Two Major Sponsors Drop Imus

The fallout from the comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team by radio talk show host Don Imus is continuing. Office supply chain Staples Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. said they pulled advertising from Imus' show, and Bigelow Tea said the remarks have "put our future sponsorship in jeopardy."

The program originates with New York radio station WFAN-AM, and is syndicated to other radio stations by CBS Radio. Both, like CBSNews.com, are part of CBS Corporation. The program is also simulcast on the cable channel MSNBC.

According to the Wall Street Journal, advertisers don't buy time on specific programs on MSNBC, but instead time on the channel's overall daytime schedule — so P&G has pulled all its ads off MSNBC.

"Any venue in which our ads appear that is offensive to our target audience is not acceptable to us," the company said in a statement.

"We are deeply saddened by Imus' remarks," said Cindi Bigelow, co-president of Bigelow Tea.

Imus is set to begin a two-week suspension on radio and television, beginning Monday. CBS Radio has not said how it will fill his block of time. MSNBC says it will program expanded news coverage.

The show last year generated as much as $20 million in revenue for WFAN, according to media reports. The station is otherwise all-sports; the Imus show is a break in that format. WFAN inherited him from former NBC flagship WNBC-AM, which held that frequency.

Civil rights organizations and the National Organization for Women have demanded he be fired.

Rutgers basketball player Kia Vaughn doesn't know what Imus meant when he called her and her teammates "nappy-headed hos," but she's sure that she's not one.

"I achieve a lot, and unless they have given this name 'ho' a new definition, then that is not what I am," said Vaughn, the team's sophomore center.

Vaughn and the other nine members of the Rutgers women's basketball team spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday about comments made last week by Imus the day after the team lost the NCAA championship game to Tennessee.

Wearing matching red and black tracksuits and highlighting the on-court accomplishments and off-court academic accomplishments, the team portrayed the exact opposite image of the racially charged words Imus used to describe them.

The women include a class valedictorian, a future lawyer and a musical prodigy who plays classical compositions on the piano without sheet music. Some of them wiped away tears as their coach, C. Vivian Stringer, criticized Imus for "racist and sexist remarks that are deplorable, despicable, abominable and unconscionable."

"We were fooling around, just trying to describe this team humorously. It was simply how tough they were," Imus said on his show Wednesday morning.

The women, eight of whom are black, called his comments insensitive and hurtful.

"It kind of scars us. We grew up in a world where racism exists, and there's nothing we can do to change that," said Matee Ajavon, a junior guard. "I think that this has scarred me for life."

The women agreed, however, to meet with Imus privately next Tuesday and hear his explanation.

"We hope not only to let him know who we are as basketball players, but let us see the man behind the radio personality," team captain Essence Carson said on CBS News' The Early Show. "His remarks are completely not us, and we hope to see a man different, a man other than what his remarks proved him to be."


Under what circumstances would the players accept Imus' apology, asked co-anchor Hannah Storm.

"We haven't decided yet," Carson, a junior from Paterson, N.J., replied.

The players also held back from saying whether the two-week suspension was sufficient.

"They are indeed remarkable, and what I was impressed with was their spirit of fairness and lack of hypocrisy, which I don't see any place else, anywhere, in the coverage of any of this," Imus said Wednesday.

Rutgers' athletic director, Robert E. Mulcahy III, thought a meeting with Imus would offer the team's players a chance to listen to him and hear what he has to say. Several players said they wanted to ask the host why he would make such thoughtless statements.

The calls for his firing have been led by Rev. Al Sharpton, who had Imus on his own radio show Monday and gave him a lambasting for more than an hour.

"If you can't get redeemed once people make an inflammatory remark, then there are many people who shouldn't be in the public eye, not the least of which is Al Sharpton," said media critic and new CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield Wednesday. But Imus "needs to get the point that some of the humor and the humor that some of us haven't called him on, needs to be changed."

Greenfield has been a guest on the Imus show, and was on it Tuesday.

"One of the reasons I would like to see him survive is that when the show is not indulging in bar room, locker room humor, it has an interesting focus on politics and public policy. What that show has lacked is black participants," Greenfield told Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen.

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was asked if the president thought Imus' punishment was strong enough, but said it was up to Imus's employer to decide any further action.

"The president believed that the apology was the absolute right thing to do," Perino said Tuesday.

While Imus has used his show to spread insults around — once calling Colin Powell a "weasel" and another time referring to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as a "fat sissy" — his comments about the Rutgers women crossed the line, Stringer said.

"It is more than the Rutgers women's basketball team. It is all women's athletes. It is all women," said Stringer, the third-winningest women's basketball coach of all time who has taken three teams to the Final Four.

Imus has apologized repeatedly for his comments. He said Tuesday he hadn't been thinking when making a joke that went "way too far." He also said that those who called for his firing without knowing him, his philanthropic work or what his show was about would be making an "ill-informed" choice.

MSNBC has said it will watch to see whether Imus changes the tenor of future programs.