Acerbic talker remembered for crack about “nappy-headed hos”
Daily Caller – Legendary radio host Don Imus died Friday morning at the age of 79, his family announced.
Imus was hospitalized on Christmas Eve at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, Texas, and passed away three days later, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
There was no cause of death given, but his family did release a statement.
Imus is survived by his wife Deirde, his sons Wyatt and Zachary, and his daughters Nadine, Ashley, Elizabeth, and Toni.
“Don loved and adored Deirdre, who unconditionally loved him back, loved spending his time watching Wyatt become a highly skilled, champion rodeo rider and calf roper, and loved and supported Zachary, who first met the Imus family at age 10 when he participated in the Imus Ranch program for kids with cancer, having battled and overcome leukemia, eventually becoming a member of the Imus family and Don and Deirdre’s second son,” the family said in a statement, according to the Reporter.
Imus was involved in radio for half a century before retiring last year.
Imus hosted “Imus in the Morning” for over three decades, and his show was simulcast on MSNBC for over a decade, before being taken off the air following widely criticized comments he made about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. [Specifically, the “I-Man” referred to the highly rated team as “nappy headed hos (whores).” – Ed.]
Imus’ final episode aired on Mar. 29, 2018 before he stepped down from WABC radio.
“We are deeply saddened to hear that legendary radio host Don Imus has passed away. Imus was on 77 WABC from 2007-2018 and spent over 40 years on the air in NYC,” WABC said Friday on Twitter. “Our thoughts are with Deirdre, Wyatt and his family.” Source [Fair Use.]
Rutgers women’s basketball team
Wikipedia – Don Imus characterized the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “rough girls” on April 4, 2007, during a discussion about the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship; he was commenting on their tattoos.
His executive producer Bernard McGuirk responded by referring to them as “hardcore ‘hos'”. The discussion continued with Imus describing the women as “nappy-headed ‘hos'” and McGuirk remarking that the two teams looked like the “jigaboos versus the wannabes” mentioned in Spike Lee’s film School Daze, apparently referring to the two teams’ differing appearances.
In the immediate aftermath of the remarks, public outrage was directed at Imus and WFAN. Howard Stern discussed how he had heard Imus make racist comments directed at a black female co-worker while the two were working at WNBC. Management was aware of the comments at the time but had done nothing. Stern’s co-host Robin Quivers confirmed that assertion and added that she had once been the target of Imus’ racist remarks herself. Imus dismissed the controversy at first, calling the incident “some idiot comment meant to be amusing”. He also stated that “nappy-headed ‘ho’s” is a term which rap artists use to refer to black women. He said:
That phrase didn’t originate in the white community. That phrase originated in the Black community. Young Black women all through that society are demeaned and disparaged and disrespected by their own Black men, and they are called that name in Black hip hop.
In response to mounting public censure, Imus issued a statement of apology:
I want to take a moment to apologize for an insensitive and ill-conceived remark we made the other morning regarding the Rutgers women’s basketball team, which lost to Tennessee in the NCAA championship game on Tuesday. It was completely inappropriate and we can understand why people were offended. Our characterization was thoughtless and stupid, and we are sorry.
On April 9, Imus appeared on Al Sharpton’s syndicated radio talk show Keepin’ It Real with Al Sharpton to address the controversy. Sharpton called the comments “abominable”, “racist”, and “sexist”, and repeated his earlier demand that Imus be fired. Imus said, “Our agenda is to be funny and sometimes we go too far. And this time we went way too far. Here’s what I’ve learned: that you can’t make fun of everybody, because some people don’t deserve it.”
Imus was suspended soon after. Media commentators were divided on the suspension; on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country on April 10, Pat Buchanan said that Imus is “a good guy” who “made a bad mistake and apologized for it” and that the show should stay on the air. Comedian Bill Maher said that, if a comedian apologizes for stepping over a line, that should suffice. MSNBC media analyst Steve Adubato disagreed, saying that this incident was “not isolated”. Joe Klein made the same charge, referring to Imus’s comment about The New York Times reporter Gwen Ifill 14 years before as evidence of a pattern of offensive comments. On The View, Rosie O’Donnell spoke out in support of keeping Imus on the air on free speech grounds, while Emil Steiner of The Washington Post argued that Sharpton used the issue to further divide America along racial lines.
The Rutgers basketball team held a news conference at which coach C. Vivian Stringer stated that the team would meet with Imus to discuss his comments. Several of the players expressed their outrage over his remarks. Team captain Essence Carson said that Imus’ remarks had “stolen a moment of pure grace from us”.
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page had confronted Imus about his characterization of certain black athletes and got him to take a pledge to stop. After the Rutgers team incident, Page said that he would not appear on the show again and said of the original two-week suspension:
I know other stations… some shock jock who lost his job for less than this, or been at least suspended for a month or two. Why does Don, a repeat offender, keep getting away with it? I want to know.
CBS board member and former NAACP president Bruce S. Gordon said that Imus should not be allowed to come back even after the suspension, claiming that his remarks “crossed the line, a very bright line that divides our country.” Steve Capus of NBC News announced on April 11, 2007 that MSNBC would no longer simulcast Imus in the Morning. The decision came on the same day that a few advertisers left Imus, and the network also said that employee concerns played a role. Barack Obama and several high-profile NBC black personalities opposed Imus’s return.
NBC News president Steve Capus said:
These comments were deeply hurtful to many, many people. And we’ve had any number of employee conversations, discussions, emails, phone calls. And when you listen to the passion and the people who come to the conclusion that there should not be any room for this sort of conversation and dialogue on our air, it was the only decision we could reach.
CBS Radio canceled Imus in the Morning the next day. CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves stated:
From the outset, I believe all of us have been deeply upset and revulsed by the statements that were made on our air about the young women who represented Rutgers University in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship with such class, energy and talent. 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. That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision.
The day before, CBS chairman Sumner Redstone said that he trusted that Moonves would “do the right thing,” but he didn’t elaborate. Moonves had met with Sharpton and Jesse Jackson shortly before the announcement was made. Moonves said in an internal memo that employee concerns were a factor in the decision to cancel Imus’s show, but he also said that the decision was “about a lot more than Imus.” Moonves said that CBS had to take Imus off the air in order to change “a culture that permits a certain level of objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of people.”
General Motors (Imus’s biggest advertiser), Staples Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, Sprint Nextel, PetMeds, American Express, and Procter & Gamble either pulled their ads outright or suspended advertising on Imus’s show to protest his remarks. Bigelow Tea Company expressed uncertainty about renewing their ads with Imus’ show.
Just hours after the announcement of his firing, Imus met with Stringer and her team at Drumthwacket, the New Jersey governor’s mansion. The three-hour meeting was arranged by Buster Soaries, the former New Jersey Secretary of State and Stringer’s pastor. New Jersey governor Jon Corzine planned to attend the meeting but was injured in a car accident on the way.
Imus left without commenting, but Stringer said that the meeting went well. She later commented that they had accepted Imus’s apology because he came to the meeting “in spite of the fact that he lost his job. So let’s give him credit for that.” She also emphasized that the basketball team had not called for Imus to be fired.
Senator John Kerry criticized CBS for being too harsh. He said that a “long suspension” would be “appropriate to pay a price on the airwaves but I’m not sure that it was appropriate to say you’re off forever.”