COMMENTS: Air Cleared of Don Imus

Don Imus is out of a job. The morning drive time radio broadcaster, who lost his cable TV simulcast yesterday when he was axed by MSNBC, has now lost his audio distribution, too, as CBS canceled radio syndication. Network president Leslie Moonves described himself as "deeply revulsed." CBS, appropriately, led with its in-house business and Imus' fate was Story of the Day. ABC and NBC both led with what should, by rights, have been a bigger story: a bomb attack on the parliament building in Baghdad. Perhaps now Imus is off the airwaves, the overcoverage of his rude behavior can stop too.

A few hundred thousand people are now going to have to change their morning routine. "Imus seemed to see the writing on the wall," CBS' Nancy Cordes reflected as she quoted his on air comments this morning: "One day you have got a radio and TV show and, well, next day you do not." NBC's Rehema Ellis called him a "broadcasting giant." The average weekly audience on 61 radio stations for his four-and-a-half hour program was 1.5m listeners. It earned $20m each year for CBS, according to ABC's David Muir (subscription required). Cordes described the show as "a curious mix of lowbrow humor and highbrow interviews."

The insulting comment that precipitated his firing may have been against young black women but his style involved hurling insults at all sorts, The Washington Post's media correspondent Howard Kurtz told ABC's Muir. Imus "made fun" of "blacks, Jews, gays, politicians…this was part of his charm"--although it is hard to see the fun or the charm in "nappy-headed whores" or calling his "Jewish" bosses "moneygrubbing bastards." Kurtz himself conceded that Imus "went too far." Meanwhile, Imus' insult has garnered the basketball players of Rutgers University much more attention than they would have earned from their athletic exploits alone: they were guests on TV's daytime talkshow Oprah. The team is scheduled to meet Imus in person next week. Imus himself said, on what turned out to be his final broadcast: "I have apologized enough."

Jeff Greenfield was a frequent guest on Imus on the Morning when he was a political analyst at CNN. He has now moved to CBS and he described the atmosphere on the Imus show to anchor Katie Couric on his first appearance on the Evening News. In retrospect, he confessed, he should have been conscious of how few black people participated in the program: "It was basically a white show."


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