Imus prepares to sue CBS for $40 million

[3 May 2007]

By David Hinckley and Corky Siemaszko

New York Daily News (MCT)

NEW YORK - Don Imus is preparing to sue his former employer - and plotting a possible return to radio.

The radio jock who was fired by CBS for ripping the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed ho’s” has hired one of the nation’s top First Amendment lawyers to help him recoup the $40 million left on his contract.

Imus also has told close friends that he’s hoping to be back on the radio within a few months.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a problem in the world with the advertisers,” said private eye Bo Dietl, an Imus confidant. “We don’t know yet where he’ll be on the radio. But I think we’re going to be back on in the fall.”

CBS spokeswoman Karen Mateo said the company is declining all comment on Imus’ move and the ousted jock’s lawyer, Martin Garbus, did not return a call for comment about a possible lawsuit.

But Fortune magazine reported that Imus’ contract, which went into effect last year and paid about $10 million per year, had a “dog has one-bite” clause. That means Imus had to be warned before getting canned for making an off-color crack.

Industry experts said Imus stands a good chance of winning if he takes CBS to court.

“It’s common to have morals clauses in contracts,” said Steven J.J. Weisman, legal editor of Talkers magazine, which covers talk radio. He said he has not seen Imus’ contract, “But most often they are limited to felonies and crimes of moral turpitude.”

What Imus said sparked a national outcry and a revolt by advertisers, but it wasn’t a crime.

“They wanted someone controversial and on the edge, and he gave it to them,” Weisman said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who led the charge to have Imus fired, said he’s waiting to see which Imus returns to the airwaves.

“If he comes back as his old self, we’d go back to the advertisers and ask them not to support him,” he said. “It would mean he was disingenuous when he apologized to the Rutgers women.”

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