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The Don Imus Issue: Offensive Speech vs. Free Speech

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Radio Host, Don Imus

Radio Host, Don Imus

Photo Credit: © WFAN
Radio talk show host, Don Imus, was fired soon after he made a comment during his morning program about the Rutger women's basketball team looking like "nappy-headed hos".

A firestorm of controversy erupted, led by Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson which resulted in CBS Radio terminating the long-time host and ending his syndicated show.

Did Imus deserve to be fired just because his comments offended certain people?

If so, what limitations should free speech have?

Latest Developments

After Don Imus was fired by CBS Radio in April, 2007, he hired a well-known lawyer who specialized in free speech cases.

It appears Don Imus had about $40 million dollars left in payment on the 5-year contract he signed in 2006 with CBS Radio.

In August, 2007, "CBS Corp. settled a dispute with radio-show host Don Imus, clearing the way for his return to broadcasting four months after he was fired for making racially charged remarks," according to bloomberg.com. The Drudge Report says it was a $20 million dollar settlement.

As of October, 2007, Imus was in discussions with Citadel Broadcasting to do mornings on WABC-AM/New York with syndication likely. His return date scheduled for December 3, 2007.

Background

Here is a time line of events which led to the firing of Don Imus:

April 4, 2007 - Don Imus calls the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy headed hos" during his syndicated radio show.

April 5, 2007 - The National Association of Black Journalists demands Imus be fired.

April 6, 2007 - Imus apologized "...for an insensitive and ill-conceived remark we made the other morning referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team...It was completely inappropriate, and we can understand why people were offended. Our characterization was thoughtless and stupid, and we are sorry."

April 7, 2007 - Angry critics of Imus called for his dismissal

April 9, 2007 - Imus appeared on Al Sharpton's radio show to apologize. Sharpton reiterated Imus should be fired.

April 9, 2007 - Imus is suspended for 2 weeks by employer, CBS Radio.

April 10, 2007 - Imus appeared on "The Today Show" and faces a hard-edged interview by Matt Lauer.

April 10, 2007 - The Rutgers women's basketball team agreed to meet with Imus

April 11, 2007 - Sponsors began deserting Imus including office-supply chain Staples, Bigelow Tea Company, and Proctor & Gamble.

April 11, 2007 - MSNBC cancels it's simulcast of Don Imus' radio program.

April 12, 2007 - CBS today announced its decision to cease broadcasting the "Imus in the Morning" radio program, effective immediately, on a permanent basis.

August 14, 2007 - Imus settles contract lawsuit against CBS reportedly for $20 million dollars.

October 15, 2007 - Imus reported to start new morning radio show on WABC-AM in New York City on December 3, 2007

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