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Imus Returns (Quack-Quack)

The I-Man returned to the airwaves this morning, in New York and a few other cities (though not yet in Washington). Don Imus's radio re-entry, live from the stage of Town Hall in Manhattan, is so far a little rough around the edges, but otherwise shows few signs of damage after his eight-month banishment for calling members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos."

"I was a good person who had said a bad thing," Imus told his audience in the opening minutes of his return show. But being a bad person "doesn't give you a license to make any remark you feel like making." He said he will now "diversify the cast--that just makes sense." But to rousing applause from the live audience, Imus quickly added: "But the program is not going to change."

Many of his sponsors were back, including Subaru, NetJets, Bigelow Tea and Optimum internet service. The political guests seem perfectly happy to return, with Sen. John McCain appearing during the first two hours back on the air and fellow GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee scheduled to follow tomorrow. James Carville, Mary Matalin and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Chris Dodd are also coming on the first edition of the new show. But Imus hasn't mentioned any journalists as guests; that may be the one part of his old posse that feels too much heat about making a return to the show.

McCain and Imus were as chummy as ever, and Imus managed to be his usual cranky self, getting a little snarky when the senator tried to dance around a question about the military's don't ask, don't tell policy toward gays in the service. McCain said he would reconsider the policy if the generals told him it was a problem, prompting Imus to ask the question a second and third time. When McCain asked if he had finally answered to Imus's satisfaction, the host replied, "No, I want to know what you think."

Imus's decades-long sidekick, newsman and writer Charles McCord, is back, egging Imus into dangerous waters. When McCord announced the pardon of the British teacher who was jailed for letting a student in Libya name a teddy bear "Muhammad Bear," there was chatter about how she should have chosen "Tickle Me Habib."

The cast of the show now includes a black woman, Karith Foster, a stand-up comic who notes in her biography that she started her career with a role in her high school's all-white production of "A Raisin in the Sun." On today's show, Foster thanked "a grumpy old cowboy"--Imus--for giving her the opportunity to get up at the crack of dawn to do a radio program.

In the opening hours, Imus and the rest of the cast seemed a bit stilted and hesitant, with little of the rolling comfort, confidence and cool that has marked the deejay for more than four decades on the air.

Imus's redemption was enabled by his long track record as a ratings and revenue machine, his satisfied advertisers and loyal stable of high-profile on-air guests, and the widespread sense in the radio industry that the incident that got him sacked was a quirk, something of an aberration. It also helped that ABC Radio was bought by a company, Citadel, that was looking to puts its own stamp on the stations it has recently acquired.

Phil Boyce, WABC's program director, told the Associated Press that Imus is back because the station's owner determined it could charge higher ad rates with him on the air--a simple matter of arithmetic. "He'll obviously be wiser, smarter and a bit more careful," Boyce said. "I'm not concerned that he'll have a repeat. Obviously, we are doing this because we think we can make more money. There's an opportunity to charge more for our advertising rates. I am not ashamed of saying it is about the money. We are running a business."

To be sure, Imus and his crew routinely issued insults of the sort that was leveled against the Rutgers basketball team, but Imus fell victim more to the new YouTube gotcha society we live in than to anything else. Had the slur against the athletes not been simulcast over MSNBC cable and captured on a YouTube video, the moment would have gone the way of so many such comments before it--into the ether, one more bit of radio ephemera.

So Imus is not back on MSNBC, though he does have a deal with a small cable channel specializing in rural entertainment, agriculture and equine issues.

Around the country, many stations that formerly broadcast the Imus show are hanging back, waiting to see whether advertisers (and guests) rejoin the program. Even at the show's flagship station, WABC in New York, some executives argued that keeping the current and successful locally-oriented morning show, starring former Guardian Angels street vigilante Curtis Sliwa, made a lot more sense than taking on the controversial but generally low-rated Imus program.

In Washington, Clear Channel's conservative talk station, WTNT (570 AM), has been coy about whether it will resume broadcast of the Imus program. Since Imus's sacking, the station has filled its morning drive hours with the unspectacular and virtually unnoticed Wall Street Journal business new program.

Imus certainly has the star power to make a splash on his return. While he may not ever regain the ratings numbers he amassed during his heyday as a Top 40 deejay in New York in the 1970s and 80s, he has carved out a valuable niche as someone who can draw a small but highly desired upscale male audience. Imus's unique blend of locker room humor and serious political and journalistic chat draws an audience that is much smaller, but a notch or two more affluent and educated than a Howard Stern or Greaseman might attract. And Imus's format fits reasonably well on conservative talk stations and on sports talk or even country stations.

In the new show's second hour, when someone mentioned how the Teddy Teacher might have been better off choosing a different name for the bear, McCord quipped, "Lots of things would be better in retrospect."

By Marc Fisher |  December 3, 2007; 7:20 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

How about a plug for the Rutgers women's basketball team? The Scarlet Knights play Maryland tonight at 7 p.m.(ESPN2).

Posted by: Carol Anne | December 3, 2007 9:38 AM

Imus' worst remarks are not as offensive as the neocon propagandists, Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, etc.

Posted by: Chud | December 3, 2007 9:48 AM

Imus was not a ratings grabber in New York over his last few years. He continuously finished in the mid to high teens. His advantage was being on a radio station that had many of the most popular sports teams that drew big advertising dollars and made WFAN very successful. He was constantly bested by both all-news stations, Spanish radio, the Morning Zoos and, when he was on terrestrial, Howard Stern. Imus' current popularity is a myth based on what he did 20-25 years ago.

Posted by: Steve | December 3, 2007 9:51 AM

April 13
Talking about Imus's wife praises Rutgers players - Radio -
Quote "I abhor racism as a dangerous virus, whether is is spread by white or black peoples. I seek total integration, which to me means the Negro taking his place in the very mainstream of American life...My ancestors have contributed very much to the development of this country and therefore I have a vested interest in it that I intend to realize and protect." "It seems painfully clear to me that there is no possibility in the affluent, highly industrialized and technological white-majority American society for anyone to be AT ONCE black, separate and equal." "The colonial system in its modern version, implicitly arrogant and self-serving, was instituted and perpetuated chiefly by self-righteous and superior-minded Europeans. Its positive achievements notwithstanding, colonialism's evil legacies will bedevil the world for years to come" [from a review of Ralph J. Bunche: Selected Speeches and Writings by Charles P. Henry, Associate Professor of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.]

Dr. Bunche was the first black American to hold a doctorate in political science, established the political science department at Howard University, and co-founded the National Negro Congress. In 1950, Dr. Bunche was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and thus became the first black Nobel laureate. Dr. Bunche was one of the first African Americans to do academic work in Africa, forcing him to think through notions of colonialism and class that would influence his work at the United Nations. According to Dr. Henry, Ralph J. Bunche, the man, vascillated from an early embrace of radicalism to a significant distancing during the mid-sixties to a final rapproachement during the last years of his life.

For me, an establishment of or state of having cordial relations did not represent this great American view of a generation striving for a world Bunche envisioned by censoring one act involving 'three words' uttered to look behind and not ahead with rigid reactions that did not advance a beautiful world Bunche envisioned in his "works' in this writer's opinion.

Indeed, it is counterintuitive for peace and social justice to premise an equal for all template that witnessed a weak momentary link in the 'chains of illusion' which has been reinforced by 'racist collective action' acting out 'as racism' notwithstanding the color of your skin or disparity in a perceived ugly comedy of another? The late Professor Elliot Skinner proudly represented a universality in practice growing through political power progressively emancipating African Americans fully in the United States of America and, by extension, to the rest of the world!

Personally speaking, the goodness of this one man can and will overcome such an unfortunate episode through his charitable networks of helping others in 'recovery' by looking ahead utilizing civil rights and civil liberties as a gentleman because he has proven in his soul to me these past eleven years that he 'cares about the welfare of all people.' My heart joins with my tongue in expressing by these words a promotion of the welfare of others while sharing in their prosperity.

Respectfully submitted for the World,

Kevin Michael Callihan JD

11:17 AM | Send a message | Permalink | View trackbacks (0) | Blog it | Books

Posted by: Kevin Michael Callihan Sr. | December 3, 2007 10:48 AM

Maybe one of Imus's black colleagues can handle the dump button. Any racially insensitive remarks will be vetted by someone who is ostensibly racially sensitive and the remarks will be removed before they make it to air.

Posted by: Bob Williams | December 3, 2007 11:09 AM

I'm trying to see if most people think adding a few black comedians to Imus' show is enough to redeem him. Please go here and vote whether you think Imus is redeemed

Posted by: Jeff Hudsson | December 3, 2007 1:10 PM

I just want him back on radio here in the DC market...these guys are HORRIBLE!

Posted by: Mike in DC | December 3, 2007 1:15 PM

Maybe the guy can afford to endow a scholarship for women athletes at Rutgers now, one without his own name in the title.

Posted by: Mike Licht | December 3, 2007 1:23 PM

Since Imus left the airwaves, morning radio listeners have had lots of time to listen to other options and learn for themselves that everything else sucks.

Welcome back I-Man.

My commute was pretty damn boring while he was gone.

Posted by: dashing train wreck | December 3, 2007 1:41 PM

I look forward to hearing the I-Man in the AM. The options being presented are a joke. They are more offensive and one sided then Imus could ever be. Of all the options out there, his show is the only one that doesn't have a political agenda and makes an effort to have guests from both sides of the aisle. Welcome back!

Posted by: Jack in VT | December 3, 2007 3:29 PM

I will no longer buy products from any of the sponsors of Imus' show. My low opinions of McCain and Huckabee just sank to new depths, as does that of the other guests.

I prefer listening to a station that plays mostly music, with the news and traffic every so often. I hate all of these morning programs aimed at being as stupid as possible, with stupid remarks, stupid jokes, stupid dialog.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 3:41 PM

Time for boycots of any stations who carry this show. Don Imus has proven himself a racist and also a bigot against female competitive athletes! Call and picket any station who carries him! If your a college teamsports athlete in any station that is in your local market, set up pickets at the studio of the station, and encourage your coach and athletic director to not accept interviews with that station!

Posted by: A West-Coast Perspective! | December 3, 2007 3:57 PM

Was Imus offensive? Of course he could be, but he never spewed the moronic frat-boy stupidity that characterizes the current crop of witless, lurid "shock jocks" that have taken up residence on the drive-time airwaves around here. (At least Stern is where he should be, pulling in subscriber bucks from morons who actually pay for his crap and helping keep subcription radio from achieving profitability with his outlandish salary contract.)

The simple truth is, Imus appeals to politically aware, sharp-witted people who can laugh at his curmudgeonly shtick while still recognizing his basic decency and charitability. He kept his audience up-to-date on what was happening in the world without pandering to the slopebrowed, slackjawed idiots who lap up the double-digit I.Q. dreck of Hannity and Limbaugh and Savage, and he kept us laughing without fart humor or lesbian make-out seesions or morons having sex on-air in church confessionals. The key to his popularity was that (as Marc illustrated with his recounting of Imus' interview with McCain) he wouldn't let his guests insult his intelligence, and by extension our intelligence either. He assumed his audience was just as smart as he is, which can't be said about all too many of today's on-air hosts.

I for one am damn glad he's back and hope some smart station in D.C. picks up his program sooner rather than later. Welcome back, Don, and hopefully you'll be better than ever!

Posted by: KR20852 | December 3, 2007 5:45 PM

I thought he said that being a GOOD (not bad) person "doesn't give you a license to make any remark you feel like making."

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 5:50 PM

I was invited to the Imus ranch about two years ago and met Don and Diedre. They were extremely good hosts and made me feel very welcome. The ranch is a beautiful place and they are both very committed to helping kids with cancer. Don Imus is a good man who said a stupid thing. He has apologized and we should all move on!

Posted by: NM Moderate | December 3, 2007 6:37 PM

I would not be surprised if Mr. and Mrs. Imus have already contributed to either Rutgers or a special fund agreed to by the female Rutgers basketball players. They doesn't seem to be the types to publicize serious contributions.

Posted by: va in dc | December 3, 2007 8:11 PM

Sorry - the verb in the last sentence of the previous post should be "don't".

Posted by: va in dc II | December 3, 2007 8:14 PM

What's the difference between what Imus said and some of the racial crap on Comedy Central?

Posted by: Explain, please | December 3, 2007 9:22 PM

It amuses me that some of the people who LOVE Sarah Silverman's or Sasha Baron Cohen's humor get all righteous and uptight about Imus. I guess it depends on whose ox gets gored. Personally, the one time I ever listened to Imus was when I found out that he was having some singer on that I liked, and even then, I tuned him out because he just seemed to be a gassy old guy. Whatever. But I lost respect for the basketball players he supposedly insulted when they sued him -- that was just a shakedown, pure and simple.

Posted by: Washington Dame | December 3, 2007 10:08 PM

I have two words for you:

Sirius XM

Posted by: Chilla | December 3, 2007 10:39 PM

I am an idiot so I thought I would write this:

"Imus' worst remarks are not as offensive as the neocon propagandists, Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, etc."


Tree Hugger

Posted by: Chuck | December 4, 2007 12:17 PM

I would like to know when we "all" can hear the "I-man" again. I agree that the replacement shows have been terrible. I want to be able to laugh on my way to work.

Posted by: NM 2 | December 5, 2007 9:49 AM

Ditto on the desire to have Imus back on the Washington airwaves. Imus always gave a fresh/different perspective on the political landscape as well as other world topics.

Posted by: Washington Dude | December 5, 2007 5:05 PM

KR20852 said it all for me! EXACTLY the way I see it. Would sure like to hear him again. Is he on the air in Southern California -- Los Angeles or Orange County -- at ANY time? Please, someone, let me know where on my radio dial if his show is on out here. email: Thanks a bunch!

Posted by: Louise | December 6, 2007 5:43 PM

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