LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Shock jock Don Imus, who has made a career out of outrageous comments, was suspended on Monday for making racist remarks by both the radio and television networks that carry his program.
CBS Radio and MSNBC, which broadcasts the radio show on television, suspended Imus for two weeks for saying the mostly black Rutgers University women’s basketball team looked like a bunch of “nappy-headed hos.”
“Hos” is slang for whores and “nappy-headed” a derogatory term for the hair of many black people.
CBS, in a short statement, said the suspension of Imus and his show for last week’s remarks would begin on Monday.
MSNBC said the program would be closely monitored when it returned to the air and added that Imus had agreed to “change the discourse on his program.”
“Our future relationship with Imus is contingent on his ability to live up to his word,” MSNBC said.
But the suspension did not satisfy one of Imus’ most vocal critics.
“I think it’s clearly not enough,” civil rights leader Al Sharpton told CNN. Sharpton has called for Imus to resign or be fired.
The suspension was a stinging rebuke to the radio personality, who usually gets away with saying what he wants on air and manages to attract many top political and media figures to his show.
But his remarks this time spurred nationwide calls for his firing and a boycott of his sponsors. Imus said he wouldn’t resign.
Imus’ radio show had about 3.5 million listeners per week in 2005, according to media research firm Arbitron. The MSNBC simulcast pulls in about 330,000 viewers per week, according to trade publication Talkers, which ranked him as the 14th most influential radio talk show host in the United States.
Imus apologized again several times on Monday’s “Imus in the Morning” show. He also said: “I’m not a bad person. I’m a good person who said something bad.”
CBS Corp. unit CBS Radio, which owns WFAN radio in New York where the Imus program originates, has called his comments inappropriate but program syndicator Westwood One did not return calls seeking comment.
Appearing on Sharpton’s radio show, Imus said his remarks were “repugnant” and “repulsive.”
“Our agenda is to try to be funny and sometimes we go too far, and sometimes we go way too far,” Imus told Sharpton.
Despite a history of making controversial comments, including calling PBS reporter Gwen Ifill, who is black, a “cleaning lady,” Imus books influential guests.
“You have anchormen from network news, you have senators, you have presidential candidates that come on your show. Are we saying that it is acceptable in the middle of these kinds of candidates and anchorman for you to call my daughter a ho?” said Sharpton, whose college-age daughter appeared on the show.
MSNBC television and MSNBC.com are joint ventures of Microsoft Corp. and General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal.