Stringer hopes team can 'put all of this behind us'

NEW YORK -- Don Imus' wife sat in for him on a radio
fundraiser Friday, a day after CBS fired him for racist remarks
about the Rutgers women's basketball team, and she praised the
players as "beautiful and courageous."

Deirdre Imus briefly described the couple's meeting with team
members Thursday night, after more than a week of uproar over her
husband's on-air description of team members as "nappy-headed

"They gave us the opportunity to listen to what they had to say
and why they're hurting and how awful this is. And I have to say
that these women are unbelievably courageous and beautiful women,"
Deirdre Imus said as she co-hosted the fundraiser. It had been
scheduled for her husband's show Friday long before his remarks set
off a national debate about taste and tolerance.

"He feels awful," she said. "He asked them, 'I want to know
the pain I caused, and I want to know how to fix this and change

Imus made the remark on April 4, the day after the Rutgers team
lost in the national championship game. He met with team members
for about three hours at the governor's mansion in Princeton, N.J.
Thursday night, but left without commenting to reporters.

C. Vivian Stringer, the team's coach, spoke briefly on the mansion's steps.

"We had a very productive meeting," she said. "We were able
to really dialogue. ... Hopefully, we can put all of this behind us."

She did not say if the team forgave him for the remarks.

Deirdre Imus said that the Rutgers players have been
receiving hate e-mail, and she demanded that it stop. She told
listeners "if you must send e-mail, send it to my husband," not
the team.

Asked Friday morning about the hate mail, Rutgers team
spokewoman Stacey Brann said the team had received "two or three
e-mails" but had also received ``over 600 wonderful e-mails."

CBS abruptly fired Imus on Thursday from the radio show that he
has hosted for nearly 30 years; the decision came a day after MSNBC
said it would no longer televise the show.

"He has flourished in a culture that permits a certain level of
objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of
people," said CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves in a memo
to his staff. "In taking him off the air, I believe we take an
important and necessary step not just in solving a unique problem,
but in changing that culture, which extends far beyond the walls of
our company."

While team members respected Imus' willingness to apologize,
they wanted him to understand how they were hurt, said Rev.
DeForest Soaries, Stringer's pastor, who joined the meeting. Imus
tried to explain what he meant, "but there was really no
explanation that they could understand," Soaries said on NBC's
"Today" show.

"An apology is appropriate for an insult," he said, "but restitution is necessary for an injury."

For Imus' critics, his recent remarks were the latest in a line
of objectionable statements by the ringmaster of a show that mixed
high-minded talk about politics and culture with crude, locker-room

Imus apologized and tried to explain himself before the Rev. Al
Sharpton's radio audience, appearing alternately contrite and
combative. But many of his advertisers bailed in disgust,
particularly after the Rutgers women spoke of their hurt.

"He says he wants to be forgiven," Sharpton said. "I hope he
continues in that process. But we cannot afford a precedent
established that the airways can commercialize and mainstream
sexism and racism."

"They gave us the opportunity to listen to what they had to say
and why they're hurting and how awful this is. And I have to say
that these women are unbelievably courageous and beautiful women."
-- Deirdre Imus

MSNBC and CBS suspended Imus for two weeks, and the heat only
grew. He was then fired so swiftly that he had to awkwardly do his
last show from an MSNBC studio -- even though MSNBC wasn't
televising it -- then was cut loose in the middle of an annual
two-day radiothon to raise money for children's charities. Imus'
wife Deirdre and his longtime sidekick Charles McCord were called
in to sub for him Friday.

Some Imus fans considered his punishment harsh.

"I'm embarrassed by this company," said WFAN personality Mike Francesa,
whose sports show with partner Chris Russo is considered a likely
successor to Imus in the morning. "I'm embarrassed by their
decision. It shows, really, the worst lack of taste I've ever seen."

"Hopefully, we can put all of this behind
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer

The cantankerous Imus, once named one of the 25 Most Influential
People in America by Time magazine and a member of the National
Broadcasters Hall of Fame, was one of radio's original shock jocks.
His career took flight in the 1970s with a cocaine- and
vodka-fueled outrageous humor. After sobering up, he settled into a
mix of highbrow talk about politics and culture, with locker-room
humor sprinkled in.

He issued repeated apologies for his remarks about the Rutgers team as protests intensified. But it wasn't enough as everyone from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey joined the criticism.

Losing Imus will be a financial hit to CBS Radio, which also
suffered when Howard Stern departed for satellite radio. The
program earns about $15 million in annual revenue for CBS, which
owns Imus' home radio station WFAN-AM and manages Westwood One, the
company that syndicates the show nationally WFAN.

The radiothon had raised more than $1.3 million Thursday before
Imus learned that he had lost his job. The annual event has raised
more than $40 million since 1990. The total had
grown Friday to more than $2.3 million for Tomorrows Children's
Fund, CJ Foundation for SIDS and the Imus Ranch, Deirdre Imus said.

"This may be our last radiothon, so we need to raise about $100
million," Imus cracked at the start of the event.

Volunteers were getting about 200 more pledges per hour Thursday
than they did last year, with most callers expressing support for
Imus, said phone bank supervisor Tony Gonzalez. The event benefited
Tomorrows Children's Fund, the CJ Foundation for SIDS and the Imus

Imus' troubles have also affected his wife, whose book "Green
This!" came out this week. Her promotional tour has been called
off "because of the enormous pressure that Deirdre and her family
are under," said Simon & Schuster publicist Victoria Meyer.