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Ex-head of NAACP: Imus should be fired

NEW YORK -- Bruce Gordon, former head of the NAACP and a
director of CBS Corp., said Wednesday he hoped the broadcasting
company would "make the smart decision" by firing radio talk-show
host Don Imus for his slur against the mostly black Rutgers women's
basketball team.

"He's crossed the line, he's violated our community," Gordon
said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "He needs
to face the consequence of that violation."

Some consequences already were evident.

A growing list of sponsors -- including American Express Co.,
Staples Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., and General Motors Corp. -- said
they were pulling ads from Imus' show for the indefinite future.
And at the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, N.J., about 300
students and faculty rallied to cheer for their team, which lost in
the national championship game, and add their voices to the
crescendo of calls for Imus' ouster.

Gordon, a longtime telecommunications executive, stepped down in
March after 19 months as head of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, one of the foremost U.S. civil
rights organizations.

He said he had spoken with CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves
and hoped the company, after reviewing the situation, would fire
Imus rather than let him return to the air at the end of a two-week
suspension beginning next Monday.

"We should have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to what I
see as irresponsible, racist behavior," Gordon said. "The Imus
comments go beyond humor. Maybe he thought it was funny, but that's
not what occurred."

Imus triggered the uproar on his April 4 show, when he referred
to the Rutgers players as "nappy-headed hos." His comments have
been widely denounced by civil rights and women's groups.

Gordon said that as a matter of principle, firing Imus should be
an easy decision to make, though he respects the right of CBS
leadership to consider all factors, including legal and financial
repercussions.

"When I look at it from my position as a director, where my
responsibility is to represent the best interest of the
shareholders, it's more complex," Gordon said. "But at the end of
the day, the image of CBS is at risk. ... The ad revenue of CBS
could be at risk."

"What I expect is for management to take the next two weeks to
do their homework," he said. "I hope that the result of their due
diligence is to terminate Don Imus."

A CBS spokesman, Dana McClintock, declined comment on the
remarks by Gordon, who is the only black on the 13-member board.
Other members declined comment or could not be reached.

Shortly after Gordon's comments, General Motors -- one of the
major advertisers on the Imus broadcasts -- became the latest
sponsor to pull its ads, although GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney said
the decision would be reassessed later.

"This is a very fluid situation, and we'll just continue to
monitor it as it goes forward when he returns to the air," she
said.

At the Rutgers rally, a New Jersey state senator, Nia Gill,
called for a boycott of any advertisers who continued to sponsor
Imus' show.

The show originates from WFAN-AM in New York City and is
syndicated nationally by Westwood One, both of which are managed by
CBS Corp. MSNBC, which simulcasts the show on cable and is a part
of NBC Universal, says it will monitor future shows to see whether
Imus changes the tenor.

The 10 members of the Rutgers team spoke publicly for the first
time Tuesday about the on-air comments, made the day after the team
lost the NCAA championship game to Tennessee. 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."

The women, eight of whom are black, agreed to meet with Imus
privately next Tuesday and hear his explanation. They held back
from saying whether they'd accept Imus' apologies or passing
judgment on whether a two-week suspension imposed by CBS Radio and
MSNBC was sufficient.

The Black Coaches Association said Wednesday it was
"disgusted" by Imus' remark and urged his immediate dismissal.

Gordon said he was unimpressed by defenders of Imus who depict
him as a well-meaning commentator who mistakenly went too far.

"The defense that he is a nice guy is irrelevant," Gordon
said. "The people to be concerned about are the nice women at
Rutgers University who continue even in the face of this insult to
carry themselves with dignity."

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.

One reason his suspension does not start until next week is that
Imus is scheduled to host a charity radiothon for WFAN on Thursday
and Friday.

At the Rutgers rally, one of the speakers was Chidimma Acholonu,
president of the campus chapter of the NAACP.

"This is not a battle against one man. This is a battle against
a way of thought," she said. "Don Imus does not understand the
power of his words, so it is our responsibility to remind him."