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Imus faces criticism after comments

By David Bauder The Associated Press

NEW YORK – MSNBC said it will suspend telecasting Don Imus’ radio program for two weeks following his reference last week to members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.”

The suspension began yesterday.

The network said Imus’ regret at making the inappropriate comment and his stated dedication to changing the show’s discourse made it believe this was the appropriate response.

“Our future relationship with Imus is contingent on his ability to live up to his word,” the network said.

Imus, who has made a career of cranky insults in the morning, was fighting for his job yesterday following the joke that by his own admission went “way too far.”

He continued to apologize yesterday, both on his show and on a syndicated radio program hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is among several black leaders demanding his ouster.

By Deepti Hajela The Associated Press

NEW YORK – Don Imus had a hot seat on the other side of the microphone yesterday, appearing on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show and enduring more criticism for his offensive comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Imus issued another apology for referring to members of the team as “nappy-headed hos.” Sharpton called the comments “abominable” and “racist” and repeated his demand that Imus be fired.

“Our agenda is to be funny and sometimes we go too far. And this time we went way too far,” Imus said on “The Al Sharpton Show.”

The meeting prompted a series of testy exchanges, and Imus grew visibly frustrated at times. During one exchange, Imus said he can’t win with “you people.” Sharpton was clearly irritated by that remark.

In another encounter, Sharpton said, “If you walk away from this unscathed …”

“How am I unscathed by this?” Imus interrupted. “Don’t you think I’m humiliated?”

During commercial breaks, Sharpton walked out of the studio and said few words to Imus.

Earlier yesterday, on his own radio show, Imus called himself “a good person” who made a bad mistake.

“Here’s what I’ve learned: that you can’t make fun of everybody, because some people don’t deserve it,” he said on his show, which is nationally syndicated to millions of listeners. “And because the climate on this program has been what it’s been for 30 years doesn’t mean that it has to be that way for the next five years or whatever because that has to change, and I understand that.”

He pointed to his involvement with the Imus Ranch, a working cattle ranch for children with cancer and blood disorders in New Mexico. Ten percent of the children who come to the ranch are black, he said.

“I’m not a white man who doesn’t know any African-Americans,” he said.

On the radio show, Sharpton said that Imus’ good deeds do not make up for what he said about the Rutgers team, which includes eight black women.

“This is not about whether you’re a good man,” Sharpton said. “What you said was

racist.”

Imus said he hoped to meet the Rutgers players and their parents and coaches, and that he was grateful for the appearance on Sharpton’s nationally syndicated show.

“It’s not going to be easy, but I’m not looking for it to be easy,” Imus said.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and about 50 others marched yesterday outside the Chicago offices of NBC, the General Electric Co. subsidiary that owns MSNBC, carrying signs and shouting “Imus must go.” Jackson said Imus’ comments contribute to “a climate of degradation” and stem from a lack of blacks as program hosts.

Imus made the now infamous remark during his show Wednesday.

The Rutgers team, which includes eight black women, had lost the day before in the NCAA women’s championship game.

Imus was speaking with producer Bernard McGuirk about the game when the exchange began on “Imus in the Morning.” The show is broadcast on more than 70 stations and MSNBC.

“That’s some rough girls from Rutgers,” Imus said. “Man, they got tattoos … .”

“Some hardcore hos,” McGuirk said.

“That’s some nappy-headed hos there, I’m going to tell you that,” Imus said.

Imus apologized on the air Friday, but his mea culpa has not quieted the uproar.

James E. Harris, president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, demanded Sunday that Imus “resign or be terminated immediately.”

Allison Gollust, a spokeswoman for MSNBC, said the network considers Imus’ comments “deplorable” and was reviewing the matter.

Karen Mateo, a spokeswoman for CBS Radio – Imus’ employer and the owner of his New York radio home, WFAN-AM – said the company was “disappointed” in Imus’ actions and characterized his comments as “completely inappropriate.”

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