May 3, 2007
Ousted radio jock Don Imus has a good shot in prevailing in a lawsuit against CBS, which fired him in the aftermath of remarks directed at the
Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's legal correspondent, said Imus' contract with CBS requires him to be "controversial."
CNN obtained a copy of the contract that states: "Company (CBS Radio) acknowledges that Artist's (Imus') services to be rendered hereunder are of a unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial and personal character."
In Toobin's view, CBS must show that Imus' "nappy-headed hos" crack is "outside the realm of what the contract allowed."
Fortune reports a legal showdown "could turn on how language in his contract that encouraged the radio host to be irreverent and engage in character attacks is interpreted," wrote Tim Arango.
Imus' five-year $40M contract also stipulates that he must receive a warning before being fired. It is the "dog has one-bite" clause, according to the magazine.
Fortune notes it is unclear whether Imus received a warning after once referring to New York Times African-American sports columnist Bill Rhoden as a "quota hire" and PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, who is black, as "a cleaning lady."
The legal fight, reports the business magazine's website, could hinge on Federal Communications Commission regulations about appropriate content.
Does "nappy-headed hos" fall under the FCC's definition of profanity, which is "language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance?" asked Arango.
Imus has hired Martin Garbus, a First Amendment expert, as his attorney. Time called the Davis & Gilbert lawyer "one of the best trial lawyers in the country." Garbus told CNN he expects to file a suit against CBS in the near future.
The New York Daily News reports that Imus expects to be back on the air in a few months after spending the summer on his ranch in
Rev. Al Sharpton, who led the drive to oust Imus, told the paper that he will encourage advertisers to boycott Imus if "he returns as his old self."