- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — CBS fired Don Imus from his radio program yesterday, the finale to a stunning fall for one of the nation’s most prominent broadcasters.

Mr. Imus initially was given a two-week suspension for a racial slur against the Rutgers women’s basketball team on the air last week, but outrage continued to grow and advertisers bolted from his CBS radio show and its MSNBC simulcast, which had been canceled Wednesday.

“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,” CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in announcing the decision. “That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision.”

Mr. Imus met with the Rutgers team, which he had called “nappy-headed hos,” for three hours last night at the governor’s mansion in Princeton, N.J. Neither side had any comment after the meeting ended.

He was fired in the middle of a two-day radio fundraiser for children’s charities. CBS announced that Mr. Imus’ wife, Deirdre, and his longtime newsman, Charles McCord, will host today’s show.

The cantankerous Mr. Imus, once named one of the 25 Most Influential People in America by Time magazine and a member of the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame, was one of radio’s original shock jocks. His career took flight in the 1970s and with cocaine- and vodka-fueled outrageous humor. After sobering up, he settled into highbrow talk about politics and culture, with locker-room humor sprinkled into the mix.

He issued repeated apologies as protests intensified. But it wasn’t enough as everyone from Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama to talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey joined the criticism.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson met with Mr. Moonves yesterday to demand Mr. Imus’ removal.

Mr. Jackson called the firing “a victory for public decency. No one should use the public airwaves to transmit racial or sexual degradation.”

Mr. Sharpton said, “He says he wants to be forgiven. I hope he continues in that process. But we cannot afford a precedent established that the airways can commercialize and mainstream sexism and racism.”

Losing Mr. Imus will be a financial hit to CBS Radio, which also suffered when Howard Stern departed for satellite radio. The program is worth about $15 million in annual revenue to CBS, which owns Mr. Imus’ home radio station, WFAN-AM, and manages Westwood One, the company that syndicates the show across the country.

In a memo to staff members, Mr. Moonves said the firing “is about a lot more than Imus.”

“He has flourished in a culture that permits a certain level of objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of people,” Mr. Moonves said. “In taking him off the air, I believe we take an important and necessary step not just in solving a unique problem, but in changing that culture, which extends far beyond the walls of our company.”

The news was announced in the middle of Mr. Imus’ Radiothon, which has raised more than $40 million since 1990. The Radiothon had raised more than $1.3 million yesterday before Mr. Imus learned that he lost his job.

“This may be our last Radiothon, so we need to raise about $100 million,” Mr. Imus cracked at the start of the event.


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