Week in Review: Imus, the Duke Lacrosse Case

In this week's news: radio show host Don Imus loses his job, all charges are dismissed in the Duke lacrosse players case, another deadly week in Iraq, the United States extends military tours for service personnel and Sudan's Darfur region is at the heart of protests against Steven Spielberg's involvement with the Chinese government.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

This week, the news has been full of debates over race, racism and offensive language. From Don Imus' remarks to an alleged rape in North Carolina that prosecutors now say never happened.

Joining us to talk about these and other top stories of the week is NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Hello, Dan.

DAN SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Don Imus, he ends the week jobless. What happened? How did events unfold?

SCHORR: The phenomenon of Imus is a phenomenon where you have to say how come he makes $10 million or maybe brings in $20 million. In Time magazine, this year, he was one the 25 most influential Americans. What caused all of this is that there was a market for it. The market for outrage, there's a market for sexual innuendo, and not just innuendo for that matter. Having said that, how did this get started?

Well, I think you've suggested how it got started. A basketball game in which the Rutgers team had a chance, they though, of maybe coming out first. They came out second, a very classy team. And you found Imus and his producer on the air, looking at a videotape of the basketball game and making comments.

And the comments they made may have been, kind of, comments they were accustomed to make but it just finally reached that point, as these things will, where all of a sudden, people shrink back and say what have we brought into being here?

SIMON: But why are we laughing at this stuff?

SCHORR: Why are we laughing at this stuff? And why does he have such good ratings? His money comes from ratings.

SIMON: Let me ask about the Duke lacrosse story because for the past year these charges have been bandied about and pilloried, and you have a group of young men who were portrayed as rapists. And now special investigation by the North Carolina attorney general says, in fact, they are innocent, nothing occurred.

SCHORR: Apparently, totally innocent. They have actually proof, where one case they have actually proof of being somewhere else at a time when the prosecutor said there was a rape going on. I mean...

SIMON: So with the advantage of hindsight, is it the media that built this into the story that it wasn't a year ago?

SCHORR: Well let me say it's built through the media. It couldn't happen without the media. And the blogosphere adds something to that and you find now that people are using the media for titillating purposes. And yeah, I think that's the culture we live in today. And I guess we will live in it until the audience says we're sick and tired of this stuff.

SIMON: Looking overseas, frightening week in Iraq. There was a suicide bomber that penetrated the Green Zone. What does this mean for security there and the U.S. mission?

SCHORR: Well everybody boasted of the Green Zone as being unreachable by anybody. It was where the president was at one point. It was the place that nobody could touch. If it's possible to protect any place, then they protected it and it didn't work.

SIMON: Is it - to not many would retract from the seriousness. But this comes at the same time that the AP did a tally and says, quote, "in the two months since the start of U.S.-led crackdown on insurgents in Baghdad, civilian deaths in the capital have fallen."

SCHORR: Well...

SIMON: Are we in the news media letting this outweigh a decrease in deaths elsewhere?

SCHORR: I think it's - even if there was nobody killed in this one case, I think it is the token of being able to get into a heavily guarded place, which is the parliament. The American embassy is not very far from there. If they can do that, they can do anything.

SIMON: Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday that the U.S. Army tour in Iraq will now be extended to 15 months.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: What's the reaction been?

SCHORR: Well the reaction depends on who you are. If you are one of their families, the reaction is quite profound. And the television has brought us pictures of all these past few days since Gates made the announcement. And you sort of wonder how long this goes on, how long do Americans say - Senator McCain says, we haven't hardly started yet. We're going to win this one - how long before - it really is too much for America to abide.

SIMON: I want to talk about Sudan while we have the chance this week. Steven Spielberg, of all people...

SCHORR: Yes...

SIMON: ...might have set some kind of change in motion. He was being criticized. He's the technical adviser to the Chinese government, special effects adviser or something like that, looking forward to when China hosts the Olympics. He's been assailed - I believe Mia Farrow, the actress, even said you are in danger of becoming the Leni Riefenstahl of these Olympics - because China is considered to be fostering the Sudanese government, which is committing genocide in Darfur.

And China has now sent an ambassador...

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: ...in response to Mr. Spielberg's letter. What happened?

SCHORR: Well, what happened is that there was a lot of pressure. The - China is going to have the Olympic games and doesn't want any controversies leading up to these games. There's also something new that I witnessed today only for the first time that Google makes it possible for you to see imagery from above.

SIMON: This is on the Holocaust Museum Web site and it shows, I believe, the scenes of 1,600 massacres from the air.

SCHORR: That's right. That's from the air, and they managed to do that with satellite imagery and so that everybody can see it. You can - on your computer - you can get it yourself. I can't because I'm not good at that. But take a look at it. This is a thing of the future, looking down, from way up here, on people killing people.

SIMON: It's hard to say we don't know then, isn't it?

SCHORR: It makes it harder.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

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