Controversial Radio Host Don Imus Dies at 79

FILE – In this May 29, 2015, file photo, cable television and radio personality Don Imus appears on his last “Imus in the Morning” program, on the Fox Business Network, in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The controversial radio personality passed away on Friday morning at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, Texas.

Don Imus, the radio personality whose insult humor and savage comedy catapulted him to a long-lasting and controversial career, has died at 79. His three-hour radio program, Imus in the Morning, was widely popular, especially with the over 25-male demographic.

Imus died Friday morning at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, Texas, after being hospitalized on Christmas Eve, a representative said. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Mike and the Mad Dog host Mike Francesca tweeted Friday, “Shocking news on the passing of my friend, Don Imus. He will long be remembered as one of the true giants in the history of radio.”

Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough added, “Morning Joe obviously owes its format to Don Imus. No one else could have gotten away with that much talk on cable news. Thanks for everything, Don.” Morning Joe started as a fill-in for Imus in the Morning after Imus was fired from MSNBC in 2007.

Imus in the Morning, which debuted on WNBC-AM in New York in 1971, most recently reached radio listeners via Citadel Media and was simulcast on the Fox Business Network.

Imus was loved or hated for his caustic loudmouth. Outspoken in an age of political correctness, his often coarse satire offended sensibilities. Yet his listeners included those whom he often ridiculed. His call-in guests included President Clinton, Dan Rather, Tim Russert, Bill Bradley, David Dinkins, Rudy Giuliani and political analyst Jeff Greenfield, who once remarked, “He’s out there talking the way most of us talk when we’re not in public.”

He sparked national outcry in 2007 when he made derogatory, racist remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. CBS Radio and MSNBC then dropped his show.

He rebounded by signing a multiyear contract with the Fox Business Network in 2009 to simulcast Imus in the Morning from 6-9 a.m., with Fox anchors appearing during the program.

Imus battled a lifelong addiction to drugs and alcohol. In 2009, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Imus was often compared to syndicated shock jock Howard Stern, who also had a stint on WNBC radio early in his career, and they frequently appeared on each other’s shows. Although Imus could not match Stern’s audience in terms of numbers, advertisers were well aware of Imus’ better-educated and richer demographic, often preferring him.

Imus in the Morning sandwiched music around his in-your-face commentary in which he mocked authority figures and ridiculed social and political problems. His no-holds-barred humor, including gags and pranks, spurred the onset of “shock jocks” like Stern. A mix of rock ’n’ roll, raunchy humor, call-ins and hard barbs, Imus in the Morning was a huge hit.

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Source: Hollywood Reporter