Imus tells Sharpton he can't win with 'you people'

Updated: April 9, 2007, 8:09 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

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

Voepel on Imus
Mechelle Voepel
Nobody should say the things Don Imus said about the Rutgers women's basketball team, writes ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel. These women should be celebrated, not insulted. Story

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. Later Monday, CBS Radio and MSNBC did say they will suspend telecasting Imus' radio program for two weeks.

"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.

The CBS and MSNBC suspensions begin next Monday.

While CBS made its announcement without comment, MSNBC 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.

Former Baltimore Orioles great Cal Ripken was scheduled to appear on Imus' show later this week to promote two books but has decided not to appear after learning of the host's remarks.

"In light of recent remarks made on the program, Cal will not appear on the show as part of his national book tour," Ripken's publicist John Maroon said, according to the Washington Times.

Earlier Monday, on his own radio show, Imus called himself "a good person" who made a bad mistake.

"Our agenda is to be funny and sometimes we go too far. And this time we went way too far."
-- Don Imus on "The Al Sharpton Show"

"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.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and about 50 others marched Monday 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."

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."

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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