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A member of the Rutgers women’s basketball team has sued Don Imus and CBS, claiming the radio personality’s sexist and racist comments about the team damaged her reputation.
Kia Vaughn filed the lawsuit alleging slander and defamation of character in state Supreme Court in the Bronx on Tuesday, the same day Imus settled with CBS Radio in a deal that pre-empts his threatened $120 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS. The settlement allows him to make a comeback bid at a new station.
Vaughn’s lawsuit, believed to be the first by a player in the case, says Imus and his former co-host Bernard McGuirk, along with CBS Corp. and CBS Radio, are legally responsible for damage done to her character and reputation. There is no dollar amount listed in the suit.
Vaughn was humiliated, embarrassed and publicly mocked for the comments, the lawsuit claims. Her attorney, Richard Ancowitz, said: “The full effect of the damage remains to be seen.”
“This is about Kia Vaughn’s good name,” Ancowitz said. “She would do anything to return to her life as a student and respected basketball player — a more simple life before Imus opened his mouth on April 4.”
Imus referred to the basketball players as “nappy-headed hos” on his nationally syndicated radio program in April, becoming the target of heated protests. He was fired shortly after.
“Ho” is a slang term for a prostitute. After the comments were made, Vaughn said at a news conference: “Unless they’ve given ‘ho’ a whole new definition, that’s not what I am.”
A telephone message left for Imus’ attorney was not returned Tuesday. There was no phone listing for McGuirk in the New York area. A spokeswoman for CBS Radio declined comment, and CBS network spokesman Dana McClintock did not return a message. MSNBC said it hadn’t seen the lawsuit.
Rutgers women’s basketball program spokeswoman Stacey Brann said that the university had no comment on the lawsuit and that she didn’t know whether other players had sued.
Vaughn, who was a center, had spoken out about Imus on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in April. She said that the comments overshadowed her team’s amazing season, one the coach has called the most rewarding of her career.
“Our moment was stolen from us,” Vaughn said then. “Instead of us coming here to enjoy what we accomplished and how far we came, we had to sit back and look at media asking questions about what he said.”
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