Imus is on the air and just said that MSNBC didn’t notify him until after 6PM last night that he was being cancelled. Because of the late notice, he’s still broadcasting from MSNBC studios in NJ rather than the WFAN studio. MSNBC, however, hasn’t turned the cameras off. They are using coverage of Imus on the air today in their David Gregory Imus special that’s on in place of “The Imus Show.”
You knew something was up early in the day. As soon as I told executives at MSNBC that I was going to write about the “60 Minutes” piece, which was already in pretty wide circulation, they began acting very weird. We’ll get back to you, they said.
In a “60 Minutes” interview with Don Imus broadcast in July 1998, Mike Wallace said of the “Imus in the Morning” program, “It’s dirty and sometimes racist.”
Mr. Imus then said: “Give me an example. Give me one example of one racist incident.” To which Mr. Wallace replied, “You told Tom Anderson, the producer, in your car, coming home, that Bernard McGuirk is there to do nigger jokes.”
Mr. Imus said, “Well, I’ve nev — I never use that word.”
Mr. Wallace then turned to Mr. Anderson, his producer. “Tom,” he said.
“I’m right here,” said Mr. Anderson.
Mr. Imus then said to Mr. Anderson, “Did I use that word?”
Mr. Anderson said, “I recall you using that word.”
“Oh, O.K.,” said Mr. Imus. “Well, then I used that word. But I mean — of course, that was an off-the-record conversation. But ——”
“The hell it was,” said Mr. Wallace.
The transcript was pure poison. A source very close to Don Imus told me last night, “They did not want to wait for your piece to come out.”
At some point, critics of Don Imus will have to start asking why executives at CBS and MSNBC tolerated Imus for as long as they did. What’s worse…what Imus said, or that executives ignored his behavior because he was making mega bucks for his employers?
If I were Bob Herbert, I’d follow up with questions of just how many warnings both CBS and MSNBC gave to Don Imus before yesterday.