Don Imus on the Scandal That Changed His Career

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And it's time now for part two of my exclusive interview with nationally syndicated radio talk show host Don Imus, a man who has never been far from controversy.


HANNITY: A lot of points in your life, you've been right there at the edge, and you've talked a lot about it on the air.


HANNITY: Is that what makes Don Imus great on the air, that he lives his life on the edge?

IMUS: I haven't tried to do that. In other words, I'm not — I don't get up every day and think, "How close can I get to the precipice here and not, you know, tumble over into the abyss?"

Video: Watch part 2 of Sean's exclusive interview


IMUS: My job has always been to look at the freak parade, which is what — which is what I think this is, and I think I'm part of it — and to comment on all the freak, you know? Including me. So...

HANNITY: You've got a young son, 10 years old. What's life like at home for Don Imus? What are you like behind — off the set, off the radio, at home, with your wife?

IMUS: Well, we spend an inordinate amount of time with Wyatt, my son, and the reason we do is he doesn't have any kind of electronic equipment at all. He doesn't have a Gameboy, has never played a video game, doesn't have a television. Grew up on John Wayne movies. And he's one of the few kids who knows who Jesse James was and Billy the Kid and that sort of thing. Really, pretty much, has grown up out on the ranch.

But Wyatt, to answer your question. His mother swears a lot, and so do I. I mean, I try not — really, we try not to take the Lord's name in vain. And I don't even — I'm not a religious man. But I just don't think it's — you know, if offends people.

HANNITY: Does he swear now a lot now like you guys?

IMUS: Yes.

HANNITY: So he's 10 years old?

IMUS: Well, here's what we struggle with.


IMUS: How do you say, "Don't say this"? And then his mom drops the "F" bomb on the dog.

HANNITY: So — so he says it?

IMUS: I mean, he's a good kid. He doesn't — he doesn't say it in school. I don't want to make him sound like we're liberal nitwits. We're not. We're very strict. But — but I'm trying not to be hypocritical.

HANNITY: A lot of people out there that may not like what you say, don't like what I say. They sit there with no lives, and they're monitoring every second of your show, my show, and anyone else that's on the radio, hoping, praying that, you know, we may say one word, one sentence, one phrase, that they could then take out of context and get us off of the air.

You — you went through this, what, a little over a year ago. What do you think of these groups?

IMUS: I don't have any complaints about anyone who's talked specifically about my case. I never thought — I thought what I said was inappropriate, and I didn't think that I should have said what I said about innocent people, whether it was intended to be humorous or not.

It was an observation that, one, wasn't funny. It was directed at people who weren't really public figures and didn't have a mechanism to defend themselves.

So the fact that I — the fact that it turned into whatever it turned into, I recognized early on that, once I said what I said, regardless, I didn't have any control over how the media was going to handle that, whether it some phony like Al Sharpton or all of these other people were going to do whatever they did with it. Because I kept going back to that we wouldn't be talking about any of this if I hadn't said what I said.

I also didn't think that it was appropriate, nor did I ask to be defended on the basis that I'm a nice guy, which I am, or that I've raised hundreds of millions of dollars for — or that we have a ranch for kids with cancer. None of that entitled me to say what I said.

HANNITY: Why can't people look at your whole life in context? Why can't you say, this was one 15-second moment in his life that he apologized repeatedly for, made a mistake? Do we live in an era where you can't say you're sorry, revise and extend your remarks, go apologize to people, try and make amends, and get forgiveness? It's like some people say, "All right. That's it." No texture; no context to the rest of your life.

IMUS: In an ideal world, yes. But my opinion about all of that changed when I went and talked to the team.

HANNITY: The girls?

IMUS: The girls, the basketball players.

HANNITY: What was that like?

IMUS: Well, I had already been fired, you know. I talked to — I got fired in the afternoon. And I got a phone call from the athletic director at Rutgers saying, "Well, are you still coming?"

I said, "Of course I'm still coming."

And these are 18- and 19-year-old kids, 17-year-old kids. The age kids we have on this cattle ranch for kids with cancer. So I've talked to those kids for 10 years.

They didn't think it was funny. And they didn't — they didn't think — they couldn't understand why I picked them. What had they done? They hadn't done nothing. They simply were playing a basketball game against Tennessee. And somebody was making an observation about their appearance, and somebody — and their appearance or whatever it was. But somebody was talking about their hair.

None of that was specific and premeditated on my part. It was just some old, white dude trying to be hip, you know, hipper than I am and hipper than I ought to try to be. The point was, what it meant to them. And that completely changed my mind about how it should be accepted and whether or not I should be cut any slack.

And I — as I sit here today, I would rather it had not happened, but I think what happened, my getting fired and all of that, was probably what should have happened.

HANNITY: Don Imus, it's a pleasure. I hope you'll come back. Thank you very much.

IMUS: Well, you're quite welcome.

HANNITY: Thank you very much.


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