NEW YORK – Bruce Gordon, former head of the NAACP and a director of CBS Corp. (CBS), said Wednesday the broadcasting company needs a "zero tolerance policy" on racism and hopes talk-show host Don Imus is fired for his demeaning remarks about the mostly black Rutgers women's basketball team.
"He's crossed the line, he's violated our community," Gordon said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "He needs to face the consequence of that violation."
Gordon, a longtime telecommunications executive, stepped down in March after 19 months as head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the foremost U.S. civil rights organizations.
He said he had spoken with CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves and hoped the company, after reviewing the situation, would "make the smart decision" by firing Imus rather than letting him return to the air at the end of a two-week suspension that was announced Tuesday.
"We should have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to what I see as irresponsible, racist behavior," Gordon said. "The Imus comments go beyond humor. Maybe he thought it was funny, but that's not what occurred. There has to be a consequence for that behavior."
Imus triggered the uproar on his April 4 show, when he referred to the Rutgers players as "nappy-headed hos." His comments have been widely denounced by civil rights and women's groups, and two sponsors, Staples Inc. (SPLS) and Procter & Gamble Co. (PG), have pulled their advertising from the radio show.
Gordon said that as a matter of principle, firing Imus should be an easy decision to make, though he respects the right of CBS leadership to consider all factors.
"When I look at it from my position as a director, where my responsibility is to represent the best interest of the shareholders, it's more complex," Gordon said. "But at the end of the day, the image of CBS is at risk. ... the ad revenue of CBS could be at risk."
"What I expect is for management to take the next two weeks to do their homework," he said. "I hope that the result of their due diligence is to terminate Don Imus."