CBS Radio has followed MSNBC’s lead and suspended shock jock Don Imus for two weeks starting April 16 for racially offensive remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
In a two-line statement released late in the day, CBS said it was suspending Imus “due to the events of the past week.”
The program will continue to broadcast this week on MSNBC and CBS-owned WFAN(AM) New York, where the show originates, due to a previously scheduled on-air charity fundraiser Imus had slated for Thursday and Friday.
Earlier in the day, NBC News released a blunt statement about MSNBC’s suspension of Imus, saying the decision came “after careful consideration in the days since his racist, abhorrent comments were made.”
It continued, “Don Imus has expressed profound regret and embarrassment and has made a commitment to listen to all of those who have raised legitimate expressions of outrage. In addition, his dedication - in his words - to change the discourse on his program moving forward, has confirmed for us that this action is appropriate. Our future relationship with Imus is contingent on his ability to live up to his word.”
Imus’ 6-9 a.m. MSNBC slot will be filled by live news. The CBS Radio statement did not make mention of what programming would replace Imus.
CBS's decision came not long after a CBS Evening News report with a CBS comment that Imus’ roundly criticized comments were “completely inappropriate,” but that it would "continue to monitor the program's content."
The CBS report did point out that it has taken action in the past against racially insensitive remarks, pointing to CBS' canning of the Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder as a sports commentator after his comments--to a local Washington TV station--that black players were better athletes because they had been bred that way as slaves.
The CBS report, which led the Monday newscast, was something of a trip down indecency memory lane for the network, including a blurred shot of Janet Jackson's Super Bowl reveal and even an interview with former nemesis, FCC Chairman Michael Powell, for a sidebar about what, if any, regulatory power the FCC had over racist language.
None, the report concluded correctly, since it does not fall within the profanity or indecency definitions, as opposed to the "breast baring" and sexual content that have drawn FCC ire.
Powell pointed out that speech can be "vile and cruel," and still not meet that standard.
CBS said it had contacted a dozen politicians about whether this would discourage them from appearing on the show. Only one responded, Senator and presidential candidate John McCain (R-Ariz.) who said Imus had apologized. McCain called himself a great believer in redemption.
The same could not be said for the Rev. Al Sharpton. While Imus apologized to Sharpton in person for his remarks, saying he was a good man who had said a bad thing, Sharpton called for Imus' resignation, which Imus pointedly said he had no plans to tender.