Radical media, politics and culture.

"Canadian Probe Over Aired Arab Slurs"

"Canadian Probe Over Aired Arab Slurs:

Arafat Mourners Derided on MSNBC"

Antonia Zerbisias, Toronto Star

The all-news MSNBC, which recently got the go-ahead for unrestricted access to Canada's digital dial, may have run afoul of our hate laws when its Imus In The Morning advocated dropping a bomb on Palestinians to "kill 'em all."

Both the RCMP and the federal broadcast watchdog are on the case, investigating complaints from some two dozen Canadians.They include Paul Jay, best known as the independent producer behind CBC Newsworld's recently cancelled counterSpin.

"I watched (Imus) and immediately I was outraged," he told me yesterday.

Morning jock Don Imus, whose syndicated shock-talk radio show is simulcast on MSNBC, was probably just joking when he and his crew made racist, derogatory remarks during coverage of Yasser Arafat's funeral on Nov. 12.

But many Americans, and obviously a few Canadians, weren't laughing when they caught this exchange between Imus, his sports anchor Sid Rosenberg and their producer Bernard McGuirk over images of the crowds mourning the death of the Palestinian leader.

IMUS: They're (Palestinians) eating dirt and that fat pig wife (Suha Arafat) of his is living in Paris.

ROSENBERG: They're all brainwashed, though. That's what it is. And they're stupid to begin with, but they're brainwashed now. Stinking animals. They ought to drop the bomb right there, kill 'em all right now.

McGUIRK: You can just imagine standing there.

ROSENBERG: Oh, the stench.

IMUS: Well, the problem is that we have Andrea (Mitchell, NBC foreign correspondent) there. We don't want anything to happen to her.

ROSENBERG: Oh, she's got to get out. Just warn Andrea, get out, and then drop the bomb, kill everybody.

McGUIRK: It's like the worst Woodstock.

ROSENBERG: Look at this. Look at these animals. Animals!

"We have commenced an investigation," confirmed RCMP constable Howard Adams.

"We've received in the vicinity of 22-25 complaints; we're looking into them," said Philippe Tousignant, a spokesperson for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

In the U.S., the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) complained and, last week, received an apology from MSNBC.

"The views expressed on the program are not those of MSNBC," said the channel. "Having said that, it was unfortunate that these remarks were telecast on MSNBC. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by these remarks."

But, between the complaint and the apology, the Imus show aired more offensive comments.

(For transcripts and video, go here.)

If it turns out that the Imus show broke Canadian laws — and advocating the death of an ethnic group certainly qualifies — then somebody, either from the cable and satellite companies who carry the channel, or Rogers and Shaw Cable, who jointly hold the licence for MSNBC Canada, may face a prison sentence of up to five years.

But Jan Innes, vice-president of Rogers Communications, told me yesterday that she wasn't even aware of the investigation: "We didn't get a single complaint."

Which is not surprising since most people wouldn't know Rogers was partly responsible for the channel, now seen in some 316,000 Canadian households via satellite and cable. And, just to complicate matters, MSNBC Canada is no more.

Thanks to a recent CRTC decision, the original MSNBC signal from the U.S. will be transmitted unimpeded here, without Canadian content interruptions.

"As of (tomorrow), we will no longer be officially responsible for the channel," said Innes.

Just the same, all the companies that distributed the Imus program's offending remarks are, like any publisher, liable.

"The issue is will Canada exercise sovereignty on this question or not," said Jay. "I think charges should be laid against the hosts, so if they ever come to Canada, they can be arrested. The CRTC should move to have this show either removed from the Canadian broadcast or the hosts should be fired. Certainly this is what would happen to a Canadian broadcaster."

Well, yes.

In fact, in the case of the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera, hate speech against Jews got it effectively banned in Canada even before it was launched here. After intense lobbying by community groups, the channel got the go-ahead for Canadian carriage last July, but with so many restrictions that no Canadian distributor will pick it up.

This month, the CRTC also gave the green light to Fox News, which has the same limits as MSNBC and CNN.

As for Imus, his in-your-face, Howard Stern pseudo style is ill-suited to a supposedly serious news channel co-owned by NBC News and Microsoft.

And this isn't the first time he's run afoul of Arab-Americans. According to CAIR, he has called Arabs "goat-humping weasels" and has repeatedly referred to them as "ragheads."

You'd think MSNBC and NBC could do better than this.