NEW YORK—Don Imus, how can we miss you if you won’t go away?
Only six months after leaving the airwaves in disgrace, the I-Man finds himself at the center of another media storm, this time after a Web report Monday that he’d inked a multimillion-dollar deal with WABC-AM to become the New York talk-radio station’s new morning drive-time host.
The item on the Drudge Report set off a flurry of media activity as well as buzz in the blogosphere. Numerous phone calls to WABC-AM and its corporate parent, Citadel Broadcasting, were not returned.
Phil Boyce, WABC’s program director and Citadel Broadcasting vice president of news/talk programming, told Newsday Monday that he had nothing to announce, and wasn’t exactly certain when he would.
Many were shocked that Imus has been able to bounce back so quickly from such a sudden fall.
“How can America’s memory be so short,” asked Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women. “It was only six months ago that he was on the air denigrating young black women who were just out there trying to playing ball.
“A lot of people say he’s suffered, but how can he be suffering when he got six months off and somewhere between $10-20 million payout from CBS,” she continued, referring to Imus’ settlement with his previous employer.
Others were hopeful that a comeback by the shock jock meant that he could atone for some of his more outrageous statements of the past.
“Reconciliation is rooted in my religious faith and in my own life,” said civil rights pioneer Rev. Herbert Daughtry. “Repentance means he is sorry for what he’s done and not just sorry that he got caught for it.”
A threatened boycott of advertisers ultimately ended Imus’ run on CBS. It remains to be seen if a similar boycott would affect some of WABC’s chief sponsors. Steve Glasbert, a spokesman for AirBrook Limousine, which is listed on the station’s Web site as a WABC partner, said: “We’ve been satisfied by the results and we don’t believe adding Don Imus will impair those results ... everybody deserves a second chance.”
Michael Harrison, the editor and publisher of Talkers Magazine, an industry trade journal, said he believed that Imus was poised for an even bigger comeback.
“If Imus plays it smart he could have an even more socially pertinent show than he did before,” he said. “In the long run, Sharpton did him a favor. He kept Imus in the news and put him at the focal point of one of the crucial issues of our time and now it gives Imus a chance to reinvent himself.”