Media World: How many chances does Don Imus deserve?

More than two years after he was let go by MSNBC and CBS Radio for calling African-American players on the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hoes," radio shock jock Don Imus is poised to make a comeback of sorts.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Imus is trying to leave RFD-TV, a rural-based network that most viewers have probably never heard of, in favor of Fox Business TV, a channel that people have heard of but don't bother to watch. A deal to simulcast Imus on Fox between 6 and 9 AM may take place next month, the paper said.
According to some sources, RFD, which is suffering from financial problems, is happy to let Imus move on.

When Imus made his famously incendiary remarks in April 2007, he ignited a national discussion that continues to this day. Many of the shock-jock's fans argued in online forums that the veteran radio personality was victimized by a growing political correctness in American culture. This notion was quickly rejected by Imus' many critics, who have characterized him as an out-of-touch crank. At first, Imus himself called the controversy "ridiculous," but later became contrite and apologized to the Rutgers team in person.

But many people, especially the media and political elite, can't seem to get enough of the I-man. The late Meet the Press host Tim Russert was among his pals, at least until the political heat got too bad. Similarly, Bob Schieffer and John McCain have both enjoyed a positive relationship with the controversial radio host. It's a cultural cache that's too big for Fox Business' parent company News Corp. (NWS) and its CEO, Rupert Murdoch, to ignore.

Already, there are signs that the media is turning Imus from a political reactionary to a colorful yet cantankerous coot. For example, The New York Times recently ran a largely flattering piece about his fight against prostate cancer and the nearly 1,000 children fighting cancer that have stayed at his ranch in New Mexico. While this is all very laudatory stuff, it raises some serious questions about second chances.

The "nappy-headed ho" remark was only one of many insensitive remarks that Imus has made on and off the air. Granted, his bitter rival Howard Stern, has similarly stomped on toes, but Stern's efforts often come across as a stab at social commentary. Imus, on the other hand, generally just seems to be mean.

Maybe F. Scott Fitzgerald would have never written, "There are no second acts in American lives" if he had met Imus; then again, considering the radio personality's ability to repeatedly rise from the media graveyard, a better comparison might be the Energizer Bunny. In this context, it will be interesting to see if his many critics, including Al Sharpton, give him another chance or try to yank his batteries.

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