By LARRY MCSHANE
Radio host Don Imus apologized Friday for calling the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy headed hos" on his nationally syndicated program.
The National Association of Black Journalists demanded his immediate firing after the man known as "Imus in the Morning" put his foot deep in his mouth Wednesday. Imus questioned the players' looks, describing them as tattooed "rough girls." His producer compared the team - which has eight black members - to the NBA's Toronto Raptors.
Near the start of Friday's show, Imus said he wanted to "apologize for an insensitive and ill-conceived remark we made the other morning referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team."
"It was completely inappropriate, and we can understand why people were offended. Our characterization was thoughtless and stupid, and we are sorry."
Gregory Lee, an NABJ officer and senior assistant sports editor at The Boston Globe, said the mea culpa did little to atone for the comments.
"You can apologize, but what does that mean when you have a history of making disparaging remarks about people?" Lee asked about the acid-tongued Imus. "This kind of behavior must be punished. I hope the company and sponsors he has take some sort of action ... to educate him."
NABJ President Bryan Monroe asked Thursday if Imus had "lost his mind" and called for the veteran radio host's dismissal.
Imus was speaking with producer Bernard McGurk when the NCAA title game between Rutgers and Tennessee came up.
"That's some rough girls from Rutgers," Imus said. "Man, they got tattoos ..."
"Some hardcore hos," said McGurk.
"That's some nappy headed hos there, I'm going to tell you that," Imus said.
Imus, a member of the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame and one of the nation's best-known radio voices, is renowned for his caustic style and politically incorrect verbal broadsides. His show is syndicated to millions of listeners at more than 70 stations around the country.
WFAN-AM, the home of Imus' show, declined comment. At MSNBC, where the radio program is simulcast on television, officials offered Imus no support.
"'Imus in the Morning' is not a production of the cable network and is produced by WFAN Radio," said a statement from the network. "As Imus makes clear every day, his views are not those of MSNBC. We regret that his remarks were aired on MSNBC and apologize for these offensive comments."
In a joint statement, NCAA President Myles Brand and Rutgers President Richard McCormick condemned Imus' slur.
"The NCAA and Rutgers University are offended by the insults on MSNBC's Don Imus program toward the 10 young women on the Rutgers basketball team," their statement read. "It is unconscionable that anyone would use the airways to utter such disregard for the dignity of human beings who have accomplished much and deserve great credit."