May 3, 2007
Last night someone alerted me via email that there was news on the Imus case, and just as I read that Anderson Cooper announced that he would be giving the story so far on his broadcast, just minutes away. Interesting that it has not been folded into the morning newscasts of CBS, NBC, MSNBC, or even ABC as of yet.
Not many are on the edge of their seats for this, but I was heartened to hear that the guy has not crawled into the cave his foes -- and many of his once-friends -- had dug for him. Not yet. He had a six-year contract with CBS, and he's suing them for $40 million. According to the CNN story, the contract reads:
"Company (CBS Radio) acknowledges that Artist's (Imus') services to be rendered hereunder are of a unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial and personal character and that programs of the same general type and nature containing these components are desired by Company and are consistent with Company rules and policies."
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the legal issues in the Imus case are simple: "Did Imus breach his contract by saying what he did about the Rutgers basketball team?"
"What stands out in the contract is he is supposed to be controversial and irreverent. That's what his statement about the Rutgers basketball team was," Toobin said.
"How is CBS going to argue that what he said was so controversial and so offensive that it isn't what they asked for in the contract?"
Let's face it. CBS and MSNBC should have stuck it out for the two-week suspension and then seen what happened. Events escalated under the hands of Sharpton and Jackson, but after Imus apologized over and over, and met with the Rutgers team for hours (after which they said they forgave him and did not see why he was fired), the public flogging would have stopped and everyone would have had time to ponder the real news, which by then was the situation at Virginia Tech. The two networks bailed as soon as sponsors began pulling out, as if they couldn't weather the heat and as if new or even the same sponsors wouldn't want in when Imus came back on the air. Why Al Roker has kept his job all these years, and prevailed over someone with an on-air personality that does not rely on constant laughter and bad puns, I don't quite understand.
What Imus really wants is at least a little piece of his reputation back. He was hired to be obnoxious and "irreverent," and he was living up to that in spades. He's not stupid -- he would avoid such unacceptably overt sexism/racism in the future, and he could go back to being one of the best interviewers in the business with a show that garnered the brightest guests and consistently put them on the spot to show their hearts and minds instead of their P.R. teams' script-writing talent.
Oh, and I guess he could use some of the $40 million that CBS is legally bound to pay him. He's got a ranch for children with cancer to run.