Friday, April 13, 2007

Rutgers Women's Basketball Team Gets Hate Mail After Imus Termination

Imus' wife: Stop hate mail to team

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.

1 comment:

Pan-African News Wire said...

Imus Rage: Women Furious Over


Some See Racially Charged Comments and Resulting Furor Putting Sexism in the Spotlight


April 13, 2007 — - The tipping point in the furor over Don Imus was that he didn't pick on someone his own size, commentators say.

People were outraged over Imus' description of members of the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," said Jemele Hill, a columnist for,
"because they are women, because they are young women, because they are women who are doing nothing more than going to college and trying to be student athletes."

"I do think that if he would have said this about a celebrity, I still would have been offended," she said, "but I think … it was just basically like he picked on … innocent bystanders."

That was also the reaction of PBS' "Washington Week in Review" anchor Gwen Ifill, who was once dissed by the radio host.

In an Op-Ed piece for The New York Times, Ifill wrote of the female hoopsters, "They are not old enough, or established enough, to have built up the sort of carapace many women I know -- black women in particular -- develop to guard themselves against casual insult."

Hill, who is also black, explained further.

"I don't want to give people the impression that the kind of insult Imus leveled against these women is very common or that it happens all the time," she said. "But I think any person that's a minority in this country has, at some point, had to confront race, has had to have an insult hurled at them. For these women, that was sort of the sad thing about it. I can't imagine being 19 or 20 years old and having to deal with something this heavy. In some ways, a certain kind of innocence was broken here."

For Martha Burk of the National Council for Women's Organizations, the most glaring aspect of the issue is that it's put sexism in the spotlight.

"Networks are notorious for tolerating sexism, less so for tolerating racism," she said. "And in terms of racism vs. sexism, I just want to say that the fact that it was women was why he gave himself permission to do it in the first place. I doubt if he would have done it for a men's team."

She said that there was a double standard in broadcasting.

"What is OK for a network to do on the race issue, for example," Burk said, "it's held to a higher standard than what they can do on gender. I think your big corporate leaders in the media and in other corporations need to realize that sexism is every bit as insidious as racism. I actually doubt in this current situation with Imus, if it had been an all-white team and it was only a sexist remark, if it would have risen to this level of clamor."

But it has, and many believe that the fallout now affects all female athletes.

"As it is, they're kind of ostracized in society still," Hill said. "To some degree they are accepted, but they're always kind of accepted with a wink and a smile. They're always looked at and gawked at in a particular way. And [the Rutgers women], all they did was play in a national championship title game, which is a tremendous achievement, only to be ridiculed just for the way that they look. This affects all women."

For more on the Imus controversy, check out ABC News Nows' "Top Priority."