It’s a match made in some precinct of media purgatory, if not hell: Don Imus, longtime radio provocateur, takes up new digs on Oct. 5, this time in a simulcast of his radio program to be aired on the Fox Business Channel.
The veteran shock jock will feature business personalities on his show, and the crawl bars of numbers indicating market activity will share screen space with Imus. He’ll still be heard daily on WABC, the flagship of a 65-station syndication group.
Imus terminated his simulcast agreement with Rural Media Networks' RFD satellite network at the end of August.
Kevin Magee, executive vice president of the network, told David Hinckley of the New York Daily News that Fox is “excited to welcome a renowned broadcaster like Don Imus. His 40 years of on-air experience combined with his superb interviewing skills and capitalist sensibilities will be a great addition to our lineup.”
Tom Taylor, editor of the radio trade publication Radio-Info, told the Daily News that “the Imus show has always succeeded with a variety of different content around it.
“He's self-sufficient in that he brings his own audience,” Taylor said. “He's valuable to Fox because a lot of that audience watches programs like TV news talk shows.
"So he will certainly raise the level of awareness about Fox — and don't discount the fact he will be continuously promoting Fox Business on his radio show.”
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Left unsaid in all these glad-handing hosannas is Imus’ long-established talent for making trouble, more often than not for no one but himself.
In April 2007, Imus, then working for WFAN radio and simulcasting his radio show on MSNBC, called the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy-headed ho’s” on the air. Imus, a man with a reputation for vocal, sometimes volcanic outrage on the air, was fired by both his employers within a week.
Since then, Imus returned to radio on the ABC Radio Networks and to cable television on the RFD network, in December 2007. Imus hired two black comedians to keep a short leash on Imus’ expected racialist barbs.
In his first program after the Rutgers debacle, Imus seemed to make amends, pledging to “never say anything in my lifetime that will make any of these young women at Rutgers regret or feel foolish that they accepted my apology and forgave me.”
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But in June 2008, Imus made comments about suspended Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones in a segment with his sports announcer, Warner Wolf:
Wolf: Here’s a guy suspended all of 2007 following a shooting in a Vegas nightclub —
Imus: Well, stuff happens. You’re in a nightclub, for God’s sake. What do you think’s gonna happen in a nightclub? People are drinking and doing drugs … there are women there and people have guns …
Wolf: He’s been arrested six times since being drafted by Tennessee in 2005 —
Imus: What color is he?
Wolf: He’s African American.
Imus: Well, there you go. Now we know.
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It’s part and parcel of the same thinking that led to other incidents before that. In 1998, Imus told CBS’ "60 Minutes" that he hired an African-American producer to “tell nigger jokes.” In 2000, he described the New York Knicks as “chest-thumping pimps.” In 2007, he described Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz as “a boner-nosed... beanie-wearing Jewboy.”
With his new gig on Fox, Imus returns to the high-profile audience he enjoyed before at MSNBC, only now with the same angry, faux-populist crowd that’s powered Fox to ratings prominence.
Not surprisingly, he’s enamored of his prospects, and his new employer. “I love Fox,” Imus said last week. “Roger Ailes is the preeminent genius of American broadcasting. Who wouldn't want to do this?”
You can wager on the outcome of just anything that moves or competes through Ladbroke’s or the Las Vegas Sports Book. The new Don Imus comes to Fox on Oct. 5. Place your bets now on when the Mount Vesuvius of talk radio erupts next.
Image credit: Imus: Drew/The Associated Press.