at hand. Instead of jokes, we need a serious dialogue about race in the 21st century.”

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