NEW YORK -- Don Imus overcame a major obstacle Tuesday in
his widely expected comeback bid, reaching a settlement with his
former employer that allows him to return to the airwaves at a new
station four months after he made a sexist and racist remark about
the Rutgers women's basketball team.
Imus and CBS Radio agreed to a settlement that pre-empts the
fired radio personality's threatened $120 million
breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS, the company and Imus'
attorney said in a statement Tuesday.
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Just before his
dismissal, Imus signed a five-year, $40 million contract with CBS.
The announcement essentially makes Imus a free agent, and
broadcast industry experts say he will be back on the air soon
"I've been comparing this to a divorce. Now both parties are
able to move on," said Tom Taylor of radio-info.com, a sounding
board for news and information about the radio industry.
Where Imus might land next is still up in the air.
A person familiar the situation told The Associated Press that
Imus has had informal talks with several broadcasters, including
WABC in New York, about a possible comeback. The person spoke on
condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the
talks, and it is unclear how serious the discussions were -- given
the fact that Imus' CBS contract was still under dispute.
"I've had no conversation with Mr. Imus and no one at Citadel
or ABC has had any negotiation with him," said Steve Borneman,
general manager of WABC radio. WABC radio is owned by Citadel
Broadcasting Corp., which owns more than 140 radio stations as well
as ABC Radio Networks.
The person familiar with the situation said the deal with CBS
also calls for a "non-disparaging" agreement that forbids the
parties from speaking negatively about each other.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Rutgers basketball player Kia Vaughn sued
Imus, CBS and others, claiming the offensive comments damaged her
reputation. A spokeswoman for CBS Radio declined to comment, and a
lawyer for Imus did not return a call about the suit.
Rutgers spokeswoman Stacey Brann said that basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer was on vacation and unavailable to comment.
"This is a matter between Mr. Imus and CBS," the university said in a statement.
One radio hire that did become clear Tuesday was the naming of
Imus' replacement on WFAN, the CBS-owned New York radio station
that was Imus' flagship.
Former National Football League quarterback Boomer Esiason will
take over the morning time slot along with New Jersey radio
personality Craig Carton, who has been known to push the boundaries
of taste during his broadcast career. Carton and his co-host at
times offended minorities and women, once nearly coming to blows
with former Gov. Richard Codey in 2005 over comments about the
widely publicized battle with postpartum depression by the
Esiason has built a long broadcasting resume since retiring from
football a decade ago, including stints on "Monday Night
Football" and CBS' NFL pregame show.
The fact that Imus is taking steps toward a comeback might have
seemed unthinkable at the height of the uproar caused by his
comments about the Rutgers women's team. He referred to the squad
as "nappy-headed hos" on his nationally syndicated radio program,
becoming the target of heated protests led by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
But industry experts say broadcast executives can have a very
short memory if it means boosting ratings -- something Imus can
"He's more valuable now than before the controversy. He was
such a focus of media attention for so long that his career has
been reinvigorated, and he's in a position to sort of reinvent
himself -- to make himself more pertinent and even more
interesting," said Michael Harrison, founder of the trade
publication Talkers magazine.
Sharpton issued a statement Tuesday saying the settlement is a
"a legal matter between a former employer and employee."
But he added that it is "also a testimony to the movement of
people that raised their voices to fire Imus that CBS would rather
pay him off than keep him on. ... To the rumors that Imus may
resurface, wherever he resurfaces we at National Action Network and
other groups will be watching and monitoring him."
Kim Gandy, head of the National Organization of Women, said it
was disappointing to hear Imus may be making a return to radio.
"After the heartache he caused untold thousands of young women,
I find it disheartening that he would have another platform so soon
on the public airways," Gandy said.
As for Carton -- one of Imus' replacements -- New Jersey
Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo said that the radio personality is
"a guy who's managed to insult almost every community around."
"You would have thought that after the Rutgers incident that a
lesson would have been learned. But I guess they figured that this
guy would get some ratings for them," he said.
Codey told the AP on Tuesday that he has put the episode
involving his wife behind him and that he has since been a call-in
guest to Carton's show to discuss sports.
Whatever Imus decides to do next, everyone is in agreement that
he better be careful.
"All eyes will be on Imus, so he'll have to watch his back,
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.