Don Imus Is Fired by CBS Radio
Friday, April 13, 2007
Bowing to a national outcry and internal protest, CBS Radio said yesterday it would end Don Imus's morning program "immediately," possibly bringing the sometimes inflammatory broadcaster's four-decade career to a swift and ignominious end.
CBS followed NBC, which Wednesday canceled the MSNBC simulcast of Imus's radio show. Imus touched off a conflagration last week when he made racist and sexist comments.
Imus -- as well as CBS and NBC -- struggled for the past eight days to craft an effective response to widespread criticism after he called the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." But neither repeated apologies nor a two-week suspension imposed this week by the two media companies quelled the furor. Advertisers deserted Imus's show and protests continued, inside and outside the companies.
CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves said he made the decision to stop carrying Imus's program after he and CBS executives heard from "all segments of society" in recent days.
"In our meetings with concerned groups, 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," Moonves said yesterday in a statement. "That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision."
Imus indicated that the end of his CBS run was near during yesterday's program, a radiothon for charities he has supported for years on his show: "I don't know if this will be my last radiothon. My suspicion is it will be." Imus, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, said on his show that the uproar had become "insane" and "out of control."
Civil rights leaders such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson became closely identified with protests against Imus. But one of the earliest sparks may have been provided by the National Association of Black Journalists, an organization based at the University of Maryland in College Park.
The group said it heard about Imus's remarks the day after they aired from one of its members -- an employee of MSNBC -- and quickly issued a news release calling for a boycott of Imus's show. The release caught the attention of organization members at media outlets across the country, prompting some of the initial news coverage, said Kristin Palmer, an NABJ spokeswoman.
Imus's demise hits CBS Radio particularly hard. As a morning "drive-time" star, he brought in some $20 million annually to his flagship station, CBS-owned WFAN-AM in New York, plus undisclosed millions more in syndication fees from affiliated stations, including WTNT-AM in the Washington area.
He is the second major personality to leave CBS Radio in the past two years. Fellow shock jock Howard Stern jumped from CBS to Sirius Satellite Radio last year.
Radio executives speculated that Imus could return, after an interim, on satellite radio, which permits a more freewheeling atmosphere than traditional broadcast radio. XM Satellite Radio rehabilitated the careers of New York radio duo Opie and Anthony after they were fired in 2002 for broadcasting a stunt in which a Northern Virginia couple allegedly had sex in Manhattan's St. Patrick's Cathedral. Washington shock jock Doug "Greaseman" Tracht, however, has never fully recovered his prominence since making racially inflammatory remarks on the air in 1999.
CBS did not indicate who might replace Imus in that time slot.