NEW YORK – General Motors (GM), Staples Inc. (SPLS) and Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) are among companies that have pulled their advertising from Don Imus' radio show in the wake of the furor caused by his comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team.
The pullouts on Tuesday added to the fallout that began when the now-suspended radio show host called the players "nappy-headed hos" on his April 4 show.
"Because of the recent comments that were made on the program it did prompt us to take a look at our decision to advertise on the program and we have decided to stop advertising," Staples spokesman Paul Capelli said Tuesday night.
"Once we became aware of the comment, we sort of stepped back and took a look at it," he said, declining to disclose the dollar amount of the advertising involved. "We weren't on today and are not planning on being on going forward.
"I can't speculate on what we might do in the future," he said.
P&G spokesman Terry Loftus said the company pulled ads from the show as of last Friday. Another sponsor, Bigelow Tea, said in a statement posted on its Web site that the remarks have "put our future sponsorship in jeopardy."
The 10 members of the Rutgers team spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday about the on-air comments, made the day after the team lost the NCAA championship game to Tennessee.
Some of them wiped away tears as their coach, C. Vivian Stringer, criticized Imus for "racist and sexist remarks that are deplorable, despicable, abominable and unconscionable." The women, eight of whom are black, called his comments insensitive and hurtful.
"It kind of scars us. We grew up in a world where racism exists, and there's nothing we can do to change that," said Matee Ajavon, a junior guard. "I think that this has scarred me for life."
The women agreed, however, to meet with Imus privately next Tuesday and hear his explanation. They held back from saying whether they'd accept Imus' apologies or passing judgment on whether a two-week suspension imposed by CBS Radio and MSNBC was sufficient.
Several players said they wanted to ask him why he would make such thoughtless statements.
Junior forward Essence Carson said she had done some research on Imus and his past inflammatory and derogatory statements about other people.
"Just knowing that this has happened time and time before, I felt that it might be time to make a stand," she said Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show.
"He doesn't know who we are as people," Carson said. "That's why we are just so appalled with his insensitive remarks, not only about African-American women, but about women as a whole."
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was asked if the president thought Imus' punishment was strong enough, but said it was up to Imus's employer to decide any further action.
"The president believed that the apology was the absolute right thing to do," Perino said Tuesday.
Imus has apologized repeatedly for his comments. He said Tuesday he hadn't been thinking when making a joke that went "way too far." He also said that those who called for his firing without knowing him, his philanthropic work or what his show was about would be making an "ill-informed" choice.
MSNBC has said it will watch to see whether Imus changes the tenor of future programs.
The radio show originates from WFAN-AM in New York City and is syndicated nationally by Westwood One, both of which are managed by CBS Corp. (CBS). (MSNBC, which simulcasts the show on cable, is a part of NBC Universal, which is owned by General Electric Co. (GE)).
Insults are nothing new on his show, where Colin Powell was once called a "weasel" and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was referred to as a "fat sissy."
Rutgers' coach said Wednesday that he crossed the line with her team. She first heard about the remarks as she was leaving a celebration honoring the players' success in making it to the NCAA championship game. When the players should have been taking congratulations they were getting calls about Imus' insults instead, she told "Today."
"I've heard so many other talk show hosts speak on this, they say that's the way our society is," Stringer said Wednesday. "You know what? The society is the way it is because adults don't take leadership roles."
"We need to be shining examples of what should be," Stringer said. "No one is right in speaking about any person in such a derogatory way.