Don Imus, the pioneering radio shock jock known as much for his southern drawl as he was for his searing commentary that pushed the boundaries of acceptance over the airwaves, has died. The man who could always be found wearing a Stetson-style cowboy hat died in Texas at the Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He was 79 years old.
Imus made a name for himself on “Imus in the Morning,” his eponymous show that he hosted for nearly 50 years. But that streak of decades in the radio booth was briefly halted in the late 2000s when he was fired over the use of a racial slur that stained Imus’ reputation for the remainder of his career.
It nearly all came falling down for Imus in 2007 when he gleefully while on-air referred the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy headed hos” and “jigaboos.”
The moment made national news and prompted CBS to fire him one week later for what he called being “really stupid.”
The players didn’t take kindly to it, either, and let everyone know about it.
“Our moment was taken away – our moment to celebrate our success, our moment to realize how far we had come, both on and off the court, as young women. We were stripped of this moment by degrading comments made by Mr. Imus,” then-sophomore forward Heather Zurich last at the time before continuing. “What hurts the most about this situation is that Mr. Imus knows not one of us personally.”
After making those racial slurs, the Rev. Al Sharpton invited him on his show to discuss the comments. The encounter got heated, leading Imus to proclaim that he couldn’t win with “you people.”
Imus’ cause of death was not immediately announced. However, it was reported in 2009 that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. At the time, he was expected to make a full recovery.
After his stints working at New York’s WFAN and MSNBC before being fired in 2007 over the racial slurs, Imus ultimately found work at New York radio station, WABC, on which he made another borderline racist remark about NFL cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, who is Black.
Imus retired from the radio airwaves in 2018, when he finally expressed “regret” for the racial slurs about Rutgers’ women’s basketball team, admitting he “knew better.”
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