By Larry McShane
Monday, April 9, 2007
NEW YORK -- Unimpressed by his on-air apology or corporate promises of a tighter leash, angry critics of nationally syndicated radio host Don Imus called for his dismissal over the weekend for racially charged comments he made about the Rutgers University women's basketball team.
"I accept his apology, just as I want his bosses to accept his resignation," the Rev. Al Sharpton said Saturday. He promised to picket Imus's New York radio home, WFAN (660 AM), unless the veteran of nearly 40 years of anything-goes broadcasting is gone within a week.
Sharpton was not alone in his anger over Imus's description of the Rutgers women, most of whom are black, as "nappy-headed hos" during a Wednesday morning segment of his show, which millions of listeners hear on more than 70 stations and simulcast on MSNBC.
On Friday, after Imus delivered an on-air apology, WFAN and MSNBC condemned his remarks. WFAN issued a statement promising to "monitor the program's content" but the 66-year-old Imus, a member of the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame, was not publicly disciplined.
The National Association of Black Journalists, the editor in chief of Essence magazine and a New York sports columnist joined the chorus against Imus.
"What he has said has deeply hurt too many people -- black and white, male and female," said NABJ President Bryan Monroe. "His so-called apology comes two days after the fact, and it is too little, too late."
Angela Burt Murray, of Essence, called on Imus's bosses to take a harder stance over his "unacceptable" remarks. "It needs to be made clear that this type of behavior is offensive and will not be tolerated without severe consequences," Murray said.
Columnist Filip Bondy of the Daily News, in a column headlined "Imus spews hate, should be fired," said the radio star "should be axed for one of the most despicable comments ever uttered on the air."
The Rutgers team, which includes eight black women, lost the NCAA women's championship game Tuesday, and Imus was discussing the game with producer Bernard McGuirk.
"That's some rough girls from Rutgers," Imus said. "Man, they got tattoos."
"Some hardcore hos," McGuirk said.
"That's some nappy-headed hos there, I'm going to tell you that," Imus said.
Karen Mateo, a spokeswoman for CBS Radio, WFAN's parent company, said Saturday there was no additional comment on the Imus situation.
Imus's success has often been a a result of his on-air barbs.
"That Imus is in trouble for being politically incorrect is certainly not new," said Tom Taylor, editor of the trade publication Inside Radio. "He's lived his life in and out of trouble. . . . This is something CBS will be watching very carefully."
Recent controversies involving Imus focused on a member of his morning team, Sid Rosenberg, who was fired two years ago after a particularly vile crack about cancer-stricken singer Kylie Minogue. Before that, a racially tinged comment by Rosenberg about tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams stirred another controversy.
The NABJ cited two other incidents in which Imus himself insulted two black journalists. Imus has called Gwen Ifill of PBS a "cleaning lady" and described William C. Rhoden of The New York Times as "a quota hire," the group said.
Sharpton said he was writing to the Federal Communications Commission about Imus's remarks.
"This is not some unemployed comic like Michael Richards," Sharpton said, referring to the former "Seinfeld" actor who used a slur against blacks and referred to lynching in a rant last November. "This is an established figure, allowed to use the airwaves for sexist and racist remarks."