IMUS LOSES JOB IN WAKE OF INSULTS
By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer April 9, 2007
NEW YORK - After a career of cranky insults, radio star Don Imus was
fighting for his job Monday following one joke that by his own admission went "way too far."
Two of the nation's biggest
media companies — CBS Corp. and NBC Universal — will ultimately decide the fate of Imus' daily program after he
referred last week to members of the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos."
Imus continued to apologize
Monday, both on his show and on a syndicated radio program hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is
among several black leaders demanding his ouster.
Imus could be in real danger
if the outcry causes advertisers to shy away from him, said Tom Taylor, editor of the trade publication Inside Radio.
"Everyone is on tenterhooks
waiting to see whether it grows and whether the protest gets picked up more broadly," Taylor
Imus isn't the most popular
radio talk show host — the trade publication Talkers ranks him the 14th most influential — but his audience is
heavy on the political and media elite that advertisers pay a premium to reach. Authors, journalists and politicians are frequent
guests — and targets for insults.
He has urged critics to
recognize that his show is a comedy that spreads insults broadly. Imus or his cast have called
a "sniffling weasel," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson a "fat sissy" and referred to Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, an American Indian, as "the guy from `F Troop.'" He and his
colleagues also called the New York Knicks a group of "chest-thumping pimps."
On Sharpton's program Monday,
Imus said that "our agenda is to be funny and sometimes we go too far. And this time we went way too far."
comment has struck a chord, in part, because it was aimed at a group of young women at the pinnacle of athletic success. It
also came in a different public atmosphere following the Michael Richards and Mel
Gibson incidents, said Eric Deggans, columnist for the St. Petersburg Times and chairman of the media monitoring committee
of the National Association of Black Journalists, which also wants Imus canned.
"This may be the first time
where he's done something like this in the YouTube era," Deggans said. Viewers can quickly see clips of Imus' remarks, not
allowing him to redefine their context, he said.
On his show Monday, Imus
called himself "a good person" who made a bad mistake.
"Here's what I've learned:
that you can't make fun of everybody, because some people don't deserve it," he said. "And because the climate on this program
has been what it's been for 30 years doesn't mean that it has to be that way for the next five years or whatever because that
has to change, and I understand that."
Imus' radio show originates
from WFAN in New York City and is syndicated nationally by
Westwood One, both of which are managed by CBS. CBS Radio just replaced chief executive Joel Hollander with Dan Mason. With
Imus' radio show reaching an estimated 2.5 million people a week, his future could conceivably be decided by CBS chief Leslie
CBS has denounced Imus'
remarks and said it will monitor his show for content.
The show is simulcast daily
on MSNBC, where it reached an estimated 361,000 viewers in the first three months of the year, up 39 percent from last year.
That's the best competitive position it has ever achieved against CNN (372,000 viewers).
If MSNBC were to decide
against showing Imus, it would need to quickly come up with an alternative, which would almost certainly be more expensive.
MSNBC is owned by NBC Universal. NBC said it was reviewing the case.
"He will survive it if he
stops apologizing so much," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers. Imus clearly seems under corporate pressure to make
amends, but he's nearly reached the point where he is alienating the fans who appreciate his grumpy outrageousness.
Even if he were to be fired,
he's likely to land elsewhere in radio, Harrison said.
The Rev. Jesse
Jackson and about 50 people marched Monday outside Chicago's
NBC tower to protest Imus' comments. He said MSNBC should abandon Imus and MSNBC should hire more black pundits.
Julian Bond, chairman of
the NAACP board of directors, said it is "past time his employers took him off the air."
"As long as an audience
is attracted to his bigotry and politicians and pundits tolerate his racism and chauvinism to promote themselves, Don Imus
will continue to be a serial apologist for prejudice," Bond said.
Imus was mostly contrite
in his appearance with Sharpton, although the activist did not change his opinion that Imus should lose his job. At one point
Imus seemed incredulous at Sharpton's suggestion that he might walk away from the incident unscathed.
"Unscathed?" Imus said.
"How do you think I'm unscathed by this? Don't you think I'm humiliated?"