New York: Radio host Don Imus was dumped by CBS Radio on 12 April 2007 in an inglorious end to a 30-year career that erupted in controversy over racist and sexist comments about a women’s college basketball team.
CBS’ decision to pull the plug on the popular Imus in the Morning show, which blended locker-room humour with interviews with A-list politicians and celebrities, followed days of uproar after he called the mostly black Rutgers University basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”
The move came one day after he was unceremoniously jettisoned by MSNBC, which had broadcast his radio show on television and after several major advertisers, including General Motors and Procter & Gamble backed out.
Debates over racial expressions are a frequent feature of an American culture still struggling to come to terms with a legacy of slavery and discrimination. “Nappy” is a slur describing the tightly curled hair of many African-Americans. “Ho” is slang for “whore,” usage of which has exploded in hip-hop music and popular culture.
“Nappy” is deemed so offensive it has largely fallen out of modern American usage.
“From the outset, I believe all of us have been deeply upset and revulsed by the statements that were made on our air about the young women who represented Rutgers University ... with such class, energy and talent,” CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in a statement.
CBS said the cancellation was effective immediately. The show was carried on 61 stations across the United States. CBS Corp. unit CBS Radio had originally said it would suspend him for two weeks starting Monday.
The move came just hours after what turned out to be Imus’ final CBS broadcast — his annual drive to raise cash for children with cancer.
In his broadcast on 12 April, the curmudgeonly 66-year-old radio host called the media hypocritical in its coverage of the flap and said he had apologized enough for his remarks.
He said he would apologize to the team in person in the coming days and hinted at what was to come from CBS.
“I don’t know if this will be my last radiothon, my suspicion is it will be,” Imus said.
CBS will lose about $15 million (Rs64.5 crore) in annual ad and syndication fees, sources told Reuters. Imus was CBS’ best known host since the loss of rival “shock jock” Howard Stern.
Stern’s antics brought endless government fines, eventually forcing him to make a lucrative move to satellite radio, where he could express himself without regulatory censure.
The end to Imus at CBS comes after years of him insulting all corners — blacks, Jews, Arabs, homosexuals, Catholics and women. In December 2004, he referred to publishers of a book called The Christmas Thief as “thieving Jews.” Later, he apologized, saying the phrase “thieving Jews” was “redundant.”
He has called Arabs “towelheads” and insulted a top black reporter by saying, “Isn’t the Times wonderful? It lets the cleaning woman cover the White House?”