It was sometimes hard to figure out who was working harder last week: The critics at piling on, or Don Imus in groveling.
As the week ended, the Taliban speech police managed to scare away the talk radio jock's support and his radio affiliation in spite of all his begging and pleading for forgiveness.
Sure, Imus' "nappy headed ho's" line was racist, sexist and stupid. The only surprise is that anyone is surprised. A format built totally on ad lib commentary invites such irresponsible blather because it is designed to be provocative.
At least the business with Imus took only a week or so to run its nauseating course.
Not so with another off-the-cuff remark. Though it's more than two years old, it's just been rediscovered.
Or, at least, the phony indignation over it has.
Back in December 2004, state Sen. Jim Whitehead was meeting with a group of lawmakers and educators at the other end of his district, up in Elberton. They were discussing funding options for public schools, and one of those options on the table was the sales tax.
Some school systems had just filed suit against the state, arguing that funding formulas for education were inequitable, especially to small systems. Lawmakers had been kicking around the idea of replacing the property-tax funding of schools with an additional statewide sales tax.
Told that some University of Georgia professors object to the "regressive" nature of the sales tax, Whitehead had an eye-rolling reaction. He had a few things to say about liberal professors, and deadpanned that except for the UGA football team - for which Whitehead played during his college days - the place ought to be bombed.
Oh, the calamity that followed.
Predictably, the tender sensibilities of college professors - who, like Al Sharpton, are always on the lookout for opportunities to be shocked and offended - were thus shocked and offended.
Whitehead reminded them that it was a joke. I reminded them that it was a joke. Anyone without a brain fried by the rarified air of the ivory towers of academia and the job-protections of tenure reminded them that it was a joke.
Humorlessness being the favored refuge of the perpetually indignant, the professors huffed and puffed until they finally found some other pointless cause over which they could furrow their brows. So they moved on.
The world also moved on. Two years passed. Charlie Norwood died. Jim Whitehead announced his intention to run for Norwood's 10th District congressional seat.
In hopes of beating Whitehead, one of the dozen or so candidates also running for the 10th District seat found the comment and resurrected it, and along with it tried really, really hard to resurrect the manufactured indignation in response.
When Columbia County's Democrats held a forum for some of those candidates last Monday, Whitehead's remark came up again, providing brief fodder for phony outrage.
Folks, this doesn't even qualify as beating a dead horse; this is flailing at the shadow of the bones of a dead horse.
It was a joke. A stupid joke, sure, and one that Whitehead himself - back when the issue was actually relevant - readily admitted was inappropriate. But that's it. The end.
Two things are now painfully obvious from all this:
First, if this is the best his opponents can come up with, they are absolutely scared to death that Whitehead is going to bomb them at the polls; and,
"Nappy-Headed Hos" would be an awesome name for a rock band.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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