Friday, April 13, 2007

Clinton Exploits Rutgers Women for Political Gain

New York Senator Hillary Clinton wasted no time exploiting the Rutgers women's basketball team for her own political gain.

Clinton announced yesterday that she will visit Rutgers next week to address the Imus issue at the Eagleton Center for American Women and Politics. "The Eagleton Center for American Women and Politics had a standing invitation for her and we felt that it would be an appropriate time to discuss the role of women in society given all that is happening," a campaign spokesperson said.

Facing increasing public scrutiny, CBS Radio fired Imus, and the entire fiasco has sparked a fierce debate over racism, sexism, free speech, and decency in American media. After meeting with Imus at the New Jersey Governor's mansion Thursday night, the team announced that they have accepted Imus's apology.

So what's wrong with Senator Clinton showing her support for these young ladies? Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock offers some of the most clear-eyed commentary on this issue.

Below are Whitlock's remarks on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, with emphasis added.

"This whole thing has made nearly physically ill. Listening to this fact that this man is having a meeting at the governor's mansion, and women are crying about a man they probably didn't even know two weeks ago, who said some words they didn't even hear -- someone had to repeat to him -- who has no relevancy in the sports world, and he's having a meeting in the governor's office, with tears being shed, as if he is so powerful, one white man that they don't know is so powerful, he can destroy their dreams, their happiness?

That is just a falsehood that has to be rejected by the black community. Don Imus, nor is any white man so powerful -- the white man is not God. He is not that powerful that he can steal your happiness and your joy and your ability to be successful here in America. It's a terrible message we're sending, these kids all over the country: Play the victim. We will put you on "Oprah." We will celebrate you. Give you all this media attention. And we will make people come to the governor's office to apologize to you. And we must reject this notion that, somehow, Don Imus or someone is so powerful, he can steal your joy."

Cheers, Mr. Whitlock.

Let's have a quick reality check. Imus is syndicated on 61 stations nationally with a total audience right around 2 million people. The Rutger's women's basketball team, in their championship game versus Tennessee, drew a 1.8 Nielsen rating nationally, roughly equivalent to Imus's audience.

Granted, Rutgers played in one championship game while Imus is on the airwaves every day. The women's basketball audience is not enormous, and the NCAA is considering changes to the tournament schedule to bring more attention to women's games. Yet these numbers certainly attest to the fact that the Rutger's team commands an audience of its own, and one that's sure to grow after their appearance on Oprah.

To draw so much attention to Imus's ignorant comments sends the false message that one ancient, bigoted white male can steal the thunder of an entire team of talented student athletes. The media circus surrounding the remarks has only amplified Imus's audience exponentially.

Hillary Clinton, with her trip to Rutgers, legitimizes the notion that Imus's remarks carry weight. Scrambling for votes, Clinton is implying that Imus's words have power, and moreover, that he is too powerful for the Rutgers team to handle on their own.

Senator Clinton, the American public knows what you're up to here.