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The Imus & Blakely Show

This past week people around the country have been all atwitter because of some remarks made by Don Imus on his radio show. Here in New Orleans people have been talking about it, just like everywhere else, I suppose. But here in New Orleans people are also talking about remarks made by Dr. Ed Blakely, the man hired by our mayor to manage the recovery.

The Imus controversy boils down to a single phrase. He called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”

(The principal at Xy’s school asked the students why they were upset about Imus. “You say it all the time.” But I digress.)

Blakely’s rhetorical sins more numerous and require a bit more unpacking. In three separate incidents:

  1. Blakely said the real pre-Katrina population of New Orleans was significantly lower than the numbers on the books, that those numbers had been inflated for political purposes. (There’s no evidence this is true.)
  2. He said he’ll be done here in less than a year because the rebuilding will be done by then. (Ludicrous.)
  3. And he was quoted in the New York Times saying a whole bunch of derogatory things about New Orleans. He called the leaders of our city buffoons, he said our economy is a shambles, and that everything here is extremely racialized. He dissed the “right to return” as being about politicians using people for their own gain. Many of his points are actually quite valid, and such criticisms might serve a good purpose if they were made here locally.

Both men have been castigated for their remarks. Both have publicly apologized.

Imus was fired. Blakely can’t be fired. Flawed as he is, he’s our last best hope in the leadership department. If the mayor fired him it would be the equivalent of admitting a complete failure of leadership, which would be honest, but don’t hold your breath.

While Imus’ comments were more patently offensive, I’d say that Blakely’s comments do more real damage. Imus is an entertainer, but Blakely is supposed to be running the recovery of New Orleans.

But all this is simply a long-winded preface to my simple idea:

Blakely should hire Imus as his spokesperson.

He couldn’t do much worse than Blakely’s doing on his own, and he’d probably be more entertaining. And he needs a job, after all.

Together, I bet the two of them could distract the populace to a level never before imagined.

Published inNew OrleansNews & MediaPolitix


  1. No. Blakely is a false profit. He’s not telling the truth.

    Anyone who accepts this behavior on the part of a city official represents a greater problem, not the buffoons, but the people who forgive the buffoons as local color.

  2. You know, you made me aware of something I had not before realized. Blakely’s saying that in the New York Times is pretty F-ed up. It was akin to Natalie Maines saying what she said about Bush overseas. I agree with what both of them said. But, say it where it makes a difference, don’t stand outside and point the finger.

    You are very right about his forum. It was certainly bad. Then again, perhaps he didn’t feel comfortable saying it here. Which is suggestive of how poisonous the atmosphere must be in City Hall. I imagine it’s a snake pit. How much longer until Bastille Day?

  3. Ray M Ray M

    The thing I don’t think some people realize is how people from out of state–and, of course, other parts of the state–see New Orleans. They don’t hear about the incredible work being done by some of the neighborhood organizations here, for instance, or the Lafitte Corridor plans, etc. I lived and taught in non-urban Atlanta Georgia before moving here and can sum up the arguments for you. These arguments come from adults as well as younger people, not all of them by any means but enough of them:

    People here are lazy, have been begging the govt. for help since the day after Katrina and don’t deserve it (because they didn’t have flood insurance, e.g.–this is stated often, despite Louisiana’s ranking No. 1 in NFIP participation), they had the school buses and didn’t use them, we saw those on TV, all they do there is complain, the state should pay for its own citizens, etc. Also, Louisiana is the most corrupt place in the world (I received an unsolicited e-mail at one point noting that Miss. had been the most corrupt–I had no idea as to the accuracy of anything in the e-mail, mind you–but the mail went on and on about Democrats and had more about Louisiana than Miss., conveniently leaving out the fact that Miss.’s governor is the former GOP chair. I imagine this mail was widely circulated.)

    What does Ed do here but play into those impressions, by telling the people who don’t want the government to do anything for New Orleans that they were right along? Those people even rigged their Census numbers!

    Then there’s the widespread impression that New Orleans is a racial battleground akin to nowhere else in America, despite the Imus story proving that America as a whole is as into trivial, buffoonish racial theatrics as anyone here. The U.S. has been in clown show mode with racial matters and 90 percent of all news for a decade or two running now. And I say this as a NOLA “outsider” who agrees that locally-publicized and more politic criticism would be helpful.

  4. Blakely is from Oakland, CA, of course, so anything he says is hardly “local color.” It’s Blakely being Blakely. It’s hardly out of character and I suppose it’s a big reason why he’s had such a successful career. I can take it, but then again, he wasn’t talking about me.

    Can anyone name a New Orleans blogger who doesn’t regularly post on the propensity for acts of buffoonery by our local elected officials and their minions?

    So Blakely calls our local officials and their minions buffoons. And NOLA bloggers lose their sh*t. Puh-lease.

    As far as Blakely making his comments to that out-of-town NYT (and comparing it to the Dixie Chicks! I never realized free speech was so conditional; it’s not very helpful to make free speech a matter of taste), let’s not be so thin skinned. Yes, there’s lots of great stories the national media misses about NOLA, but I don’t know if y’all have ever noticed, there’s plenty of great national stories the national media misses, too. The fact that Blakely did a hit job on NOLA’s political culture might seem reassuring to a national audience, provided we–the locals–were to take it to heart and not just reflexively brush it all off under the guise of “being offended.”

  5. Ray M Ray M

    The Dixie Chicks are not serving in any official leadership capacity. They are also not traveling all over whilst serving in said capacity and talking to reporters about their polity while on vacation or whatever, a la the mayor and the recovery czar. Communicating with the public would be vastly better, and worthy of someone of the czar’s position.

  6. Varg’s right, except badmouthing Bush didn’t hurt America’s recovery from anything. I was at a meeting at a local university last week, when the university president talked about the university’s recovery, he said that selling the city was a bigger challenge than selling the school. Off the record, he said that the mayor already does enough to make that difficult, now we have Blakely’s comments to explain…

    BTW, Imus’ comments have largely been taken out of context. But this time the context makes them even worse. He called them “nappy-headed” to describe what made them “rough-looking.” He went from saying it was there tattoos, something not associated with one particular ethnic group, that made them look like criminals to saying, in effect, that it was there nappy hair that made them look like criminals.

  7. DSB

    Blakely is free to say whatever he wants. I don’t feel that I should pay his salary any longer. That’s all. New Orleans Bloggers can say all they want. Their opinions are their own private, or perhaps sponsored opinions.

    Creating a Office of Recovery Management and appointing someone to lead that office and paying them $150k makes a person accountable for their words and actions. This is not humorous. Nor is it true.

    I don’t believe that anyone who tells me that this is some form of tough love, that he’s speaking the truth. He’s merely pandering, and making excuses for his inability to affect real leadership, by blaming the victims of Katrina and the failed recovery efforts. His efforts so far have not benefited from the least bit of forethought or research. Fast Track Home? Blight Bonds?

    The amount of effort that citizens are pouring into the recovery of New Orleans is tremendous. This is a recovery fueled by personal savings and credit card debt. That is the story that needs to be told. The thousands of people responding to a sense of duty to a sense of place.

  8. nola girl nola girl

    Blakely is right as he can be. THANK GOD he said it. You know what they say…the first stage is denial…then anger… I’m GLAD he said it. It’s the bufoonery, and that is SO the right word, in my hometown that so far has kept us from returning. You might hope that something as mind-blowing as this flood would make folks sit up, look around, and start wondering, uh…maybe we should do something differently here????


    It breaks the hearts of those of us who desperately wanted the buffoonery to stop, like many years ago. But it just won’t go away. It’s in the CULTURE. You can take the good with the bad, but when the bad gets just too bad…

    Once you see things really working in other parts of the country….it’s tough for the super-special good in New Orleans to outweigh the bad. Means we can’t, and probably won’t, come home for good. And it appears that at least 150,000 other pre-Katrina New Orleanians agree with me on this, as evidenced by their non-presence in the city 18 months later.

    Seriously. I’ve been to so-called third world countries that operate more on the up-and-up than New Orleans.

    Blakely is a truthteller. What’s needed is an honest discussion on this — hope it happens, but I won’t hold my breath.. New Orleanians know it, but they just can’t stand to hear it coming from an “outsider” who is trying to help them. Pity. A good electroshock to make people start seeing a bit more clearly and openly is what could mean the difference between the ultimate survival of the city and its good culture or not.

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