Drudge "Reports," We'll Decide

The Drudge Report today is featuring some comments made by CBS' Andy Rooney on the "Imus" program this morning and it's getting some traction in the blogosphere. Here's the one sentence that Drudge puts on his site:
"I have a problem with the term African American ... The word negro is a perfectly good word. There is nothing wrong with that."
That happens to be an incorrect quote, one that serves Drudge's need for hype.

I guess the implication is that Rooney made some controversial or politically-incorrect comments about race. While it's not beyond Rooney's candor and style to do that, I think this exchange is far more benign than what Drudge would have you think. The discussion began as host Don Imus was referencing a frequent guest, Congressman Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) and noted that Ford is African-American. Here's the transcript

Rooney: "I object every time I hear the words 'African-American,' you know? I don't know why we have gotten caught with that."

Imus: "Yeah, I don't either."

Rooney: "I mean, am I an 'Irish-American?'"

Imus: "What should I say, just 'black' right?"

Rooney: "Well, I don't think there's anything wrong with 'black.' Growing up, it's funny how words get to be opprobrious. The word 'negro,' perfectly good word. It's a strong word and a good word. I don't see anything wrong with that. Mostly it's not necessary to identify anyone by skin color. But I don't care for 'African-American.'"

Imus: "I won't use it anymore."

Drudge makes no comments, simply leaves snippets of the exchange hanging out there at the top of the page to give his many visitors an inaccurate impression of Rooney's meaning. You may disagree with Rooney's thinking on the issue but it's a legitimate point of discussion. It's not like the issue of hyphenated Americans has never come up before. And if you listened to the exchange, it's clear that Rooney was speaking respectfully.

His use of the word "negro" is what is striking many the wrong way, but he's arguing for the strength of the word and remarking on the negative connotation it carries. He's not advocating its return to the American lexicon.