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MSNBC, CBS take Imus off air for 2 weeks

Story Highlights

MSNBC and CBS to suspend Don Imus for two weeks
• Imus apologizes on the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show
• Sharpton, National Association of Black Journalists urge firing
• Imus made remarks about Rutgers women's basketball team
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- MSNBC and CBS Radio are suspending Don Imus for two weeks after the radio host described the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," the networks said Monday.

The suspensions start April 16, and MSNBC's "future relationship" with Imus depends on "his ability to live up to his word," according to a statement from NBC News. The cable news channel simulcasts a television version of Imus' radio show.

"His dedication -- in his words -- to change the discourse on his program moving forward, has confirmed for us that this action is appropriate," the statement said. (Watch Imus on the Rev. Al Sharpton's show Video)

Shortly afterward, CBS announced plans to suspend its broadcast of Imus' radio program for the same two weeks.

The flap began Wednesday, the day after Rutgers lost the NCAA women's title to Tennessee. Imus told listeners, "That's some rough girls from Rutgers."

"Man, they got tattoos," he said. "That's some nappy-headed hos there, I'm going to tell you that now."

Imus apologized for the remark Friday and repeated the apology Monday, telling listeners, "I'm embarrassed that I did that."

"I'm a good person, but I said a bad thing," he said. "But these young women deserve to know that it was not said with malice." (Watch how some say "sorry" isn't enough Video)

Imus: 'No excuse' for remark

Imus went on civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton's syndicated radio show Monday and said there was "no excuse" for his remark.

"I'm not thinking it's a racial insult that's being uttered at somebody at the time. It's in the process of trying to rap and be funny." he said. But he added, "I wish I hadn't said it. I'm sorry I said it." (CNN's Jeanne Moos on the Apology Hall of Fame Video)

For Sharpton, the apology was not enough. He told CNN's "The Situation Room" on Monday, "We want him fired."

"He hit a lot of us where we live," he said. "A lot of us that have condemned a lot of the language and gangster rap and a lot of language on the radio and said to kids, 'You have to quit using negative words.' How do we go back to tell our kids to clean up their words when you can call some exemplary young women this, and we say nothing and extract no punishment to protect their integrity and self-esteem?"

The National Association of Black Journalists has called for the veteran "shock jock" to be fired as well. Brian Monroe, the group's president, said Imus and his sidekicks have a long history of making crude racial and sexual comments.

"The only consequence we can imagine, that suits the words that he said, is for him to hang it up," Monroe said on Sharpton's program.

Also Monday, speaking at a demonstration outside NBC's studio in Chicago, Illinois, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Imus' mistake goes beyond an insult.

"This was not a slip of lip. This was a point of view," he said.

On the Rutgers campus, Imus' words have been met with outrage. University President Richard McCormick called the remarks "disgraceful, disgusting and racist."

"[The women's basketball team] represented Rutgers in an exemplary fashion of which we are extraordinarily proud, and then he says that. Why, why, why, why, why?" McCormick said.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine further condemned Imus' words and said, "There is absolutely no excuse for his conduct, and he is right to apologize. Only the Rutgers women's basketball team, however, can decide to accept his apology."

The Rutgers women's basketball team is expected to hold a news conference Tuesday morning.

McCain: 'I'm a believer in redemption'

But Imus' show continues to draw top-level guests from the world of politics -- and one of those, Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain, said Monday he would continue to appear on the show.

"I'm a great believer in redemption," the senator from Arizona told reporters in Phoenix. "Whether he needs to do more in order to satisfy the concerns of people like the members of that team, that's something that's between him and them."

But syndicated columnist Clarence Page said candidates may need to answer for their appearances on the show, "just as if they belonged to a country club that discriminates."

Howard Kurtz, media critic for The Washington Post and host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," said Imus is known for his comedy, but, he said "the problem is ... his comedy too often strays into the offensive."

Kurtz, whom Imus once called a "boner-nosed, beanie-wearing Jew boy," said Imus may now understand that his remarks about the Rutgers team crossed the line.

"Imus should be held accountable for some of these offensive things that he says, but there is also a good side to Don Imus, and I don't think that should be completely obliterated in all of this chest thumping," he said.


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Don Imus waits Monday for the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show to begin.

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