Imus insulting to 'all'

Companies pull ads from his show

The head coach of the Rutgers University women's basketball team said Tuesday that Don Imus' sexist and racial remarks weren't just about insulting the team but were insulting against all women and people.

In an emotional news conference at Rutgers University, coach C. Vivian Stringer said she and the team were "physically, mentally and emotionally spent" by the insults that were aired Wednesday on radio and MSNBC by Imus.

"There is a bigger issue here. It's more than just the Rutgers women's basketball team," Stringer said. "It is all women's athletes. It is all women. Have we lost a sense of our own moral fiber? Has society decayed to such a point that we can forgive and forget because you know what, it was just a slip of the tongue?"

The news conference, aired nationally on MSNBC and elsewhere, also featured remarks from the 10 women who said they were not only angry by what Imus said but how he "stole a moment of grace," as the women's team started the season 2-4 and found themselves in the championship game last week.

"We haven't done anything to deserve this controversy, yet it has taken a toll on us mentally and physically," team leader Essence Carson said.

Earlier in the day, Imus said that his suspension was appropriate but said it wasn't "a malicious rant."

Appearing live on NBC's "Today" (and simulcast on his syndicated radio show and MSNBC), Imus said he didn't think he was getting away with a slap on the wrist for a racist on-air exchange with executive producer Bernard McGuirk and sportscaster Sid Rosenberg against the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Late Monday, CBS Radio and MSNBC said they wouldn't air Imus' radio show originating from WFAN-AM in New York for two weeks beginning next week. The corporate decision was made amid calls that Imus resign or be fired. Additionally, several companies have pulled their ads from "Imus in the Morning" on MSNBC.

"I think it's appropriate, and I'm going to try to serve it with some dignity, a lot of dignity if I can," Imus told "Today" co-host Matt Lauer. But Lauer noted that it wasn't the first time Imus' remarks have been considered racist, pointing to a skit in the 1980s when then-New York Times White House correspondent Gwen Ifil was referred to as a cleaning lady.

"This is a comedy show," Imus said. "I'm not a newsman. This is not 'Meet the Press.' "

But the Rutgers coach said that the women did nothing to raise ire. "These aren't political figures, nor are they professionals," Stringer said. "These are hardworking 18-, 19-, 20-year-old young women who came here to get an education and use their gifts for all to see."

The Rutgers women's team will meet with Imus, and the team members say they're not sure what will come of it. Imus has pushed for a meeting with the women, their parents and coaches to apologize.

"I can't really say whether we've come to a conclusion over whether we would accept the apology, but I can say this meeting will be crucial for us, the state of New Jersey and everybody representing us," one player said at the news conference.

Carson said she wasn't satisfied with what Imus has expressed so far.

"Reading it in a newspaper or watching it on television or hearing it over the radio doesn't serve any justice to what he said," Carson said.

Yet the suspension didn't pacify the people who had been calling since Wednesday's comments for Imus to be fired. The Rev. Al Sharpton, on whose radio show Imus appeared Monday, said the suspension didn't go far enough.

"I think it's too little, too late," Sharpton said on "Today." "The gravity of this type of use of the airwaves must be stopped."

"Today" co-host Al Roker wrote in a blog following Tuesday's show that it was clear that Imus "doesn't get it" and noted that Cartoon Network GM Jim Samples did the right thing and resigned after a publicity stunt went awry in Boston.

"What he said was vile and disgusting," Roker wrote of Imus. "It denigrated an entire team and by extension a community and its pride in a group that had excelled."

While Imus' reputation for insults and over-the-edge skits made him one of radio's early and most famous "shock jocks," even some of his high-profile fans felt that he might have gone too far. In a telephone interview Tuesday on "Imus in the Morning," former CNN and now CBS analyst Jeff Greenfield said that the Imus show's characterizations of blacks seemed rooted in the 19th century.

When Imus tried to defend the voicings, Greenfield said he was wrong.

Imus did promise that he would change the tone of the show, which has morphed over the years from a strictly comic program to one that includes guest appearances by a cadre of celebrities from the political and media elite, including NBC News' Brian Williams, Tim Russert and David Gregory as well as Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman.