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

Updated: April 13, 2007, 10:26 AM ET
Associated Press

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."

New Jersey governor critically hurt en route to meeting
CAMDEN, N.J. -- Gov. Jon S. Corzine suffered numerous broken bones Thursday when his motorcade crashed en route to a meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers women's basketball team, a doctor said.

The 60-year-old Corzine's injuries were not considered life-threatening, officials said. He was recuperating early Friday at Cooper University Hospital in critical but stable condition after two hours of surgery to repair a seriously damaged leg and other injuries.

Dr. Robert Ostrum, who performed the surgery, said it was successful but noted that the governor would need two more operations on his leg in the coming days. Doctors also inserted a breathing tube that would remain "for days to weeks, until [Corzine] is able to breathe on his own again," Ostrum said. Corzine, who was conscious when he arrived at the hospital, had a broken sternum, a broken collarbone, a slight fracture of his lower vertebrae, a broken left leg, six broken ribs on each side and a laceration on his head, said Dr. Steven Ross, head of trauma for the hospital. He did not sustain any brain or spinal cord damage, doctors said.

A spokesman for Corzine said Friday it doesn't appear that the governor was wearing a seatbelt.

Corzine was riding in the front passenger seat in his two-car motorcade's sports utility vehicle around 6 p.m. ET when a white pickup truck swerved to avoid a red pickup truck on the Garden State Parkway, authorities said. The red pickup had corrected itself after driving onto the right shoulder, said State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes.

The white pickup slammed into the passenger side of Corzine's vehicle, causing the driver's side to strike a guardrail. Authorities were still searching for the red pickup truck and its driver.

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 hos."

"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 this.'"

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 humor.

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 us."
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 Ranch.

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.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press