All Episodes

April 12, 2024 39 mins

As we revealed in part one, the 2007 Rutgers women’s basketball team was having a Cinderella season when radio host Don Imus callously dragged them into a national firestorm with a racist slur, effectively stealing their moment. But the women of Rutgers didn’t just go away quietly – they fought back, rising above the noise to tell their story. Susie and Jess are joined again by former Rutgers captain Essence Carson and Emmy-winning journalist Jemele Hill to unpack the aftermath of that sordid episode, and discuss the complexities of who gets to respond in anger when they are publicly targeted, and why.


  • Essence Carson, former WNBA star, Rutgers captain and current creative executive
  • Jemele Hill, Emmy award-winning journalist


See for privacy information.

Mark as Played

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, everyone, this is part two of our episode about
the two thousand and seven Rutgers women's basketball team. If
you haven't listened to part one yet, I recommend starting there.
And just a note that we discussed racist and sexist
language in this episode.

Speaker 2 (00:16):
In April two.

Speaker 1 (00:17):
Thousand and seven, Don Imss, a popular and prominent radio host,
callously dragged a group of young female college athletes into
a press storm.

Speaker 3 (00:26):
I was blown away, bab what was said. Although I
was no stranger to racism and the nuances of it,
I didn't necessarily think it would be possible, especially towards
a group of young women like ourselves.

Speaker 1 (00:40):
But don iMOS was about to get caught in his
own storm.

Speaker 4 (00:43):
He had done it before, and there was a track
record of him, particularly saying and espousing some pretty dangerous
tropes about black women. And finally, I think a lot
of people said enough is enough.

Speaker 1 (00:57):
After a week of silence, the team was finally ready
to respond to take control of the narrative.

Speaker 2 (01:04):
I'm Susie Banacaram and I'm Jessica Bennett.

Speaker 1 (01:07):
And this is in Retrospect, where each week we revisit
a cultural moment from the past that shaped us and.

Speaker 2 (01:13):
That we just can't stop thinking about today.

Speaker 1 (01:15):
We're talking about a college basketball team that was thrown
into the national spotlight against their will, but we are
also talking about who is allowed to respond in anger
when they are publicly targeted and who gets centered when
these stories get told.

Speaker 2 (01:29):
This is part two, Okay to recap.

Speaker 5 (01:33):
So, the Rutgers women's basketball team has just been to
the national championships and shock jock radio host Don Imus
goes on his show and calls them an offensive slur
on the.

Speaker 2 (01:43):
Air, that's a nappy head of ours.

Speaker 5 (01:45):
The backlash is growing quickly at this point, with people
like Al Sharpton and Barack Obama calling for his resignation.

Speaker 2 (01:54):
This all happens inside of a week, is that right? Yeah?
The Rutgers team initially stays quiet.

Speaker 1 (01:59):
They take time to think about how they want to
respond and to let it play out a little bit,
and then they decide the best way to do this
is with a press conference.

Speaker 2 (02:08):
What happens at the press conference.

Speaker 1 (02:10):
So exactly a week after the comments, they have this
really emotional news conference. Coach Vivian Springer, who I'll remind
you was this very famous Hall of Fame coach, decided
that the way to best approach this was to really
emphasize the humanity of the girls beside her.

Speaker 2 (02:27):
Okay, so here's what she said.

Speaker 6 (02:29):
These young ladies that you just have seated before you,
before you, are valedictorians of your class, future doctors, musical prodigies,
and yes, even girl scouts. These young ladies are the
best thistination has to offer, and we are so very

fortunate to have them here at Rutgers University. They are
young ladies of class distinction, are articulate, they are brilliant,
They are gifted.

Speaker 1 (03:07):
She also didn't dry away from clearly calling out what
don Imus had said as unacceptable slurs.

Speaker 7 (03:13):
We had to experience racist and sexist remarks that are deplorable,
despicable and abominable and unconscionable, and it hurts me.

Speaker 1 (03:25):
And then a couple players spoke, and Essence was one
of them. She was introduced as a straight a student
who could walk out here and play Moonlight Sonata on
the piano without looking at the notes, which I know
is true because I watched a video of her playing piano,
and she expressed the team's great hurt, anger and disgust.

Speaker 8 (03:45):
Not only has mister Imus stolen a moment of pure
grace from us. But he has brought us to the
harsh reality that behind the faces of the networks, they
have worked so hard to convey a message of empowerment
to young adults that so, somehow, some way, the door
has been left open to attack your leaders of tomorrow.

Speaker 2 (04:06):
Well you can hear how young she is there.

Speaker 1 (04:08):
Yeah, I mean a lot of the commentators who were
watching that day noted how young and vulnerable the team appeared.
And this press conference was terrible for don Imus. The
Wall Street Journal would call it devastating for him, but
the Wreckers team did say at the end they had
agreed to meet with him.

Speaker 5 (04:26):
So we just heard Vivian Stringers being very composed and
super gracious in that press conference. But has she ever
talked about how she reacted privately, because I imagined she
was pretty pissed.

Speaker 1 (04:38):
Yes, her private reaction was very different. Years later, she
recalled in twenty eighteen profile than in the days afterward,
And I'll read this. I kept reading those words and
I was so upset. I kept thinking, why would he
say that he doesn't know us? I remember busting my
hand on the wall, and I was crying because it
was bleeding.

Speaker 5 (04:59):
Hearing all this like honestly makes me so sad because
she's just like, he doesn't even know us. Like there's
so much bias coursing underneath the surface to what they're saying.
Even in the press conference when they're having to reiterate
that these are brilliant, articulate young women, it's like trying
to object or subvert the tropes while responding to the thing.

Speaker 2 (05:25):
Yeah, that's really is what's happening.

Speaker 1 (05:26):
I mean, she has to put on this professional face
and she has to prepare her team for a meeting
with this man who's caused them so much pain because
she knows that's what's expected of her.

Speaker 2 (05:35):
I mean, she doesn't really have a choice.

Speaker 5 (05:38):
And then, of course she doesn't really have the luxury
of getting publicly angry, right, Like, of course she has
to slam a wall behind closed doors, because what would
they possibly say if she showed anger in public?

Speaker 1 (05:51):
Right then she'd become an angry black woman. That's another
trope that they have to make sure they're not feeding into.
And I think intrinsically they understood that they had to
appeal to people by laying bear their humanity which is
just not right.

Speaker 2 (06:05):

Speaker 1 (06:05):
We shouldn't have to lay ourselves bear to convince people
we are worthy of not being treated terribly. And I
was really struck by that too, so I asked Essence,
if they were conscious of that.

Speaker 3 (06:16):
I think it's black women, you know, we have to
somehow figure out how to navigate this place, how to
navigate life in a way where you are able to
show how strong and powerful you are, how intelligent you are,
but at the same time, do it in a way

where you don't ruffle any feathers, where you don't intimidate people.
You know, we should just take what's given to us,
or you know, the more we fight for ourselves and
for others, as we often do, it's almost just like hey,
you you right there, Yes, you.

Speaker 2 (06:55):
You specifically be quiet.

Speaker 3 (06:58):
What you grow to understand is that what happens and
sports soch a Michael cosm of what society is.

Speaker 5 (07:08):
What she's talking about here is the double bind, right
like that these women, these young women had to grapple
with the isms of both race and gender, and so
like God forbid, they would be labeled as angry. We
saw how that played out when Serena william Is yelled
at that ref even though research actually shows and I

will just point this out to clarify the record, that
black women are in fact less likely to show anger
when criticized or disrespected.

Speaker 1 (07:36):
Because they know that this is a catch twenty two, right,
especially ins in sports, you're supposed to be aggressive. How
are you also going to be docile? Like it's this
insane thing where Serena Williams gets, you know, weeks of
headlines about how she was unsportsmanlike. But in tennis, I mean,
think about John Beckenroe. Those guys were crazy and they
never got dinged in the way she did.

Speaker 5 (07:58):
That's the thing too, right, Like when men express anger,
they are viewed as passionate and their status actually increases,
whereas when a woman expresses anger, she's just crazy and nuts.

Speaker 2 (08:09):

Speaker 1 (08:09):
So as women, you know, right, you know that you
have to kind of make yourself softer in some way
to be considered professional. You have to put a bunch
of exclamation points in your emails, and you have.

Speaker 2 (08:19):
To be likable.

Speaker 5 (08:21):
Yeah, and in fact, they did come off as very likable.
It seems like they effectively threaded that needle in this
press conference.

Speaker 2 (08:28):
Is that what the response was.

Speaker 1 (08:30):
Yes, they definitely did, and it was an extremely successful
press conference, and essence really credits Vivian's stringer for that.
She really was a pro so she knew how to
frame this in a way that would be effective. But
one thing that's interesting about the response to it is
that a lot of the coverage remarked about how graceful

they were, their dignity, they're poise, and Hundits repeatedly marveled
at how articulate and gracious they were.

Speaker 2 (08:59):
They actually used the word articulous in.

Speaker 1 (09:00):
The yes okay, And you know, the subjects of that
is that it's surprising that they were rating right, which
feels racist in a less obvious way.

Speaker 2 (09:10):
So I want to bring back Jaml Hill to talk
about this.

Speaker 1 (09:12):
As you know, Jamal is an acclaimed sports journalist and
she wrote about the story for ESPN at the time.

Speaker 4 (09:18):
Well, there's the indignity that you suffer of being dehumanized,
and then you have the extra indignity of having to
react to it politely because you're always aware of the
fact that your reactions are scrutinized and judged a lot differently.
For them to be angry in that moment, for them
to express any rage. It says everything about race in
America that that would have been considered to be a

classless reaction, but not what he said. Their reaction would
have been considered had they chosen to be angry and
chosen to exhibit a more forceful emotion, would have been
considered to be more egregious than the actual offense. I
would have loved for them to be able to express
however I feel, But it's unfortunately the burden and the

responsibility that a lot of Black people have had to
live with a long time, because not only are we
often the victims of racism and institutional racism and white supremacy,
were also not only tasked with being kind and polite
to it, we're also tasked with fixing it to It's.

Speaker 5 (10:18):
So interesting because it's like what they had to do
there was predict the racist undertones or tropes that were
going to be used against them and then like preemptively
come back.

Speaker 1 (10:33):
Yes, they definitely had to go into this with the
understanding that it was their responsibility to somehow make this
better while also making it clear how unacceptable it was
to them.

Speaker 5 (10:48):
Right, And how do you do that if you can't
be firm because firm might be interpreted as angry.

Speaker 2 (10:56):
I think that is actually the brilliance of Vivian Stringer.

Speaker 1 (10:59):
She is really but she's doing it in a way
that really engenders empathy. And you can tell this isn't
her first rodeo rights what she's doing.

Speaker 5 (11:10):
It's just like, there's so many layers to this that
you have to peel back and constantly be aware of.

Speaker 1 (11:17):
Right, because you have to experience the racism, but then
you also have to respond in a way that's not
going to create more racism, that's not going to make
you more of a target. It's really complex, and I
think it's also worth noting here that there was this
kind of deep historical and cultural significance to the way
that don Imus chose to be offensive right by calling

them names that were tied to their sexuality and to
their hair. It was tapping into this long standing cultural
baggage around black women's hair in this country. It's been
stereotyped and stigmatized for so long, as we mentioned earlier,
and Jabelle was really interesting on this topic. Hair is
very central to the identity of black women. Backing the

times of slavery, they used to make black women bind
their hair in various cloths basically so it wouldn't publicly
be seen. And the reason they didn't it was because
it was this crazy sort of thesis that if because
black women were elaborately styling their hair and that was
part of their expression, there was this crazy idea that

that would lure white men. And so when you call
a group of black women that be hitdedt os, you're
not only trying to dehumanize them, you're also trying to
make sure that you are sending the message that their
beauty is not respected, regarded, or even wanted.

Speaker 2 (12:36):
You're trying to make them feel undesirable.

Speaker 4 (12:38):
That is the whole point of this, right, And so
that's something that black women have also faced throughout the
history of our lives, is that we have been made
to feel not only as if we don't matter, but
that we're just not even beautiful or desirable enough to
even be considered in the same way, regarded in the

same scope of femininity that everybody else is. And so
by planting the image that we are hoes, it makes
it seem as if historically that the type of sexual
abuse and sexual trauma that black women have suffered is
really their fault because they're hoes and they're loose, and
that is another stereotype in a narrative that we have

had to fight throughout the course of our beings.

Speaker 2 (13:34):

Speaker 5 (13:35):
Let's go back to the fallout for Imus. Did he
end up facing any consequences.

Speaker 2 (13:39):
He did.

Speaker 1 (13:40):
After the press conference, general outrage grew because it had
been really effective, right. It had really emphasized that the
Rutgers players were just kids for the most part, and.

Speaker 2 (13:51):
They they wanted it to do. Yeah, And they weren't.

Speaker 1 (13:53):
Journalists or politicians who were choosing to go on Imus's
platform and mix it up with him to sell books
or whatever. These were just hard working girls who had
done nothing but dare to play basketball while being black.
So it really was a critical moment in this story.
He did try to continue to spin things afterwards. He

did talk a lot about how he'd done all this
charitable work, which is true. He had done a lot
of charitable work with children with cancer, and he felt
the need to mention that some of them were black,
which it's like, oh, but thank god you didn't weed
out the black kids from your cancer and illness ranch Like,
it just was kind of a crazy.

Speaker 2 (14:33):
So it's basically like that, but I have a black friend.

Speaker 1 (14:35):
Yeah, it was a version of that, but almost worse
because he was using these sick children as a way
to defend himself, which it's hard not to see that
as a cynical way to try and change the conversation.
He launched a telethon to benefit three children's charities while
all of this was happening, which just does feel a
bit like a stunt. He also defended himself by saying

that the black community had used the word and said
horrible things about black women. And he argued that because
rappers routinely and this is a quote from him the
fame and demean black women and called them in quotes
worse names than I ever did.

Speaker 2 (15:14):
Like, how was he supposed to know that this was offensive?

Speaker 1 (15:17):
And you know that conversation is also to me just ridiculous,
Like what that has to do with his decision to
go after these girls for no reason, I don't know,
But it worked as a distraction.

Speaker 2 (15:30):
It did.

Speaker 1 (15:31):
Yeah, a lot of conversation at the time around hip
hop and whether it was a double standard that black rappers.

Speaker 2 (15:38):
Interesting, So that actually became a story.

Speaker 1 (15:40):
Yeah, time did a story at the time, Oprah Winfrey
did a town hall with black leaders about whether or
not hip hop needed to be held accountable for calling
women bitches and hoes. But okay, so it is this
crazy side show that happens. In fairness to Oprah, she
had also done an episode with the girls from Rutgers.
But still, I Ell said when I spoke to her

that this whole thing was just a way to continue
to avoid accountability.

Speaker 4 (16:04):
It was a way to let don I Miss and
other people who think like them off the hook, because
I can tell you, I can't think of a single
jay Z lyric where he said the Rutgers women's basketball
team are nappy headed holes, not one. Often what we see, unfortunately,
in conversations about race is that at some point in

these conversations, the people who don't want to be accountable
want to then blame the people that they have either insulted,
demean or dehumanized for their own treatment. So it's not
about don Iamas saying this about the Ruggers women's basketball team.
It then becomes oh, no, black people deserve this, because
that's ultimately what he was saying. They deserve to be

called nappy headed holes because of something that Tupac said.

Speaker 2 (16:52):
That's basically what he says.

Speaker 1 (16:55):
It's just a diversionary tactic essentially, and it becomes such
a big part of the story that Snoop dogg ends
up responding to it.

Speaker 2 (17:03):
Oh my gosh, she didn't. Yeah, remember this, Okay.

Speaker 1 (17:05):
He said an interview with MTV News, which was still
a thing then, that we're not, as he puts it,
old ass white men sitting on MSNBC going hard on
black girls.

Speaker 2 (17:14):
We're rappers.

Speaker 1 (17:15):
This comes from our own experience and it's relevant to
what we feel, and we're not going to let people
say we're in the same league as this man.

Speaker 2 (17:22):
That's interesting. Yeah, I mean that's true.

Speaker 5 (17:24):
Like, he's not a news person on major news programs
who is supposed to have some sort of journalistic standards,
even though we know that he didn't.

Speaker 2 (17:34):
Right, it's just a totally different thing.

Speaker 1 (17:36):
And also, as is well established now, but I guess
wasn't as well established at the time, being part of
a group does give you license to have different kinds
of conversations about them. That is just a fact, and
to pretend like that's not a fact and clutch your
pearls and be like well, why do they get to
say this?

Speaker 2 (17:53):
But it's like, we know why, we don't need to
pretend we don't know why.

Speaker 1 (17:59):
So the pressure continues on CBS and MSNBC particularly to
fire him, particularly from black leaders Al Sharpton, who I
already mentioned, who's a well known civil rights leader, and
also Jesse Jackson, who's also a well known civil rights leader,
and women's groups continue.

Speaker 2 (18:15):
To also put a lot of pressure on.

Speaker 1 (18:17):
I think the thing that this really highlights is that
while Imas's audience had gotten used to his antics, the
larger republic wasn't so familiar with them. So this clip
ends up being really shocking to a broad audience. And
then all these previous clips that we mentioned come in
and others that we didn't mention because there were so
many of them. So advertisers begin to bail, and as

you and I both know, when the money goes is
when the pressure.

Speaker 2 (18:44):
Really comes on.

Speaker 1 (18:44):
Yes, And once advertisers start pulling out, CBS and MSNBC
realized that the suspension isn't going to be enough, and
MSNBC cancels his television simulcast right because they don't actually
produce the show, they just air it and eight days
after he made the comments, don Imis is finally fired
by CBS. Okay, okay, and in an in retrospect cameo

as twist. As per usual, the person who fires don
Imis is Les Moonvez Because no matter what, a list
of bad men always crops up in every story.

Speaker 5 (19:20):
Less moonves to remind people the former head of CBS
who was then pushed out over egregious sexual harass.

Speaker 1 (19:28):
Yes, yes, it's just a reminder that the bad men
are everywhere. So one other thing I just want to
mention here because I think it is wild, is that
when I was researching this story, I found that it
had become such a huge story at the time that
it inspired not one, but two Harvard Business School cases.

Oh really about how as a leader you should handle
a crisis like this.

Speaker 2 (19:54):
So oh fascinating. This really did.

Speaker 1 (19:56):
Capture the national attention, far beyond the local New York
story that it might have been in a different world.

Speaker 5 (20:19):
It's so interesting because this is the kind of stuff
that now plays out all the time, yes, and is
probably tackled much more quickly, So it's interesting to think
about how that has shifted. It's just so much more common.
I think now for big companies to be put under
pressure by the public and then advertisers to make a

decision about a thing that happened.

Speaker 1 (20:42):
It's interesting because on the one hand, I think that's true,
but then I think about like a Joe Rogan on
Spotify and how Spotify has basically just kind of let
Joe Rogan do whatever he wants. And I think the
other way in which the landscape has shifted is that
there's an expectation that certain people are going to be
who they are, and so we don't get as much
backlash if a Joe Rogan says something, but obviously if

a mainstream network TV person says something, that's going to
have a different impact. But there are different rules for
different people now in a way that I don't think
existed then, because there's how many listeners are yours? How
much money are you bringing him for the platform? I
mean that was the whole thing with Joe Rogan, right right, Well,
with Joe Rogan, Spotify doesn't rely on advertising, right, so

they make their own decision about what happens on it's
hard to prussure them. Yeah, So it's interesting and look,
I think you can look at even Tucker Carlson. Advertisers
left Tucker Carlson in droves when he was at Fox News.
But that's not what finally got him fired, right, What
finally got empired is that, by all accounts, Super Murdoch
finally got sick of him pushing conspiracy theories.

Speaker 5 (21:49):
Okay, so you mentioned that the team did agree to
meet with Don Ims. I imagine that must have been crazy.
Did that happen? What exactly happened at that meeting? And
what do we know about it? So the meeting did happen.

Speaker 1 (22:03):
Coincidentally, the meeting was scheduled for the evening of the
day he ends up getting fired. So the meeting happens
also eight days after he made the initial comments, and
it's a pre arranged meeting with the coach, Vivian Springer,
and the whole team at the New Jersey Governor's mansion.

Speaker 2 (22:22):
Oh wow, it's at the Governor's at.

Speaker 1 (22:24):
The governor's mansion. But strangely, the governor never makes it
to the meeting. As a weird aside, he gets in
a car accident on the way.

Speaker 2 (22:32):
Oh and it is like injured.

Speaker 1 (22:34):
So they have the meeting without him, So he's not involved,
but it's at the governor's mansion.

Speaker 5 (22:38):
But that is interesting that this has made it to
the highest level of state politics.

Speaker 2 (22:42):
Yes, yes, definitely.

Speaker 1 (22:43):
And I think also New Jersey really rallied around this team,
like they felt real pride in them as they were
making their way up to the Final four, So I
think they felt protective of them, right, So it became
a New Jersey story in that way. So the meeting
lasts about three to four hours.

Speaker 2 (23:00):
That's long.

Speaker 1 (23:01):
Yeah, it's a long meeting, and I think a lot
of people on the team talk and afterwards i Miss
leaves without commenting, but Stringer does say that the meeting
went well and that i Miss apologized and that they
accepted his apology because he came to the meeting in
spite of the fact that he'd lost his job, So
they give him credit for that, or at least coach

Stringer gives him credit for that. And she also makes
the point that the basketball team had not called for
i Miss to be fired.

Speaker 2 (23:31):
Yeah, that's pretty interesting, right.

Speaker 1 (23:33):
I think that is interesting and worth noting because you
get this sense that even as all of this is
playing out, she's conscious of not wanting the team to
be blamed. She doesn't want to be responsible for whatever
happened to him again, because I think they're conscious of
this possibility that there will be backlash, that somehow this
will kind of push back on them.

Speaker 5 (23:55):
Well, and also at the end of the day, probably
she's just trying to stay in her lank like this.
This is a team, this is an athletic team. These
are girls. They'd never wanted to be weighing in on
national racial politics in the first place.

Speaker 2 (24:08):
That's correct. I think that is definitely part of it.

Speaker 1 (24:11):
She's just like, I'm just protecting my team and I
don't want to be blamed for whatever decisions other people
need to make about this. The team has not talked
about this meeting very much. They've never really spoken about
what happened. But I did ask Essence what the meeting
was like from her perspective, and this is what she
told me.

Speaker 3 (24:30):
I felt like we got what we needed to say
off of our chests, each and every one of us.
We shared what we needed to share, what we wanted
to share about how we were feeling about what it caused,
and really allow him to put a faith to those characters,
because essentially he diminished us and it made us characters, right,

So I think that at that time we were able
to kind of humanize ourselves as much as we could, right,
as much as he cared.

Speaker 5 (25:08):
It's so interesting to think of them all there together
and what Essence is saying is still pretty graceful and
giving this guy a lot of grace in going to
this meeting, and you know, wanting to show that they're
real people, not going in and being like fuck you.

Speaker 1 (25:25):
Yeah, Well, we don't really know what happened in the meeting.
Imus did eventually talk a bit about this meeting, and
he did say that one of the player's moms really
was very mad at him and really expressed to him
in ways that made it clear to him that what
he had done wasn't okay and wasn't funny. And he said,

it was good that I lost my job before this meeting,
because it didn't feel like I was just there to
try and save my job. I was really there to apologize,
and I was grateful that they accepted it.

Speaker 2 (25:59):
And I guess, to his credit, he could have canceled
the meeting.

Speaker 1 (26:02):
I think he genuinely did feel very shamed by this chapter,
and he said afterwards he made a promise to them
that he would not make them regret for giving him
because they had accepted an apology, and I think for
the most part, he did try and live up to that.
But whatever his regrets, it did not stop him from

suing CBS for forty million dollars claiming wrongful termination.

Speaker 2 (26:28):
So his regrets did not last very long. Did he
get that money? He got a lot of it.

Speaker 1 (26:34):
CBS announced a settlement with him for an undisclosed amount
in August, so this happened in April, so not that
many months later, and the reporting at the time was
that he got ten to twenty million dollars.

Speaker 2 (26:45):

Speaker 1 (26:46):
That same day, one of the Rutgers basketball players, Kia Vaughn,
who went on to play for the WNBA, filed a
suit against I Miss, his executive producer, and all the
media companies involved, citing slander and libel and defamation of character. Okay,
and she was the only one to pursue legal damages.
But you get the sense that they did really just
want to move on. So a month later, she drops

the lawsuit saying she just wants to concentrate on our
studies and basketball training. And I think they do just
move on from this and try not to talk about
it much afterwards.

Speaker 2 (27:19):
And so where does don Imus go from here?

Speaker 1 (27:22):
Well, Jessica, you might be surprised to know that I
Miss was back on the air at another network, WABC,
by the end of that same year, in a deal
that was reportedly worth five to eight billion dollars a year.
It may also surprise you to know that his first
guest included Pulitzer Prize winning historian Doris Kurns Goodwin and

Senator John McCain. So it really didn't last long the backlash,
and on his first show back, he described that meeting
with the team and said the things that I just
mentioned about how it made him realize that it wasn't funny.
He diversified his show, he added some black comedians to
his existing crew, and to give you an idea of

how much he did or didn't change, he ended his
opening monologue by saying this, but.

Speaker 2 (28:13):
Other than that, not much has change.

Speaker 9 (28:17):
Dick Cheney is still a war criminal, Hillary Clinton is
still Satan, and I'm back on the radio.

Speaker 2 (28:29):

Speaker 5 (28:29):
So he's clearly signaling to his audience that sure he
may have changed in this one realm, but he's still
the same guy. Who calls Hillary Clinton satan. Yes, I
mean it is interesting because it's like, Okay, can people
make in his case, racist mistakes, apologize, do the work

as we like to say, and move forward, or can
they not? Like it is an interesting question. Should he
have been kept off there forever? This seems pretty quick.

Speaker 1 (29:03):
It's just indicative of the fact that while he did
get his hands slapped, he didn't really lose that much.
Right in the end, maybe he lost some amount of money,
but in the numbers we're talking about here, tens of
millions of dollars, whatever that money was, didn't make a
dent in his overall wealth. And honestly, I think the

thing that's more interesting is that it didn't take long
for him to fully rehabilitate his image. Almost a year
to the date of the original comments, Jesse Jackson, who
had literally been one of the people leading protests and
calling for as firing, appeared on his show Okay to
discuss the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther

King Junior. Which you may know that Jesse Jackson was
there when Mlking Jr. Was assassinated and that booking would
have seemed impossible a year before. So it is an
interesting question of how long does it take to rehabilitate,
or what is considered rehabilitation. But frankly, this feels like
it wasn't much. Within a year he was already sort

of buddying up with the people who had been calling
for accountability.

Speaker 5 (30:12):
Did Jesse Jackson ever talk about why he made the
decision to go back on I.

Speaker 1 (30:16):
Think the honest answer is people wanted access to his platform.
It's why people went on before knowing exactly who he was.
You know, in the end, access to power is extremely seductive,
and I think that's what the Imus story is. In
a lot of ways, people really tolerated a lot from
don Imus things they knew weren't okay even before these comments,

because they wanted access to his platform. And I assume
for Jesse Jackson, whatever he may have said at the time,
that was essentially the same reason he decided it was
okay to move forward.

Speaker 2 (30:49):
With this guy.

Speaker 5 (30:50):
Okay, So this is all interesting, But to what extent
do you think he actually did mean it when he
told the players, I am not going to make you
regret having accepted my apology.

Speaker 2 (31:02):
I mean, I think to some degree he did.

Speaker 1 (31:04):
I actually asked Essence about this, and she was like,
I don't know, man, I did not continue to follow
this man's career when this was over. I hit this
chapter away and like, I just didn't care to track him.
And I think that's very fair on her part. I
think he made an effort not to use really racially
charged language. What was in his heart? I mean, I

think we just don't know. There were a couple smaller
incidents where he denied the kind of racial undertones that
other people saw in them, So I do think he
was under scrutiny.

Speaker 2 (31:39):
And did he ever talk about it again.

Speaker 1 (31:41):
He did address the comments again in twenty eighteen, so
I miss passed in twenty nineteen. But he retired from
his show in twenty eighteen, so that gives you a
sense of how much longer he was on the air.
He went back on the air in two thousand and
seven and stayed on for eleven more years, And he
gave an interview to CBS Sunday Morning when he retired,
which also just gives you an idea of how much

his image was rehabilitated. Right that CBS Sunday Morning ran
this glowing profile of him upon his retirement, and when
the correspondent asked him if he had any regrets, he
said that the Rutgers thing, that's how he framed it,
the Rutgers thing, I regret.

Speaker 2 (32:18):
The correspondent asked, what do you regret about it?

Speaker 1 (32:20):
And he just said, because I know better, And he
also added that it was because it changes thinking about
making fun of some people who didn't necessarily have a
mechanism to defend themselves. I mean, I don't know if
it's the kind of deep regret I might have expressed
in this.

Speaker 5 (32:39):
Well, it's interesting, and he says because he knew better,
which sort of hints at he knew it was bad
at the time.

Speaker 1 (32:46):
Well, and I think also he just genuinely always resisted
the idea that he was racist in any way, that
the things he did had racist implications. Like so much
of the way he defended himself at the time was
to be like, I am not a racist. And you know,
that doesn't really inspire the sense that he did a

lot of self reflection, because obviously a man who feels
comfortable saying the N word and also just like spewing
out this kind of casual racism all the time does
have some racism to contend with. I just think that
this idea that when you're confronted with something about yourself,
you get to just say, that's not true about me.
I just said a bad thing, but it doesn't mean

anything about what I actually believe or who I actually am.

Speaker 2 (33:34):
That kind of does feel like a cop out.

Speaker 1 (33:36):
So I don't know that he ever fully came to
understand what this episode meant for him. I don't know
if narcissists are capable of that.

Speaker 2 (33:52):
Okay, I'm sick of Vimus. Yeah, fair, Let's go back
to the players. I want to know what became of
race players where well, Jess.

Speaker 1 (34:01):
Unlike a lot of stories we tell here, I'm happy
to report that this story does have a happy ending.
So Vivian Stringer would go on to become one of
the most successful college basketball coaches of all time. She
was the first coach in men's or women's basketball history
to take three different schools to the Final Four. She
was the fifth women's basketball coach to reach a thousand

career wins, and she was the first black coach to
achieve that goal. So she is an icon in college sports,
and just an icon in women's sports. And I think
is retired now from Rutgers, but is a beloved figure there.
So she had a great career. Essence had an amazing career. Also,
she was drafted by the New York Liberty when she

graduated from Ruckers.

Speaker 2 (34:45):
She went on to have a long and successful basketball career.

Speaker 1 (34:48):
Has played for a number of other WNBA teams and
the US national team, and she played overseas for some time.
And now she's a music executive, so she's doing great.
Kiya Vonn, who you may remember as the students who
she did try and sue him briefly. She would go
on to be drafted by the New York Liberty when
she graduated.

Speaker 5 (35:06):
I didn't realize so many of these original Ruckers players
were on the Liberty.

Speaker 1 (35:10):
Yeah, well a lot of them just went on to
the WNBA. Kia eventually would go on to other WNBA
teams and play internationally, and she helped win championships for
some of the teams she played on in Europe. She
retired in twenty twenty two, so not that long ago,
and she works for the Atlanta Dream Now. I love
that there were other players who joined the WNBA. Epiphany Prince,
who was one of the players won the WNBA Championship

in twenty twenty with the Seattle Storm.

Speaker 2 (35:35):
Oh my hometown. That's so interesting. I didn't realize.

Speaker 5 (35:38):
Yeah, this was like team in New York. Yeah, and
the Storm my hometown.

Speaker 2 (35:43):
Yeah. I mean, I think.

Speaker 1 (35:44):
That's the thing, right, is that this was a truly
remarkable team.

Speaker 2 (35:48):
You know.

Speaker 1 (35:48):
That is the story that sometimes got lost in the
coverage of this at the time. And others went on
to have other careers finance, healthcare, hospitality, whatever. But they
had the lives they always were meant to have, and
they didn't let this chapter derail them. And I think
that is a really nice way to end it. And
you know, I want to let Essence have the last

word here about what she took away from this experience.

Speaker 3 (36:13):
It showed that you can have a voice, no matter
how small you are, even if it's just you yourself.
You can have a voice, and you don't have to
be the subject of anyone's jokes. You don't have to
be labeled that angry black woman. You can speak with eloquence,

you can convey your thoughts in a way, in a
manner in which hits home with people. You can focus
on the similarities between individuals to bring people together rather
than focus on the differences in order to drive them
further apart. You can be great in your own right

no matter what it is that you do, and if
you are given talent that you're born with, right, please
make sure that you use it for good. I think
it just kind of changed with my outlook on life
moving forward. Would be a part of the purpose. It
changed all those things, and it happened at an early age.

Would I rewrite the story? No, I wouldn't, because then
I wouldn't be who I am today and I wouldn't
have the effect on people the way that I do
just from learned experiences. If I can use what I
went through to help someone else, definitely would.

Speaker 2 (37:33):
That's just a part of who I am now. That
feels like a really nice place to end it.

Speaker 1 (37:40):
Yeah, it does feel like a good place to end it.
And I just want to thank Essence again for talking
to me. I know that this is not a subject
you love talking about, and I really feel like we
learned so.

Speaker 2 (37:49):
Much from her.

Speaker 5 (37:53):
Susie, you have a pretty personal episode coming up next week.
What are we talking about?

Speaker 1 (37:57):
So next week I'm going to talk to my friend
and fellow portista Kakpor, who is a best selling author,
and we're going to talk about the movie Not Without
My Daughter, which was really one of the only representations
of Iranians in popular culture when we were growing up,
and so we have a lot of opinions about it.

Speaker 10 (38:16):
Okay, so people to ask me if have you seen it?
I'd be like, yeah, yeah, of course, and then sometimes
they would watch it and then they'd be like, Wow,
this is such a terrible movie. Why doesn't everyone just
ignore it? Except the era made it so that we
couldn't forget it.

Speaker 2 (38:32):
This is in retrospect. Thanks for listening.

Speaker 1 (38:35):
Is there a pop culture moment you can't stop thinking
about and want us to explore in a future episode.
Email us at in retropod at gmail dot com or
find us on Instagram at in retropod.

Speaker 5 (38:46):
If you love this podcast, please rate and review us
on Apple or Spotify or wherever you listen. If you
hate it, you can post nasty comments on our Instagram,
which we may or may not delete.

Speaker 1 (38:55):
You can also find us on Instagram at Jessica Bennett
and at Susie b NYC. Also check out Jessica's books
Feminist Fight Club and This is.

Speaker 5 (39:03):
Eighteen in Retrospect is a production of iHeart Podcasts and
The Media. Lauren Hanson is our supervising producer. Derek Clements
is our engineer and sound designer. Emily Meronoff is our producer.
Sharan Atia is our researcher and associate producer.

Speaker 1 (39:19):
Our executive producer from the media is Cindy Levy. Our
executive producers from iHeart are Anna Stump and Katrina Norbel.
Our artwork is from Pentagram. Our mixing engineer is Amanda
Rose Smith. Additional editing help from Mary Do. We are
your hosts Susie Bannacarum.

Speaker 2 (39:36):
And Jessica Bennett.

Speaker 5 (39:37):
We are also executive producers for even more check out
inretropod dot com.

Speaker 2 (39:43):
See you next week.
Advertise With Us

Popular Podcasts

Dateline NBC
Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

Every week comedian and infamous roaster Nikki Glaser provides a fun, fast-paced, and brutally honest look into current pop-culture and her own personal life.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.