Following week of protests, CBS fires Don Imus from his radio show
The Associated Press
(April 12, 2007) CBS (CBS) announced Thursday that it has fired Don Imus
from his radio program, following a week of uproar over the radio host's
racist comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team.
"There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on
our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their
way in this society," CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie
Moonves said in announcing the decision. "That consideration has weighed
most heavily on our minds as we made our decision."
It is a stunning fall for one of the nation's most prominent broadcasters.
Time magazine once named the cantankerous broadcaster as one of the 25
Most Influential People in America, and he was a member of the National
Broadcaster Hall of Fame.
But Imus found himself at the center of a storm after he called members of
the Rutgers team "nappy-headed hos" last week. Protests ensued, and one by
one, sponsors pulled their ads from Imus' show. On Wednesday, MSNBC
dropped the simulcast of Imus' show.
Losing Imus will be a financial hit to CBS Radio, which also suffered when
Howard Stern departed for satellite radio. The program is worth about $15
million in annual revenue to CBS, which owns Imus' home radio station WFAN-AM
and manages Westwood One, the company that syndicates the show across the
The Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson met with Moonves to advocate Imus'
removal, promising a rally outside CBS headquarters Saturday and an effort
to persuade more advertisers to abandon Imus.
Sumner Redstone, chairman of the CBS board and its chief stockholder, told
Newsweek that he had expected Moonves to "do the right thing," although it
wasn't clear what he thought that was.
The news came down in the middle of Imus' Radiothon, which has raised more
than $40 million since 1990 for good causes. The Radiothon had raised more
than $1.3 million Thursday before Imus learned that he lost his job.
"This may be our last Radiothon, so we need to raise about $100 million,"
Imus cracked at the start of the event.
Volunteers were getting about 200 more pledges per hour than they did last
year, with most callers expressing support for Imus, said Tony Gonzalez,
supervisor of the Radiothon phone bank. The event benefited Tomorrows
Children's Fund, the CJ Foundation for SIDS and the Imus Ranch.
Imus, who was suspended by CBS Radio for two weeks without pay beginning
next week, was in the awkward situation of broadcasting Thursday's radio
program from the MSNBC studios in New Jersey, even though NBC News said
the night before that MSNBC would no longer simulcast his program on
He didn't attack MSNBC for its decision "I understand the pressure they
were under," he said but complained the network was doing some unethical
things during the broadcast. He didn't elaborate.
He acknowledged again that calling the Rutgers women's basketball players
"nappy-headed hos" a day after they had competed in the NCAA championship
game had been "really stupid." He said he had apologized enough and wasn't
going to whine about his fate.
"I said it," he said. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't say it."
Sharpton and Jackson emerged from a meeting with Moonves saying the
corporate chief had promised to consider their requests.
"It's not about taking Imus down," Sharpton said. "It's about lifting
Sheila Johnson, owner of the WNBA's Washington Mystics and, with her
ex-husband Robert, co-founder of BET, called Imus' comments reprehensible
in an interview with The Associated Press. She said she had called Moonves
to urge that CBS cut all ties with the veteran radio star, and was worried
that what he said could hurt women's sports.
"I think what Imus has done has put a cloud over what we've tried to do in
promoting women's athletics," she said.
Several sponsors, including American Express, Sprint Nextel, Staples,
Procter & Gamble, and General Motors, have said they were pulling ads from
Imus' show indefinitely. Imus made a point Thursday to thank one sponsor,
Bigelow Tea, for sticking by him.
The list of his potential guests began to shrink, too.
Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham said the magazine's staffers would no longer
appear on Imus' show. Meacham, Jonathan Alter, Evan Thomas, Howard Fineman
and Michael Isikoff from Newsweek have been frequent guests.
Imus has complained bitterly about a lack of support from one black
politician, Harold Ford Jr., even though he strongly backed Ford's
campaign for Senate in Tennessee last year. Ford, now head of the
Democratic Leadership Council, said Thursday he'll leave it to others to
decide Imus' future.
"I don't want to be viewed as piling on right now because Don Imus is a
good friend and a decent man," Ford said. "However, he did a reprehensible
Imus' troubles have also affected his wife, author Deirdre Imus, whose
household cleaning guide, Green This! came out this week. Her promotional
tour has been called off "because of the enormous pressure that Deirdre
and her family are under," said Simon & Schuster publicist Victoria Meyer.
People are buying it, though: An original printing of 45,000 was increased
Imus still has a lot of support among radio managers across the country,
many of whom grew up listening to him, said Tom Taylor, editor of the
trade publication Inside Radio.
Yet he's clearly became a political liability for a major corporation
CBS. (General Electric owns NBC Universal, of which MSNBC is a part.) NBC
News said anger about Imus among some of its employees had as much to do
with ending the MSNBC simulcast as the advertiser defection.
Redstone's remarks "could be a game-changer," Taylor said.
Bryan Monroe, president of the National Association of Black Journalists
and vice president and editor director of Ebony and Jet magazines, met
with Moonves on Wednesday. It seemed clear Moonves and his aides were
struggling with a difficult decision, he said. He urged them to take
advantage of an opportunity to take a stand against the coarsening of
"Something happened in the last week around America," Monroe said. "It's
not just what the radio host did. America said enough is enough. America
said we don't want this kind of conversation, we don't want this kind of
vitriol, especially with teenagers."
Rutgers' team, meanwhile, appeared Thursday on The Oprah Winfrey Show with
their coach, C. Vivian Stringer.
At the end of their appearance, Winfrey said: "I want to borrow a line
from Maya Angelou, who is a personal mentor of mine and I know you all
also feel the same way about her. And she has said this many times, and I
say this to you, on behalf of myself and every woman that I know, you make
me proud to spell my name W-O-M-A-N. You've really handled this
Imus said Thursday he still wants to meet with the team.
"At some point, I'm not sure when, I'm going to talk to the team," he
said. "That's all I'm interested in doing."
Team spokeswoman Stacey Brann said they will meet Imus before the end of
the week. Stringer is scheduled to be out of town on a recruiting trip
Saturday, she said.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
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