Imus, CBS Settle Lawsuits; Is New Show in the Wings?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Are you ready for Don Imus, the Sequel?
In case you've forgotten, the cranky radio talk show host -- who is extremely intelligent and not always smart -- was fired in the spring because of his racially supercharged characterization of the Rutgers University women's basketball team.
Yesterday, in the same breath, two new developments were reported: Imus had settled his multimillion-dollar dispute with CBS Radio and, according to several news organizations, was angling for a way to get back on the air -- perhaps via WABC-AM in New York.
At press time, there had been no announcement of a new show, but the settlement frees him to pursue such possibilities.
Also yesterday, the CBS Radio station in New York that produced Imus's show, WFAN, announced it is bringing in former football star Boomer Esiason for Imus's former morning slot.
Louis Briskman of CBS Radio and Martin Garbus, Imus's lawyer, issued a joint statement: "Don Imus and CBS Radio have mutually agreed to settle claims that each had against the other regarding the Imus radio program on CBS. The terms of the settlement are confidential and will not be disclosed."
A First Amendment master, Garbus once represented edgy comedian Lenny Bruce.
The settlement forecloses Imus's threat to file a $120 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS. The Associated Press reported that the settlement includes a "non-disparaging" agreement that forbids Imus from bad-mouthing his former employer.
Meanwhile, the radio world whirred with speculation about where Imus, 67, might re-materialize. Some sources put him in the air chair at Sirius, the satellite network. It is run by Mel Karmazin, Imus's former boss at Infinity Broadcasting -- predecessor of CBS Radio. That's where Imus made a name -- and millions of dollars -- for himself. At the National Press Club last month, Karmazin said he wouldn't talk to Imus about a job as long as he was under contract to somebody else, according to Tom Taylor of the online newsletter Taylor on Radio-Info.
Some say Imus might go to WABC, owned by Citadel Broadcasting. That makes sense: Citadel is headed by Farid Suleman, who for years was chief financial officer at Infinity and Karmazin's assistant. "He signed Imus's checks," Taylor says.
The New York radio station features airwave warriors such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
Imus's radio show was simulcast on MSNBC. A network executive -- who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of negotiations -- said yesterday that MSNBC would not broadcast a new Imus radio show. Wherever he lands, the radio personality will find himself facing another legal battle. A member of the Rutgers women's basketball team on Tuesday sued Imus and CBS, claiming the radio personality's sexist and racist comments about the team damaged her reputation.
The Associated Press reported that Kia Vaughn filed the lawsuit alleging defamation of character in state Supreme Court in the Bronx.
Her lawsuit, believed to be the first by a player in the case, says Imus and his former sidekick Bernard McGuirk, along with CBS Corp. and CBS Radio, are legally responsible for damage to her character and reputation. There is no dollar amount listed in the suit.
A spokeswoman for CBS Radio declined to comment.
Staff writer Howard Kurtz contributed to this report.