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NBC News: 'Only decision we could reach'

Effective immediately, MSNBC will no longer simulcast Imus' radio show

‘Only decision we could reach’
April 11: NBC News President Steve Capus explains the network’s decision to drop “Imus in the Morning” from MSNBC.
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MSNBC said Wednesday it will drop its simulcast of the “Imus in the Morning” radio program, responding to growing outrage over the radio host’s racial slur against the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

NBC News President Steve Capus described the network's decision on "Hardball."  You can read the transcript below or click on the video to the right to watch the interview.

DAVID GREGORY: The breaking news here on MSNBC is that Don Imus has been taken off the air at MSNBC.  The simulcast of the “IMUS IN THE MORNING” program will no longer air.  He has also been suspended by CBS Radio, which airs his program around the country from the flagship station in New York, WFAN.  He’s been suspended for two weeks without pay.

Joining us now is the president of NBC News, Steve Capus, joining us from New York.  Steve, hello.


GREGORY:  And why don’t you take me through why you made this decision? 

CAPUS:  Well, it’s been a week since the original broadcast on the Imus program.  And during that time, there have been any number of things that have happened.  When I first learned of the comments, we issued an apology and we denounced the comments.  They were awful.  They were hateful.  They were deplorable. 

But something also happened right after that, and that is a dialogue that’s been going on inside the country, and it’s been going on inside NBC News. 

I’ve received hundreds, if not thousands of emails, both internal an external, with people with very strong views about what should happen.  I’ve listened to those people with their comments.  And many of them are people who have worked at NBC News for decades, people who put their lives on the line covering wars and things like that. 

These comments were deeply hurtful to many, many people. 

And we’ve had any number of employee conversations, discussions, emails, phone calls.  And when you listen to the passion and the people who come to the conclusion that there should not be any room for this sort of conversation and dialogue on our air, it was the only decision we could reach. 

GREGORY:  And Steve, I don’t have to tell you.  I mean, some of our colleagues, like Al Roker, who did it publicly with a blog on “The Today Show”

Web site and others have said essentially that this kind of humor, this platform has been given to—over to Imus for too long now, with this kind discourse and humor. 

CAPUS:  The Imus program is what it is.  And I am proud of some of the things that are on there and not so proud of others.  I like that politicians come there to announce that they’re running for the presidency.  I like what Don Imus has done through the years to help kids with cancer at the Imus Ranch.  He has raised awareness about autism.  He has done any number of good things.  And there is no question about that. 

I think he is a complex man, and I think in many ways, he is a good man.  I don’t—I think this is not—I’ve listened to him, by the way, over these last couple of days, and heard him loud and clear talk about how truly sorry he is for these comments.  And I believe that.  I believe—you know, I take him at his word when he says he’s not a racist. 

But I also believe that those were racist comments.  And I believe that it comes—that there have been any number of other comments that have been enormously hurtful to far too many people.  And my feeling is that can’t—that there should not be a place for that on MSNBC. 

GREGORY:  What was the tipping point, though, Steve?  Because people will look at what’s happened in the past day—General Motors, GlaxoSmithKline, American Express,, Procter & Gamble, companies—Staples—pulling their advertising from MSNBC.  And the obvious question that is going to come up that, you know, we’re feeling the heat and we’re reacting to dollars. 

CAPUS:  Look, I understand the people are going to view it that way, and I only say that that—that is not why this decision was made.  This decision was made after listening to the people who work for NBC News, who have placed a trust and respect the trust that America has given us. 

I ask you, what price do you put on your reputation?  And the reputation of this news division means more to me than advertising dollars. 

Because if you lose your reputation, you lose everything. 

And so yesterday, I found out after the fact that some of the advertisers had started to pull their money away.  Those types of reports don’t land on my desk immediately.  And honestly, that is not what is behind this. 

This is about trust.  It’s about reputation.  It’s about doing what’s right. 

GREGORY:  What happened in between the decision-making about the suspension and then the decision to actually pull him off the air? 

CAPUS:  The days are running together now.  But we announced the suspension, and I believed that Imus took some courageous and smart and appropriate actions, with the level of apology that you saw from him on the air day after day, the fact that he went and sat with the Reverend Al Sharpton and spoke on his radio program.  And perhaps more importantly than speaking, he listened, and I wanted that process to continue. 

At the same time, internally, we were having conversations about what all of this meant.  Some of those conversations led to some very interesting reporting on “Nightly News” and “The Today Show” and MSNBC, on NBC stations all across the country—in fact, on every media outlet.  There has been an opportunity to have a very important dialogue about race relations and everything—everything that goes under that broad umbrella. 

And what has been going on is a lot of conversation, a lot of listening and a lot of talking, and we came to this conclusion.  I take no pride—I take no joy in this.  It is not a particularly happy moment, but it needed to happen.