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Submitted by Kevin Wuzzardo on Thu, 04/12/2007 - 7:50am.
Don Imus is off the air here in southeastern North Carolina. Last night, MSNBC decided to drop "The I-Man" from its morning line-up. According to Imus's section on MSNBC's website, that means a Raleigh radio station is the closest carrier of his radio show... at least through this week. Monday Imus begins a two-week suspension for his comments last week about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. But he said on his show this morning he's not getting a good feeling from his radio bosses at CBS.
I will admit that I have tuned in to Imus in the Morning from time to time over the years. Sometimes I find the show entertaining. He usually has top-notch guests. But I've never become a long-term listener in large part because most of the time, the mumbling Imus and his crew are just plain dumb and negative. After a while, the show is annoying to listen to. Still, millions of people tune in every day to hear what Imus will say next. That's been his shtick for decades. And it's why even if CBS decide to cut and run, Imus will surely land on his feet.
In announcing the decision to drop Imus, NBC News chief Steve Capus said that it was based on maintaining standards at NBC and not based on money. In fact, he said the smart financial decision would be to keep Imus on the air. Granted several big sponsors were pulling their ads from the show. But you know others would step in later.
The fact of the matter is that regardless of what Imus said, he will still have a loyal following. This isn't the same as when CBS fired Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder from The NFL Today back in the 1988 for making some similarly ignorant comments about black athletes being better than white players. "During the slave period," Snyder told a TV crew on Martin Luther King's birthday of all days, "the slave owner would breed his big black with his big woman so that he would have a big black kid–that's where it all started." At least in public circles, the comment seemed to come from nowhere and shocked just about everyone. It didn't help that NFL Today host Brent Musberger didn't care much for him. The two had gotten in a fist-fight in a Manhattan restaurant a few years earlier.
The better comparison for Imus would be with fellow controversial talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. A month into his job as an analyst on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown in 2003, Limbaugh said Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was as good as many people thought.
"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well,'' Limbaugh said. "There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
When McNabb commented on it at a news conference a few days later, a media firestorm started. Limbaugh said he was criticizing the media, not making a statement on race. But he resigned from the ESPN gig nonetheless. More than three years later, Limbaugh and his radio show are still going strong. And I think Imus will have the same future, though, perhaps on satellite radio. After all, that has become the haven of other foul-mouthed shock jocks like Howard Stern, Bubba the Love Sponge and Opie and Anthony. The only question in my mind is if the 1989 Radio Hall of Fame inductee wants it. Under so much scrutiny, the 66-year-old may decide the time is right to sign off and retire to his New Mexico ranch for good.
By: Kevin Wuzzardo