CBS Fires Don Imus

Following MSNBC’s lead, CBS Radio has fired Don Imus.

Don Imus Purple Shirt Photo Radio talk-show host Don Imus speaks with Rev. Al Sharpton (not pictured) during Sharpton's radio show, in New York, in this April 9, 2007 file photo, where Imus apologized for insensitive remarks he made last week about the Rutgers women's basketball team. CBS Corp. said on Thursday it would permanently cancel Imus' morning radio talk program, following racist and sexist comments made by the shock jock about a women's college basketball team. REUTERS/Chip East/Files (UNITED STATES) CBS fired Don Imus from his radio show Thursday, the finale to a stunning fall for one of the nation’s most prominent broadcasters.

Imus initially was suspended for two weeks for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos” on the air last week, but outrage continued to grow and advertisers bolted from his programs.

“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. “That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision.”

Quite bizarre. Imus has a longstanding reputation as a “shock jock” but that hasn’t stopped him from being invited to do things like perform at the National Association of Broadcasters’ dinner with the President of the United States or Senators, media celebrities, and other luminaries from appearing on his show over the years. It’s stunning hypocrisy to pretend this is somehow unexpected behavior.

Obviously, they’re a business and they have the right to do this. Still, it seems an absurd overreaction to me.

I don’t know the language of Imus’ contract but I presume CBS will owe him for the remainder of his contract. Given the nature of the program, I can’t imagine he gave them a “morals clause” as an easy out.

In any case, presuming he’s interested at this stage of his career in starting over, I’m sure he’ll join Howard Stern on satellite radio in the not-too-distant future.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Media, Race and Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark says:

    Somehow I just don’t think that hoards of people are going to subscribe to satellite just to hear Don Imus…

  2. James Joyner says:

    Probably not. Then again, lots of people already subscribe and would like to hear him. I don’t know what his ratings are but he’s been quite popular. He’s in his late 60s, though, and may just say screw it and head, quite literally, to the ranch.

  3. Steph says:

    The sad thing is the fundraiser being cancelled.

    I think Jesse and Al should donate the money that the fundraiser has averaged in the past.

    But they have gone on I’m sure to call Jews Hymies and incite race riots or go finding Tawana Bradley.

  4. Anderson says:

    XM or whatever it is could pick him up as the answer to Stern on Sirius.

    Guy sounds like a professional jerk, but there’s always been a market for that.

  5. mrbill says:

    Trouble with all this is now that Sharpton and his ilk now have got back in the mix with a new scam it will affect everything. The FCC will be looking at ALL talk radio, MTV and Im hearing BET will have some serious look into for its wording etc.

    AND it may affect us on the blogs if they go completely nuts at the FCC or congress.

    Remember you have the usual Democratic tyrannical left in charge now…so there will be a huge audience for this regulation and control. Same as usual.

  6. vnjagvet says:

    The irascibility and jerkiness has always been part of the Iman schtick.

    Outrageousness has not been directed to any one race or ethnic group. For example, his evangelist character is probably as potentially offensive to evangelicals as the “nappy” comments were to African Americans.

    I suspect if he wants to continue somewhere there will be a place for him and sponsors to take advantage of all of this publicity.

  7. Bandit says:

    Ponder the karmic imbalance of having Al Sharpton call 4 your firing because of racist remarks and attempting to apologize to him.

  8. Triumph says:

    I don’t understand why anyone–especially conservatives–are critical about his firing.

    It was a decision made by the large multi-national businesses who employ him. I trust that General Electric and Viacom–being established and profitable companies–have people who weigh the costs and benefits of their programming.

    This has nothing to do with Al Sharpton or the FCC–it has to do with the GE & Viacom’s analysis of the media market.

    The large media companies get targeted all the time by people who are upset with their policies. Remember the Disney Boycott by Pat Robertson and other evangelical groups a few years ago? I am sure that Robertson has a MUCH larger constituency than Sharpton–or the NAACP for that matter. However, they didn’t capitulate to the protests primarily because they thought that it would hurt their bottom line.

    General Electric and Viacom are doing the exact same thing. It’s simply the logic of capitalism at work. One would think that free-marketers would understand that.

  9. This whole situation strikes me as a “straw that broke the camel’s back” sort of situation.

    I also think that the long-term fawning of the east coast media elite of Imus in part of what is going on here–the “nappy headed hos” comment created a lot of collective embarrassment.

  10. Wayne says:


    Most conservatives are probably elated that Imus will no longer be on the air. The conservatives are just now becoming adept at using boycotts to further their agenda and wouldn’t complain about using economic pressure like this. The outcry is once again the hypocrisy of the left. Where were they when groups and/or people on the right are attack in the same way?
    The right has for a long time tries to minimize most of the offensive commentators. I’m sure a push from the right to fire Rosie will increase now. Will the left join this time? Probably not, unless she says something against a minority group. Personally, I don’t know will the line should be drawn but think it should be consistent.

  11. Triumph says:

    The right has for a long time tries to minimize most of the offensive commentators. I’m sure a push from the right to fire Rosie will increase now. Will the left join this time? Probably not, unless she says something against a minority group. Personally, I don’t know will the line should be drawn but think it should be consistent.

    Wayne, Im not sure what you mean by “hypocracy of the Left”?

    The point here is that Imus was fired as a business decision.

    The beauty of the market is that it responds to consumer needs. Im not sure who this “Rosie” person is you speak of, but if this person is disliked by enough of a market segment, they will probably get axed.

    I hope you’re not talking about former Rams tackle Rosey Greer! Althought I can’t imagine that conservatives–outside of Ann Coulter–are pissed at him for wrestling Sirhan Sirhan to the ground after the latter shot Bobby Kennedy.

  12. graywolf says:

    Three things:

    Imus used to be a lot worse (funny); then he got infatuated with being the object of beltway/media sucking-up.
    This comment (while unfair to the Rutgers team) was pretty tame compared to the Imus of 12-15 years ago.

    The networks had to dump him, once the the big advertisers walked.
    This was a no-brainer decision for the PC cowardly careerist network execs.

    Imus will reappear – in syndication.
    In spite of all the media (“see, I’m not Imus”) fawning over the Rutgers team, there is still a very large audience (with money) for Imus.

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    Once again there is a difference between Hate speech and stupid speech, but why no forgiveness for those who seek it, and from those who think they are to good to ask for it, it comes in plenty?

  14. Christopher says:

    Good point, G.A.

    But liberals only want destruction, and will even eat there own to get it. Imus and his crew are (closet) liberals, and look what it has got them.

  15. Bandit says:

    This has nothing to do with Al Sharpton or the FCC–it has to do with the GE & Viacom’s analysis of the media market.

    2 words bull & shit. Advertisers didn’t pull their advertising $$$ out of altruism they did it after being pressured by professional race baiters. None of which excuses Imus’ ignorance but it just adds to the hypocrisy.

  16. Bass Master says:

    The “Rosie” to which Wayne speaks of is Rosie O’Donnel. Did you really not understand that?

    Anyway, Rosie HAS made racist comments before. Anyone remember her “Ching-Chong” rant? If not, google her … I think it’s even on her wikipedia page. Can’t see why these comments of Imus are any more offensive than that.

    Anyway, personally, I think the firing is a combination of just the economic realities of the major advertisers pulling out (which makes sense for a corporation to worry about) and just the general environment of the country after the rants of people like Mel Gibson and Michael Richards. Responding to the latter is really an overreaction. I’m not an Imus fan, but he’s had a long career of doing the same thing, and to fire him over this just seems silly to me.

    I really just wish this had happened before South Park did the “N-word” episode …