Rutgers University students including Jackasha Wiley, left, and Courtney Benson, right, hold signs during a rally on the Douglass College campus in New Brunswick, N.J., to protest comments Don Imus made about the women's basketball team.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.
By David Bauder, AP Television Writer
April 13, 2007
NEW YORK --Don Imus' wife took over his radio fundraiser Friday after CBS fired the host for racist remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team. She described her husband's meeting with the team, praised the women as "beautiful and courageous," and demanded that all hate mail being sent to the team stop.
"They gave us the opportunity to listen to what they had to say and why they're hurting and how awful this is," author Deirdre Imus said as she co-hosted the fundraiser for children's charities.
"He feels awful," she said of her husband. "He asked them, 'I want to know the pain I caused, and I want to know how to fix this and change this.'"
Deirdre Imus also said that the Rutgers players have been receiving hate e-mail, and she demanded that it stop. She told listeners "if you must send e-mail, send it to my husband," not the team.
"I have to say that these women are unbelievably courageous and beautiful women," she said.
Asked Friday morning about the hate mail, Rutgers team spokewoman Stacey Brann said the team had received "two or three e-mails" but had also received "over 600 wonderful e-mails."
Don Imus' two-day radio fundraiser had been scheduled long before his on-air description of team members as "nappy-headed hos" set off a national debate about taste and tolerance.
On Wednesday, a week after the remark and after advertisers began pulling their support, MSNBC said it would no longer televise the show. CBS fired Imus Thursday from the radio show that he has hosted for nearly 30 years.
"He has flourished in a culture that permits a certain level of objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of people," CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves said in a memo to his staff.
"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," Moonves said.
C. Vivian Stringer, the Rutgers team's coach, spoke briefly Thursday night after meeting with Imus and his wife at the governor's mansion.
"We had a very productive meeting," she said. "Hopefully, we can put all of this behind us."
While team members respected Imus' willingness to apologize, they wanted him to understand how they were hurt, said Rev. DeForest Soaries, Stringer's pastor, who joined the meeting. Imus tried to explain what he meant, "but there was really no explanation that they could understand," Soaries said on NBC's "Today" show.
"An apology is appropriate for an insult," he said. "But restitution is necessary for an injury."
Critics have said Imus' remark about the women was just the latest in a line of objectionable statements by the ringmaster of a show that mixed high-minded talk about politics and culture with crude, locker-room humor.
The cantankerous 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 a cocaine- and vodka-fueled outrageous humor. After sobering up, he settled into a mix of highbrow talk about politics and culture, with locker room humor sprinkled in.
Imus apologized on his show late last week after getting complaints about the Rutgers comment. He also tried to explain himself before the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio audience, appearing alternately contrite and combative. But many of his advertisers bailed in disgust, particularly after the Rutgers women spoke of their hurt.
On Friday, Sharpton praised Moonves' decision to can Imus and said it was time to change the culture of publicly degrading other people.
"I think we've got to really used this to really stop this across the board," Sharpton told CBS's "The Early Show."
Some Imus fans considered the radio host's punishment too harsh.
Mike Francesa, whose WFAN sports show with partner Chris Russo is considered a possible successor to "Imus in the Morning," said he was embarrassed by the company. "I'm embarrassed by their decision. It shows, really, the worst lack of taste I've ever seen," he said.
Losing Imus will be a financial hit to CBS Radio, which also suffered when Howard Stern left for satellite radio. The program earns about $15 million in annual revenue for CBS, which owns Imus' home radio station WFAN-AM and manages Westwood One, the company that syndicates the show nationally WFAN.
The show's charity fundraiser had raised more than $1.3 million Thursday before Imus learned he had lost his job. The total had grown Friday to more than $2.3 million for Tomorrows Children's Fund, CJ Foundation for SIDS and the Imus Ranch, Deirdre Imus said. The annual event has raised more than $40 million since 1990.
"This may be our last radiothon, so we need to raise about $100 million," Don Imus had cracked at the start of the event.
Volunteers were getting about 200 more pledges per hour Thursday than they did last year, with most callers expressing support for Imus, said phone bank supervisor Tony Gonzalez. The event benefited Tomorrows Children's Fund, the CJ Foundation for SIDS and the Imus Ranch.
Imus' troubles have also affected his wife, the founder of a medical center that studies links between cancers and environmental hazards whose book "Green This!" came out this week. Her promotional tour was called off "because of the enormous pressure that Deirdre and her family are under," said Simon & Schuster publicist Victoria Meyer.
The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology in Hackensack, N.J., works to identify and control exposures to environmental hazards that may cause adult and childhood cancers. Imus Ranch in New Mexico invites children who have been ill to spend time on a working cattle ranch.
Associated Press writers Rebecca Santana, Karen Matthews, Warren Levinson, Seth Sutel, Tara Burghart, Colleen Long and Hillel Italie contributed to this report.