CBS fired Don Imus from his radio program, the finale to a stunning fall for one of the most prominent US broadcasters.
Imus initially was given a two-week suspension for calling a mostly black college women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" on the air last week, but outrage continued to grow and advertisers bolted from his CBS radio show and its MSNBC television simulcast. Nappy is a derogatory reference to the hair of some black people, and "ho" is slang for "whore."
"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 on Thursday. "That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision."
Imus, 66, had a long history of inflammatory remarks. But something struck a raw nerve when he targeted the Rutgers team -- which includes a class valedictorian, a future lawyer and a musical prodigy -- after they lost in the NCAA championship game.
The team met with Imus at the governor's mansion in Princeton, New Jersey on Thursday night. Imus left without commenting to reporters, but C. Vivian Stringer, the team's coach, spoke briefly on the mansion's steps.
"We had a very productive meeting," she said. "We were able to really dialogue. ... Hopefully, we can put all of this behind us."
Time magazine once named the cantankerous broadcaster one of the 25 Most Influential People in America, and he was a member of the National Broadcaster Hall of Fame.
But Imus found himself at the center of a storm as protests intensified. On Wednesday, MSNBC dropped the simulcast of Imus' show.
Losing Imus will be a financial hit to CBS Radio. The program is worth about US$15 million in annual revenue to CBS, which owns Imus' home radio station WFAN-AM and manages Westwood One, the company that syndicates the show across the US.
Civil rights leaders the Reverend Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson met with Moonves on Thursday to demand Imus' removal, promising a rally outside CBS headquarters today and an effort to persuade more advertisers to abandon Imus.
Jackson called the firing "a victory for public decency. No one should use the public airwaves to transmit racial or sexual degradation."
Said Sharpton: "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."
Imus acknowledged that his comments about the basketball players had been "really stupid." He said he had apologized enough and was not going to whine about his fate.
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