MSNBC, CBS Radio bench Imus

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MSNBC and CBS Radio have suspended popular talk show host Don Imus following outrage over his racially charged remarks about the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

CBS Radio, which syndicates "Imus in the Morning," and MSNBC, which simulcasts it, said late Monday that they will bench the show for two weeks beginning April 16. Imus will stay on the air today and Wednesday and will host as planned a two-day charity radiothon on his home station, the CBS-owned WFAN-AM in New York, Thursday and Friday. As scheduled, the fund-raiser will be simulcast on MSNBC.

"This comes after careful consideration in the days since his racist, abhorrent comments were made," NBC News said in a statement.

NBC News said that Imus, whose show is the second-highest-rated morning news program on cable behind Fox News' "Fox & Friends," would be given a second chance to prove himself able to change his ways.

"His dedication — in his words — to change the discourse on his program moving forward has confirmed for us that this action is appropriate," NBC News said. "Our future relationship with Imus is contingent on his ability to live up to his word."

The action comes as the holiday weekend did nothing to quell the firestorm of controversy over Imus' reference to members of the mostly black women's basketball team as "nappy headed hos" on Wednesday's program. Prominent blacks such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton called for Imus' resignation or firing from the radio show.

Imus made an appearance on Sharpton's nationally syndicated radio show Monday, acknowledging that "sometimes we go too far, sometimes we go way too far." He admitted that apologizing wasn't enough and that "some gesture of reconciliation" would be required. He said that he had been trying to meet with the Rutgers players and their parents and the coach to "ask for them to forgive me."

Imus said he didn't want to be portrayed as racist for the remarks, which he said weren't meant to be racial.

" 'Nappy' is racial," Sharpton chided Imus.

"Yes sir, I understand that," Imus said. He said that he didn't say some of the other things that had been attributed to him.

"You didn't argue with it, either," Sharpton said. "It's the same show."

Imus said he wouldn't resign but said his critics had the right to call for his firing.

Imus' appearance on Sharpton's radio show is reminiscent of the crisis management strategy employed by comedian Michael Richards who, following his racially charged outburst during a stand-up performance, appeared on Jesse Jackson's nationally syndicated radio program.

Imus, whose radio show is often graced by Washington media and political elite, apologized again several times on "Imus in the Morning" Monday. He said that his show was a place where, for the past three decades, many people have been made fun of but said the Rutgers team shouldn't have been.

"Some people don't deserve to be made fun of, like these young ladies who played for the national championship in basketball," Imus said. The Rutgers team lost last week to the University of Tennessee.

He also defended himself, saying, "I'm not a bad person. I'm a good person who said something bad."

Sharpton kept up the pressure Monday on his radio program, calling for Imus' resignation or firing. He wasn't alone.

"I cannot see another way this saga can end," Brian Monroe, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said Monday on Sharpton's syndicated radio show.
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