The best thing about the idiotic and insensitive rant on Don Imus' show on Wednesday is that it shows the hip-hop industry can't be blamed for all the misogyny that exists in this world. Evidently, you don't have to be young, brash and hard core to spew venom at those deserving of so much more respect. All you have to be is an accomplished radio host beyond middle-age who should know better with an executive producer suffering from an equal absence of common decency.

When Imus and his boys contaminated the airwaves, labeling the women's basketball team at Rutgers "hos" and "jigaboos" amid an insulting racially tinged diatribe regarding their looks, perhaps the only thing more stunning than the fact Imus or producer Bernard McGuirk were not fired is the omission of any kind of reprimand whatsoever.

MSNBC, which has simulcast Imus' show since 1996, took a moment to remind us that Imus' views do not reflect their own. They did this while informing everyone that Imus in the Morning is not a production of the network but is produced by WFAN radio, essentially moonwalking away from the issue better than James Brown or Michael Jackson used to do on stage.

There were no firings, even as McGuirk referred to the Scarlet Knights - just a day removed from losing the NCAA women's basketball championship to Tennessee - as "hard-core hos", after calling the game a contest between "jigaboos and wannabes" referring to Spike Lee's movie School Daze to validate his point.

There were no suspensions even after Imus piled on by calling them "nappy-headed hos," then passed on the initial chance to apologize by choosing to tell everyone basically to relax and stop paying attention to their insensitive ways - which is why publishing their choreographed apology - released on Friday - makes no sense. At least in this space.

"It's amazing and depressing to me that someone would say that, not just about my girls but any young lady," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer told me on Friday, just a day after the recruiting season began. "I was stunned and hurt obviously for my girls more than anything. But for all of us."

As well she should be.

Aside from the insulting statements spewed by Imus and his crew, Stringer was stung for a different reason. She was stung because she's aware of the subliminal impact, the reality that while some parents know enough to dismiss such poisonous banter that there are others who will pause to say, "Jigaboos and hos! Do I really want my child playing for a program described in such fashion?"

Just because someone lacks the common decency to avoid vilifying defenseless individuals in that regard, one has to consider that a program like Rutgers - with a black coach and eight black players - could experience potentially rippling effects.

Especially in women's college basketball, consisting of 324 programs, where 42 percent of the players are black but only 8 percent of the coaches.

"This is not the first time Imus has said stuff like this," noted filmmaker Spike Lee. "Then to hide behind free speech, taking jigaboos and wannabes out of context, is ridiculous. The sad thing is, I bet a lot of their audience was laughing at it.

"I came up with jigaboos and wannabes . . . for something very specific about how African Americans view themselves based on hair color, complexion, etc.," Lee said. "I was trying to show how crazy it was to do that, that black folks come in all different shapes, tones and sizes, etc., that one is not to be ridiculed over the other because we're all beautiful.

"[Imus] don't know what I was talking about with School Daze, and it's evident with unfortunate comments like that. They'll probably have bigger ratings next week because of it, too."

That's the scary part.

Imus is a big-time figure. Excluding moments like Wednesday morning, most of it's deserved. You don't stick around since 1971, become syndicated and have every noted entertainer and politician imaginable on your show if you don't have something going on. The question now is: what exactly does he have going on?

Michael Richards couldn't escape the airwaves when he went off, spewing the "N" word at a few black patrons inside a comedy club. Just recently, the media inundated us with comment on the suspension of former NBA player Micheal Ray Richardson after he made comments that were described as anti-Semitic.

Yet what have we gotten from this Imus fiasco?

"I think a lot of times we forget . . . the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was not that long ago," a disgusted Lee said. "My grandmother lived to be 100 years old. Her mother was born a slave. We're not that far removed from what we would call ancient history. We see Michael Jordan, Oprah and a few others, and we think everything's all right. It's not all right. People need to wake up, especially when we see or hear stuff like this."

Contact columnist Stephen A. Smith at 215-854-5846 or ssmith@philly.com.