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Special Report Roundtable - April 12

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


STEVE CAPUS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENT: All kinds of voices raised all across the country. A nerve was touched. Advertisers, people on the outside, but the voices I heard loudest were the people who work for us at NBC News.


HUME: And not, Steve Capus was asked that the advertisers were pulling the plugs that brought about the decision to cancel the Imus the Imus program, well he said, "What price to you put on your reputation and the reputation of this news division means more to me than advertising dollars."

A similar statement came out of CBS News today when, after a meeting with Al Sharpton, well let's listen to what Al Sharpton had to say about that meeting.


REV AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We do not intend to be silent. We do not intend to be quiet. And we intend to organize and mobilize until Mr. Imus is gone.


HUME: Well, by the end of the afternoon Mr. Imus was indeed gone. Now, the CBS statement by Les Moonves, the president and CEO of the company, did not make preference to Al Sharpton.

It said: "In our meetings with concerned groups, there has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society. That consideration has weighted most heavily on our minds as we made our decision, as have the many e-mails, phone calls, and personal discussions we have had with our colleagues across the CBS Corporation and our many other constituencies."

So you see, panel, this was all done for what the best of reasons were. Some thoughts on this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Was anybody -- was anybody describing their reasons here, telling the truth in your judgment?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Brit, I mean, the easy to say it is this, for years and years Imus was on saying these offensive things, perhaps not quite as racially offensive as his remark about the Rutgers women's basketball team, but offensive. And I mean, this was his style, he was a shock jock. And there were a lot of complaints, but nothing happened. Now this time, what's the difference?

Advertisers bailed and so the show's of NBC and off CBS, so, I mean, look, that is the big difference. And I don't blame them. I don't blame the networks if the advertisers bail, they're not going to put the shows on and lose money on it, so -- but you ought to admit it.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: You know, I said a couple of times that he was not a serial racist that he hadn't done this repeatedly. Well, Tim Noah of Slate magazine has a little compendium of all the examples. And you know, Gwen Ifill we talked about the other day, he called her a "cleaning lady." He calls the New York Knicks "chest thumping pimps." He calls -- he's a lot of anti-Jewish slurs, he called our colleague, Howard Kurtz, a "boner nosed, beanie-wearing Jew-boy."

Now, this has been going on for years and years and years. Clarence Page was on there one day and made him pledge -- and he started make jokes about it, that he wouldn't call black athletes "monkeys" any more, you know, like that.

So, the wonder is that he's lasted this long and, you know, that so many of our colleagues and so many of your politicians, John McCain, Joe Lieberman, for heaven sakes, who's made a career out of criticizing sleazy dealings in Hollywood, and stuff like that, has been on the show repeatedly. And all these advertisers keep going on. So, I say good riddance. The problem is that there's Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio. Sirius gave Howard Stern, that potty-mouth, $200 million. I'm afraid that Imus will walk to the bank.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yeah, I think Imus will get another job. So, that's not the issue, although I think there are lots of people and I anticipate there'll be a backlash of sympathy -- people saying, oh, he's a victim of political correctness, the kind of thing you heard out of Moonves and Steve Capus.

But, my sense of what you have here is was that the market spoke. And you have a market in which -- you know it's interesting, you look at the guy who runs -- Ken Chenault, who runs American Express, they pulled their ads, Ken Chenault is black. I think there are a lot of people, in American corporate positions, wouldn't have been their generation ago, who now have some say, have voice over people like Imus. And I think Imus just didn't anticipate that.

The second thing to say is here, and I think it's so obvious, there's so much of this rap music trash out here, that's equally offensive, that's just damaging in terms of the whole conversation, but it allows people like Imus to say, well, hey why are you holding me responsible? Go listen to the stuff that black people are saying about black people, themselves.

HUME: What about that?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, and -- part that, to my mind, is also the sadness of seeing Al Sharpton out there, because I think lots of people could think it's the same old dance, with Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson putting pressure on CBS and that's the reason they had to let him go. And you know, Al Sharpton will get some advertising for his show or some deal will be made. You know, that's not what this is about. This really was, I think, an American cultural moment and I think the people just...

HUME: So you don't really think that Sharpton and Jackson were a factor in this?

WILLIAMS: I don't. But the fact is it's a business decision.

HUME: Well, let me ask this question: The chronology of events seem to be worth exploring. He said this thing a week ago, Wednesday. On Friday he apologized on the air, and at that moment, if the high commands at CBS and NBC were deeply offended, we -- one would think they would have been offended by then. And then Monday rolled around and it was then -- that was the day, I guess, he went on -- Monday or Tuesday he went on the Al Sharpton's radio show with TV cameras present. Wasn't that the moment when the thing mushroomed, though? I mean wasn't his own participation in the...

BARNES: It must have been before that. I think Juan's not giving Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson at least amount of credit they deserve, and that is, look, they raised it to a much higher level.

WILLIAMS: That's true.

BARNES: And made it a national issue and then the networks and the advertiser had to respond. So, they did play a role.

HUME: Let me ask this question. Suppose, Juan, that Imus had issued his apology on Friday and then stopped talking about it? And we, you'd a had complaints about it, but he hadn't fed the story at all. Would he be gone now? Or was it the -- not what he said, but the scandal that ensued that did it?

WILLIAMS: I think it was the ensuing cultural tide. I think the tide just kept getting higher and higher. I think it was fuel -- Fred says we have to give credit to Sharpton, to Jackson. You know, that's the one role they played.

HUME: At least responsibility.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, they can attract a microphone; they can attract a TV camera. I just happen to think they come with a lot of baggage, Fred. They're not exactly, you know, paragons of morality and American conscious, these people have acted in scurrilous manners in past scandals, you know? (INAUDIBLE)

BARNES: I'm known as an apologist...

WILLIAMS: That's all I'm saying.

KONDRACKE: Look, they did keep this story along...


HUME: well and effectively as they did without the participation of Imus himself.

WILLIAMS: No, but I don't think it was Imus, I think the appearance by that girl's basket team, and they were on for a long time on cable channels, you know, and they spoke very intelligently. These were no roughhouse kids, these were university women who had really performed well and I think a lot of people said, wait a second, that could be my daughter.

KONDRACKE: But you know something, I think that Jackson and Sharpton should be called out to join the Juan Williams-Bill Cosby team, going after rap music. If there's going to be a cultural moment here, let's make it a real cultural moment and deal with the vile stuff that really does affect the image of women in the black community.

HUME: When we come back with the panel, GOP presidential candidate John McCain has his second day in the sun, but maybe not the best day for him. More from the all-stars, next.


HUME: Back with our panel now, let's go to this question of the bombing that occurred today inside the Green Zone, at least eight are dead. This comes on the day after John McCain made this carefully prepared and impassioned appeal to stay the course in Iraq. Let's listen to a little bit of what John McCain said about that bombing.


SEN JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Spectacular bombings such as we saw today are horrific, and they're terrible and they are heart- rending, but it doesn't really signify the kind of progress that I think we are making very slowly, and we will have the ability to make. Look, I'm not guaranteeing success. I think we can succeed, but I guarantee the consequences of failure and they far transcend this political back and forth that you're trying to get me to respond to now.


HUME: All right panel, what about this issue? This gives you an example of the kind of headwinds that somebody sales into when he paints a picture of -- even what he calls early and tentative progress in this conflict.

BARNES: We have to realize this, of course, and the architects, David Petraeus, in particular, the general in charge over there of counterinsurgency has pointed out when you apply this and take over neighborhoods and you leave people there, and -- you going to have more violence in the beginning. We have more troops there, they're doing more, they're attacking al Qaeda and other insurgents in Baghdad and outside Baghdad. That means you're going to have more violence and obviously, al Qaeda is fighting back and this is an example of it inside the Green Zone.

KONDRACKE: This was a spectacular -- I mean, this was inside the Green Zone, in the parliament. I mean...

HUME: It looked like an inside job.

KONDRACKE: Through -- well, several layers of security. But the explosives had to get in there somehow and it had to be with the participation or the failure of the -- of the security guards there. So, it raises questions about the -- again, about the competence of the government. And it just...

HUME: Well, there is American guards in there, too.

KONDRACKE: I know and it just feeds the opponents of the...

HUME: We get that -- Juan.

WILLIAMS: I mean, let's look at it from a political position, here. Even if the surge proves to be successful, I don't think it's going to prove to be successful even by Senator McCain's calculation for four, maybe five years. That's not enough time for him politically to gain from it. He does appeal to some of the base.


WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know if four or five months is enough time to really measure its success and he needs to really now make an impression especially with the base of the Republican Party. This is a big risk for John McCain. And you can say it's courageous, it really is a risk at a time when the war is not popular.

KONDRACKE: I mean, it is courageous, but more to the point, I mean, the president doesn't have a lot of time to prove that this is working. And incidents like this hurt the timetable...

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