As symbols go, you can't do much better than Glenn Beck welcoming Don Imus into the fold. Beck was a guest on Monday's edition of Imus in the Morning, the first simulcast on News Corp. (NWS)'s Fox Business Network under a new multiyear deal. The two talked a lot about their battles with alcoholism, which is to say they talked about redemption. Subtext, anyone?
Imus, of course, is on Fox Business precisely because he's not on General Electric Co. (GE)'s MSNBC, which carried his simulcast until 2007, when it dropped him after he referred on-air to a group of black female basketball players as "nappy-headed hos," sparking fierce protests. Beck is on Fox News Channel despite the protesters who've been calling for his head ever since he called President Obama a racist with "a deep-seated hatred for white people."
In other words, the two have some experiences in common. And that's not all. Imus may be "more liberal than ... conservative," as he describes himself to Howard Kurtz, but he's a good ideological fit with the Fox organization, in that he lives to tweak politically correct sensibilities and harbors weird, illogical pet obsessions. Fox has ACORN and Rev. Wright; Imus has natural health and the supposed link between autism and vaccines. (He tells Kurtz he's treating his prostate cancer not with radiation or chemotherapy but with a diet heavy in sauerkraut and hot peppers -- this from a man nationally famous for his work with pediatric cancer patients.)
Whether Imus's peculiar potpourri of politics, sports and "other" appeals to business-news viewers is an open question -- but it also may be beside the point. If Fox Business had already had a large core audience in the morning, it wouldn't have hired Imus in the first place. "While it gets away from the core intention of the network, they probably feel it's worth the gamble," says Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media. "I think they expected to have better audience deliver at this stage. This will serve as good promotion. [Imus] will bring a loyal following of viewers with him, like he did at MSNBC."
And it's not as if other networks ever go off-message to get viewers. ESPN, Adgate notes, once featured business programming in the morning, while CNBC, FBN's much bigger rival, has recently taken to airing episodes of A&E's Biography in prime time.
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