MSNBC and CBS Radio have suspended radio talk show host Don Imus for two weeks as of Monday in response to comments he made on his program that have been described as "deplorable, despicable and unconscionable."
The suspension is not enough, however, according to several African American leaders, including Bishop T.D. Jakes, senior pastor and founder of Dallas megachurch The Potter's House. They are calling for the employer, NBC, to fire the host for overly racist remarks.
"The fact remains that Imus' unprovoked racial slurs – which sadly appear to be part of a personal pattern over the years – clearly reveal a deeper malignancy of the heart," explained Jakes in a statement Monday. "But it is the lack of immediate and meaningful response by his employer that reveals a deeper cancer in America.
"Press statements and public appearances are mere bandages when someone's daughter is called a whore for fun. True healing will come only when individuals honestly address the root of their remarks, rather than making excuses for them, and only when employers and advertisers in our society respond immediately and decisively."
The controversy began last Wednesday when Imus made a comment about the Rutgers women's basketball team following their loss to Tennessee in the NCAA Championship game.
"That's some rough girls from Rutgers," he said on the program. "Man, they got tattoos. That's some nappy-headed hos there, I'm going to tell you that now."
The comment has angered black and non-blacks, especially since it was following a strong playoff performance by the team, which placed second in the nation.
"There is a stigma that exists in the minds of many who still see black people, especially those of us in the metropolitan areas or inner cities, as poor, welfare recipients who just sit around doing drugs and committing crimes," commented Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-Life Union, in a statement. "So, for Don Imus, referring to the talented young women as nappy headed whores came perfectly natural to him. He thought it would be funny – I found it extremely offensive!"
Imus has insisted that his remarks were a mistake, and has apologized publicly in several different forums. He also made an appearance on the syndicated talk show of civil rights leader Al Sharpton, who also wants Imus laid off.
"I'm embarrassed that I did that," explained the controversial host on his show Monday. "I'm a good person, but I said a bad thing. But these young women deserve to know that it was not said with malice."
Depending on how Imus does during and following his two week suspension, NBC will decide on his future in the company.
There is danger that the show could be cancelled over other reasons as well, including sponsors pulling from the program as well as guests declining appearances. Major League Baseball MVP Cal Ripken has already cancelled his arrival following the remarks.
Several guests have shown their commitment to the show, however, including Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain who reaffirmed that he would continue to appear on the show.
"I'm a great believer in redemption," the senator explained to reporters in Phoenix. "Whether he needs to do more in order to satisfy the concerns of people like the members of that team, that's something that's between him and them."
According to The Associated Press, the Rutgers women's basketball team will meet with the embattled radio host, although a date has not yet been confirmed. Their coach on Tuesday defended the team and called Imus's comments "racist and sexist remarks that are deplorable, despicable and unconscionable."
"[They] are the best this nation has to offer," head coach C. Vivian Stringer said of her players, "and we are so very fortunate to have them at Rutgers University. They are young ladies of class, distinction. They are articulate, they are gifted. They are God's representatives in every sense of the word."
Meanwhile, megachurch pastor Jakes commented that Imus, as an industry professional, should be held to a higher standard as well as his employers and advertisers that support the program.
"Allison Gollust, senior vice president for news communications at NBC, has stated: 'We take this matter very seriously,'" added Jakes. "If so, Imus and Bernard McGuirk should be unemployed today and the excuses should stop, so that the healing can begin."
The suspension will start on Apr. 16.