D'Amato pushes envelope of bad taste but he's sorry


Al D'Amato is a jerk.

(If I've offended anybody by that statement, I apologize.)

Al D'Amato is a clown. He's a goof. He was voted the senator most likely to make a fool of himself.

(If I've said anything that could in any way be considered offensive, I'm deeply sorry.)

Usually, he's harmless. Usually, Big Al spends his time calling press conferences on the Capitol steps to announce that he's in love, like he and his main squeeze -- millionaire gossip columnist Claudia Cohen -- are another John and Yoko. Or else he's got a date with the kiss-and-tell Senate ethics committee.

But this time, he may have gone too far. Now, he has gratuitously offended millions of people, and not simply because he's a top-to-bottom geek.

(If my comments make anyone in the reading audience uncomfortable, or those who can't read, or those who refuse to read for religious or even secular reasons, I couldn't feel worse.)

You probably heard about it. D'Amato's recent comments, preserved forever on audio, have made for the hottest tape since the Nixon-tape era, the grandest of all tape eras with the possible exception of eight-track.

D'Amato made his stand on the Don Imus show. Imus is a morning shock jock out of New York whose radio show is heard in markets across this great country of ours. D'Amato is a constant guest because, I'm guessing, he can be depended on to say something outrageous. Al Gore, for instance, would be a bad guest.

On this day, Don 'n' Al are talking about the O.J. case and how it could interfere with D'Amato's coming hearings on Whitewater.

You may want to re-read that last part because it takes some getting used to. D'Amato, as head of the Senate banking committee and the only working politician willing to sing "Old MacDonald" on the Senate floor, is heading up the congressional probe of the Whitewater scandal -- 10 bucks if you can tell me what exactly the scandal was.

Why D'Amato? Wasn't Ivan Boesky available?

(If that last comment seemed like a cheap shot, I apologize to Mr. Boesky and his entire family.)

Anyway, D'Amato agrees with Imus about the O.J. trial problem. And, to show his displeasure with the judge, starts speaking in pidgin Japanese. He sounds a lot like a Charlie Chan movie if Charlie Chan hadn't been Chinese.

Little Judge Ito, he says.

Ito is making a disgrace of the judicial system, he says.

D'Amato goes on and on, until even Imus begs him to stop, although making fun of minority groups is a staple on certain morning radio shows.

(If I have offended any radio personalities . . . actually, I don't think you can.)

Imus, who's not exactly sensitive, tries to stop D'Amato because even Imus, who isn't offended by dwarf tossing, thought D'Amato was going a wee bit too far.

It's hard to go too far on certain radio shows. As an example, Howard Stern, who learned at Imus' knee, just got himself in trouble for finding humor in the murder of Selena, the queen of Tejano music, whatever that is. On his show, Stern dubbed gunfire over her music. And then said that Spanish-speaking people have the worst taste in music. Also, that Alvin and the Chipmunks had more soul.

Later, Stern said he had no intention of causing anyone any pain.

Of course, he didn't.

And neither did D'Amato. When the story made front-page headlines in the New York tabloids, D'Amato said, and I quote: "If I offended anyone, I'm sorry."

I love that. You say something hateful, and then you say, "If I offended anyone, I'm sorry."

Try it.

Hit the boss with: "You've got the brains of a squash and, by the way, the looks of one, too."

And then say, "If I offended anyone, I'm sorry."

I guess it's possible, even in these days, to refuse an apology. But don't worry if you get fired. You can always run for the Senate.

Meanwhile, Judge Ito, a third-generation American whose parents met in a Japanese internment camp and who speaks without a trace of accent (unlike D'Amato's New Yorkese), had no comment.

Don't you wish D'Amato could ever say that?

(If that offends D'Amato, I'm glad.)

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