Advertisers Pull Out of Imus Show

Members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team have agreed to meet with Imus, who was suspended for his comments about them.
Members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team have agreed to meet with Imus, who was suspended for his comments about them. (By Mike Derer -- Associated Press)

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By Paul Farhi and Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

As skittish advertisers began to pull out and calls for his resignation reverberated, embattled shock jock Don Imus yesterday continued a campaign of contrition over racially and sexually insensitive remarks he made, even while insisting that he shouldn't lose his national television show and syndicated radio program.

Imus, who last week called the Rutgers University women's basketball players "nappy-headed hos," said on his morning show yesterday that he will seek a meeting with the team. His on-air slur has mushroomed into widespread condemnation, fueled round-the-clock news coverage and resulted in a two-week suspension of his show, carried on MSNBC and CBS Radio.

"I don't deserve to be fired," Imus, 67, said yesterday during his show. "So I should be punished, and I'm being punished, and not insignificantly, by the way. I'm not whining, because I don't feel as bad as those kids feel."

Imus's comments came a few hours before an emotional news conference by the Rutgers team. Her players seated next to her, their faces fixed with grim expressions, Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer told the assembled reporters, "We have all been physically and emotionally spent and hurt" by Imus's remarks, which she called "deplorable, despicable and abominable and unconscionable." The team's players said they would meet with Imus.

Three advertisers -- office supply chain Staples Inc., Bigelow Tea and Procter & Gamble -- said late yesterday that they would stop placing ads on the show out of dismay over Imus's comments. Any further defections could significantly erode economic support for a program heard in about 70 radio markets, including Washington. CBS Radio, which syndicates Imus, has not announced how it will fill the time slot when Imus's suspension begins on Monday. MSNBC said it would program expanded news coverage during the time.

Imus has gone past the edges of propriety many times during his long career, but nothing has approached the storm that now swirls about him.

As early as 1982, former Imus employer WNBC in New York promoted him and co-worker Howard Stern as radio bad boys. The pair blazed a trail for a generation of shock jocks, including Doug "Greaseman" Tracht, who was fired from Washington's WARW in 1999 for uttering a racist remark on-air, and Opie and Anthony, a New York duo fired in 2002 for a stunt involving a Virginia couple allegedly having sex in a Manhattan church.

Over the past decade, however, Imus has crafted a radio show that has become part of the political and media establishment while maintaining an inflammatory edge.

The list of Imus's guests over the years is a who's who of the media and political elite, including former senator Bill Bradley, Tom Brokaw, James Carville, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Rudy Giuliani, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, Sens. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and John McCain, Dan Rather, NBC News anchor Brian Williams, New Yorker writer Ken Auletta and Washington Post reporters Howard Kurtz and Dana Priest. He also has become a must-stop for many authors promoting their books.

Yesterday, a number of those guests distanced themselves from Imus.

"The comments of Don Imus were divisive, hurtful and offensive to Americans of all backgrounds," said presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, who recently promoted his book on Imus's show. "With a public platform comes a trust. As far as I'm concerned, he violated that trust."

The controversy follows years of incendiary statements by Imus and members of his on-air team, many of which attracted little attention from the news media or civil rights activists .


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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