Imus, CBS reach accord

Return to radio in his future?

August 15, 2007|By Rafer Guzman | Rafer Guzman,Newsday

Even as Don Imus and CBS Radio were settling their legal differences yesterday, the 67-year-old shock-jock was facing a new lawsuit, this one brought by a member of the Rutgers women's basketball team. It was his on-air racist comments about team members that got him fired in April.

In her lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in the Bronx, N.Y.,Scarlet Knights center Kia Vaughn says Imus and his former co-host Bernard McGuirk, CBS Corp. and CBS Radio are legally responsible for damage done to her character and reputation. There is no dollar amount listed in the suit.

The settlement reached between Imus and CBS Radio brings to an end his threatened $120 million breach-of-contract lawsuit, the company announced yesterday. After he was fired from WFAN, a CBS-owned New York station, Imus claimed that the company owed him millions in unpaid salary and damages from his recently renewed contract.

Although a CBS spokeswoman said details of the settlement "are confidential and will not be disclosed," it contains a "non-disparaging" clause that forbids the parties from speaking negatively about each other, according to a source cited by the Associated Press.

The settlement is fueling speculation that Imus will soon return to the airwaves. The AP is reporting that Imus is talking to the New York station WABC and other stations about making a possible comeback, a person familiar with the talks said.

Steve Borneman, general manager of WABC, did not return repeated calls requesting comment on whether Imus might join the talk-radio station that features political and topical shows with such stars as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

Meanwhile, WFAN announced yesterday that it had hired former NFL quarterback and Monday Night Football commentator Boomer Esiason and broadcaster Craig Carton to permanently take over Imus' slot with a sports program.

Imus was dismissed April 12 after he described on-air the Rutgers women's basketball team in disparaging terms, which raised the ire of black leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Imus apologized, but after days of increasing public outcry and disappearing advertisers, CBS bowed to pressure and fired the 40-year broadcast veteran. Imus' MSNBC simulcast had already been discontinued.

Sharpton recently told Newsday he would not stand in the way if Imus sought to return to radio. "He has a right to make a living," Sharpton said. "We had never asked him never to work again."

That blessing, such as it was, may have paved the way for Imus' return, said Michael Harrison, publisher of the industry trade magazine Talkers. "It's important that Sharpton gave the green light, because he played the major role in giving the red light," Harrison said.

Whether or not Imus goes to WABC, he'll almost certainly be picked up by a major radio outlet, Harrison added.

"Hopefully, he will use this opportunity to be reinvigorated and maybe even ... tweak his presentation to show some growth," Harrison said.

Rafer Guzman writes for Newsday. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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