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Last Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Bumpy career of original 'shock jock'
Don Imus
Imus worked as a uranium miner before becoming a DJ
A tidal wave of outrage has swept controversial US broadcaster Don Imus off the airwaves, eight days after he used racist language to describe members of a female basketball team.

The cantankerous, gravel-voiced DJ has been a fixture of US radio for more than 40 years, and Time Magazine once placed him among the top 25 most influential people in America.

At times, Imus seemed to suffer from a split personality - jumping from heavyweight political discussion to lavatorial schoolboy humour at the drop of his trademark cowboy hat.

But the broadcaster finally went too far last week when he called the mostly black members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos".

Several companies cancelled their advertising contracts, high-profile guests said they would no longer appear and, eventually, broadcaster CBS pulled the plug.

Early acclaim

It is not the first time Imus has got into trouble for crossing the line on air.

At the start of his career in 1969, the DJ was sacked from a small station in California for uttering the word "hell" during his show.

Don Imus
The DJ was made a member of Broadcaster's Hall of Fame in 1996
But the incident only boosted his profile, and he was soon picked up by a larger station, KXOA in Sacramento, California.

There, he won Billboard magazine's broadcaster of the year award for medium-sized markets after a stunt in which he ordered 1,200 hamburgers from a local McDonalds.

By 1971, he had made it to New York as morning host at the flagship station WNBC.

His Imus In The Morning show quickly became something of a phenomenon - its combination of comedic banter with the production team and rambling monologues setting the template for DJs like Howard Stern and Chris Moyles.

But as he found greater success, Imus also developed a destructive taste for vodka.

After a string of absences, WNBC fired him in 1977.

Feud

Within two years, however, he made a triumphant return to the station - where he was pitted against fellow shock jock Stern.

The two frequently appeared on each other's shows, but the friendly rivalry later developed into a full-blown feud.

Imus once declared that if Stern beat him in the ratings, he would eat a dog's penis. He later declared it "tasted good".

Senator Barack Obama
Senator Barack Obama vowed never to appear on the show after the row
During the 1980s, his taste for alcohol was joined by another vice - cocaine - until he entered a rehab programme in 1987. The DJ says he has been sober ever since.

Having kicked his addictions, Imus began mixing politics into his show.

High-profile guests like President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senators John Kerry and John McCain have all appeared, seizing the opportunity to address an audience three times bigger than the Sunday morning political talk shows on US television.

Not that they got an easy ride. In 1997, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd declared Imus was "the best political interviewer" in the US.

"He's read everything, and he gets to the heart of everything," she told Time Magazine.

'Absurd' claims

But the presenter has not completely abandoned his close-to-the-bone style. He regularly refers to Senator Hilary Clinton as Satan, and drew a storm of criticism for labelling black news anchor Gwen Ifill a "cleaning lady".

Asked by Time magazine to respond to accusations of bigotry he said: "It's absurd.

"Have we made fun of African Americans or Asians or Caucasians? Yeah, sure. But people have got to calm down."

Don Imus
Imus' morning show regularly attracted 10 million listeners
Imus has made a similar defence of his comments about the Rutgers basketball team, initially dismissing them as "idiotic".

He later apologised, but also lashed out at the "hypocrisy" in media coverage of the fallout from his remarks.

But by Wednesday, the pressure on CBS to sack the presenter had become too great to ignore.

"He damaged the image of CBS and its reputation," board member Bruce Gordon told CNN.

"The public spoke clearly, consistently and loudly. Management listened to that feedback and made what I consider to be the right decision."

Imus has bounced back from such setbacks before and, given that his show brought in an estimated $40m a year for CBS and its affiliates, the end of his career is not a foregone conclusion.


SEE ALSO
CBS fires racism row radio host
13 Apr 07 |  Americas
MSNBC drops race row disc jockey
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Race row US DJ loses advertisers
11 Apr 07 |  Americas
US DJ suspended over racist slur
10 Apr 07 |  Americas
Jackson demands racial slur ban
28 Nov 06 |  Entertainment

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