Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

12-10 Imus Is Back and Almost As Edgy


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Part time New Mexican Don Imus is back on the air after an eight-month exile for using language only rappers can get away with.

      Imus' contracts with CBS radio and MSNBC-TV were terminated last spring for an offhand comment made about the Rutgers women's basketball team the morning after they played in the NCAA finals.

      The incident set off a national debate over who can say what about whom. Imus essentially stayed out of the debate, apologizing to the Rutgers women and admitting that his comment was totally inappropriate.

      He is now on the air with ABC radio and RFD-TV. His first show was a benefit for the Imus Ranch for kids with cancer and other serious diseases. The ranch is at Ribera, near Las Vegas, NM.

   Hundreds of people paid $100 apiece to be in the audience for the 6 a.m. show in downtown New York and hundreds more who couldn't attend sent $100 donations. Imus announced the benefit raised over $100,000 for the ranch.

   When Imus was kicked off the air, nearly everyone predicted he could never make it back. Politicians and celebrities apologetically gave lame excuses why they had appeared on his programs and indicated they were happy to never have to be on again.

   But four presidential candidates appeared on his first two shows, one of them being New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Democrat Sen. Christopher Dodd, of Connecticut, thanked Imus for his support of legislation benefiting children with autism, which Dodd said absolutely would not have passed without the support Imus gave it on the air.

   Republican Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, thanked Imus for his support of a wounded veterans hospital in San Antonio, which wouldn't have been built without the I-man's advocacy.

   But the most enthusiastic of all the presidential candidates was Republican Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and Baptist preacher, who now leads the Iowa polls. He welcomed Imus back and invited him to do a show in the East Wing of the White House after Huckabee is elected president.

   Sen. Joe Biden, of Delaware, may be the only other presidential candidate Imus invites on his program because he only invites people who are willing to kid around with him and who can hold their own.

   And he has to basically like the person. On his first program, Imus vowed to refrain from ever picking on people who have not chosen to be in the public eye.

   But politicians still are fair game. He said Hillary Clinton is still Satan and Dick Cheney is still a war criminal. He said he also signed a five-year contract in order to give himself time to get even with everyone who deserted him.

   So Imus is still edgy, which is what made him so popular. Those who live on the edge always risk falling off, as Imus did. He's back, but only partially. He doesn't have near the radio stations he had before and RFD-TV is a new agriculture network found mainly on satellite systems. But they're betting on each other.

   The show isn't on any New Mexico radio stations that I've been able to identify. But it is on Direct TV and the Dish network from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.

   My favorite interviewers are Don Imus and Charlie Rose. Their styles are extremely different but both are able to get much more of substance out of people than anyone else I know of in the business. So I'm glad to see Imus back and asking the questions I'd like to ask.

   His supporting cast stayed with him, including producer Bernard McGuirk, who got him in trouble before. But now Bernie only speaks when spoken to and he doesn't get on camera.

   To be sure the show doesn't get too edgy, a 30-second delay turns the sound off on any questionable comments. I haven't noticed Imus getting muted, yet, but some of the comedians on the panel have been.

   The show doesn't have the liveliness it had before but maybe that will come as the cast settles into its new roles.

MON, 12-10-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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