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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
The over-the-top offensive insults of shock jock Don Imus have finally caught up with him. Yesterday he lost a lucrative TV gig. The president of NBC News announced that cable channel MSNBC would no longer carry the simulcast of Imus's CBS radio show. The cancellation is a casualty of Imus's racially and sexually demeaning remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team last week.
NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us from New York this morning. Good morning.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: So we'll get to MSNBC in just a moment. But first, Imus still does have his radio show…
MONTANGE: …at the moment.
FOLKENFLIK: That's correct. A senior CBS corporate official told NPR last night that, you know, he was going to serve his two-week suspension, which initially both MSNBC and CBS had fixed upon. And they expect to broadcast him when he comes back from that. You know, it's a tough call for CBS. He's obviously on dozens of stations. It's syndicated through a syndicate called Westwood One that CBS owns a major stake in and in fact manages. And you know, he's a really moneymaker for them. There's a couple of tens of millions of dollars at stake.
MONTAGNE: And - but of course with MSNBC, they dropped the simulcast effective immediately. And permanently.
FOLKENFLIK: They did. And it was interesting to see how that played out. I mean initially they pointed to his kind of grudging apology is enough over the weekend, you know, seemed to be outrage building, and they decided on this two-week suspension. Now, after advertisers peeled away, you saw major advertisers, money advertisers - American Express, General Motors, Proctor & Gamble - they too decided to do this.
Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, said, actually, well, it wasn't because of the advertisers, it was because of building concern within NBC News itself. The genial weatherman for the "Today" show, Al Roker, who's African-American, he sort of wrote that - he blogged, in fact, that Imus should be gone from the sister station, MSNBC. Other African-American staffers and other non-African-American staffers said, you know, is this guy really in keeping with our values, what we want to project as a major trusted source of news for Americans?
And Capus said that's really what led to NBC to do this, although it did happen within a day of this major advertisers peeling away. One other point that I think is very interesting is MSNBC has partnerships with not only NBC News, of course, but with the Washington Post and with Newsweek magazine. And these organizations therefore had a stream of some of the nation's best-known and most respected journalists come on this shows; those were not the people who read, who revolted or rebelled against the nature of the comments that Imus made.
MONTAGNE: Now, Imus and his pals on the show, they've been in trouble before, and that's in a way his stock in trade. But this is different, what, because it's especially cruel that it targets young, you know, sort of innocent - if you will - girls?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think that's certainly very part of it. There are two things that I think were different. And as you say, over the years he's made astonishingly incendiary remarks about blacks, about Jews, about women, about Latinos, gays, you name it. Imus, you know, must sort of be astonished at the backlash. He must feel that the rules have changed somehow for him. And there have been journalists who try him account - Philip Nobile tried to do that. "60 Minutes" got him on tape acknowledging that he had, you know, sort of hired somebody make anti-black jokes.
What happened here was that you had young women, some of them freshmen, who came out of nowhere, a kind of Cinderella story to be in the women's finals in basketball. It's a feel-good story. And these are people who after all don't have a platform to rebut. And the second thing is that, you know, we're in the - not only the 24-hour cable world, we're in the instant world. So this clip was played again and again and again on YouTube. People could see it for themselves. People could see whether or not they felt the context was appropriately done. A lot harder for Imus to walk away from those comments.
MONTAGNE: Well, just very briefly. He's suspended from CBS. There is speculation he won't be back.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's certainly possible. Again, as recently as last night, CBS corporate officials said he would be. Sumner Redstone, the head of CBS, said that he trusts CBS chairman Les Moonves to make the right decision. Interesting to see what he thinks that will mean. A board member of CBS, former head of the NAACP, has called for CBS to fire him. And there are protests. So there are some countervailing pressures, but remember, this adds a lot of money to the bottom line.
MONTAGNE: Thanks. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik.
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