The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

12 April 2007

Imus Fired, NBC News, Al Roker, MSNBC, Nappy-Headed Hos


In Getting Imus Canned, Some Say He Was Key

With the career of Don Imus now in ruins, we're in a strange state of affairs, where angry fans look for scapegoats and enemies look to take credit.

Perhaps the oddest (yet quite possible) theory advanced so far is that NBC's Al Roker played a key role in getting Imus sacked from MSNBC. Could a weatherman really determine the fate of one of the network's major personalities?

Here, TV Guide's Steven Battaglio makes the case:

Imus faced a cascade of criticism for calling the Rutgers team members "nappy-headed ho's" on his Imus in the Morning radio program, which had been simulcast on MSNBC. He made a public apology, and it appeared that the outrageously irreverent host would get off with a two-week suspension.

That all changed after a meeting late on the afternoon of April 10, which NBC News president Steve Capus held with about 30 of his staffers, including Today show weatherman Al Roker, the most high-profile African-American on-air personality in the news division. According to an NBC insider, Roker told Capus, "That could have been my daughter" Imus was joking about.

After hearing the concerns, Capus knew he had to do something more. The decision to cut ties with Imus became a lot easier when a number of his program's high-profile national advertisers said they were pulling their commercials off the show. While Imus' TV ratings had been growing recently, the simulcast was considered only modestly profitable for MSNBC.

Capus acknowledged that Imus had long been making politically incorrect cracks about women and minorities on his show, which has been on MSNBC since 1996. But the circumstances with the Rutgers team were different because they were "people in everyday life who did not deserve this." He added, however, that Imus' "body of work" was also a factor in the decision.

Had Imus survived at MSNBC, he almost certainly would have remained at CBS Radio and Westwood One (his national syndicator) as well.

In the coming days, we'll likely have a clearer picture of the events that led to this strange week for broadcasting and even our nation as a whole. Until then, the idea that Al Roker got Don Imus fired somehow seems peculiar.

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