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MAY 2007

The Firing of Don Imus

by Alex Miller-Mignone

“That’s some nappy-headed ho’s there.”

—Don Imus, referring to the largely black championship finalist Rutgers women’s basketball team, 4/4/07

“Man it seems like I'm duckin dodgin bullets everyday
Niggaz hatin on me cause I got, ho’s on the tray
But I gotta stay paid, gotta stay above water
Couldn't keep up with my ho’s, that's when shit got harder.”

—Djay f/Shug, lyric from “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp,” 2006 Academy Award winner for Best Original Song

In the long stream of media hype and hyperbole distracting us from the truly important issues of our day, the firing of radio shock jock Don Imus was a nine days’ wonder. In fact, it was precisely nine days from the uttering of the famously offensive five syllables until Imus’ final firing by CBS. The incident has been touted as everything from the blatant restriction of free speech to the triumph of the marketplace, and was heralded as initiating a national conversation on race in America.

Don ImusBorn 23 July 1940, John Donald “Don” Imus was the host of “Imus in the Morning,” the most popular talk radio show in the morning drive slot, airing weekdays 5:30-10 AM. At its zenith, in 2005, the show was carried by over 90 stations nationally, with an estimated audience of 1.6 million. Originating in 1971, the show underwent a number of transformations, morphing into a political— if politically incorrect—interview show that attracted a surprising number of movers and shakers, including every presidential contender since 1996. In its last decade, the first three and a half hours were simulcast by MSNBC cable news network, and rated third in its time slot, with almost 400,000 viewers.

Imus was always controversial, uttering derogatory comments about virtually every ethnic, racial, religious and sexual orientation subset of the American population. He was an equal opportunity bigot, but in time became respected for his interview style, and guest spots on his program, which allowed politicians a much longer time to express their views than the typical seconds-long sound byte, were much sought after.

Imus’ radio career began as a disc jockey at KUTY radio in Palmdale, California in 1966. Brief stints at several small stations in Stockton and Sacramento followed, and Imus gained a reputation for crude humor and practical jokes, such as placing a take-out order for 1200 hamburgers, which increased his local popularity. He lost the Stockton job for saying “hell” on air, something virtually inconceivable in today’s laissez-faire environment, which Imus did a great deal to shape. A move east to Cleveland was a springboard to New York, where Imus was picked up by WNBC in 1971, becoming one of the city’s most popular radio personalities.

Excessive absenteeism caused by alcoholism and cocaine abuse (Imus reportedly missed 100 days of work in a single year), coupled with his brutal commentary and gutter humor, led to the cancellation of his first WNBC-AM radio show in August 1977, at which point Imus returned to Cleveland. Barely two years later, in September 1979, Imus was back at NBC in the Big Apple, where his show became the most highly rated in the tri-state area. After seeking addiction treatment in 1987, Imus “serioused up” and began to focus less on comedy and more on current events, news and politics. In 1993 “Imus in the Morning” was syndicated nationally by Westwood One, incalculably expanding the former shock jock’s reach and influence.

Don ImusBut Imus remained shocking. Jews were among his more frequent targets. The radio host characterized them as “money-grubbing bastards” and “thieving Jews,” for which Imus later “apologized,” stating that the term was “redundant.” Arabs he typically referred to as “ragheads,” and called the Palestinian mourners at Arafat’s funeral “stinking animals.” His routines were regularly peppered with the terms “faggot” and “lesbo,” and he once commented off-air to a 60 Minutes producer that his side-kick, Brian McGuirk, was there to do the “nigger jokes.” He referred to Gwen Ifill, an African American anchor at PBS, as a “cleaning lady,” and The New York Times’ black sports columnist Bill Rhoden as a “quota hire.”

Matters finally came to a head on April 4, 2007, when, on the morning after their defeat at the Women’s NCAA Championship, Imus called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy headed ho’s.” The comment was reported on the Media Matters website, and received national attention, with the president of the National Association of Black Journalists calling for his immediate firing. A press conference with the Rutgers team, which showcased their intelligence, articulation and talent, pointed up the particular inappropriateness of directing these comments at such a target. The pressure on Imus was ratcheted up considerably when political activists Reverend Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson weighed in to protest.

Imus issued an apology on his show two days after the incident, and made several guest appearances on morning news shows, including NBC’s "Today," to reiterate his remorse. On Monday the 9th, he made a further lengthy apology on “Imus in the Morning,” offering to meet with the Rutgers team to apologize in person*. Later that same day both CBS and MSNBC announced a two-week suspension of the show effective April 16, but the controversy now had a life of its own. Such half-measures did not prevent a mass exodus of advertisers, concerned about damage to their products from association with the disgraced Imus.

On Wednesday the 11th, MSNBC announced that it would no longer carry the live simulcast of “Imus in the Morning,” effective immediately. The next morning, CBS CEO Les Moonves issued a statement canceling the radio show, and Imus was off the air.

Born 23 July 1940, Don Imus’ natal chart is very active galactically. The Sun/Pluto conjunction at 1 and 2 Leo conjoins a Black Hole, imparting the ability to transform himself from a high school drop-out into one of the most highly paid and nationally known radio personalities in the country—essentially, creating something out of nothing. Sun/Pluto may also be the source of the scatological humor and the scathing racism and bigotry which propelled him into prominence.

But it is his natal Mercury placement which set the seal on Imus’ success. At 28 Cancer, Mercury exactly conjoins a Black Hole and aspects six other Deep Space anomalies, the largest such pattern in the cosmos, including a sextile to the controversy-provoking Maser at 28 Taurus. Black Hole Mercury can be very persuasive and captivating, and Imus had a highly developed ability to attract others’ attention to his views, for good or ill. It was these unguarded pronouncements which built him up, and eventually knocked him down, typical of Black Hole activation, which can both make and mar that which it touches.

Mercury is also the apex of a yod comprised by the Pulsar at 28 Sagittarius and a Black Hole at 28 Aquarius, indicating a fated or predestined involvement with the media and information services (the Pulsar) and a dramatic ability to both reflect and distort reality (the Black Hole).

A trine to the achievement-oriented Quasar at 28 Scorpio enhanced Imus’ ability to network, and ensured success, while the Maser contact helped to form his particular brand of “shock jock” performance. Controversy followed Imus’ career from the start, and Masers, sometimes likened to “cosmic cattle prods,” provided the provocative quality to his statements. Uranus at 25 Taurus also conjoins this Maser and sextiles Mercury, increasing the “shock and awe” aspects to his commentary and also cementing his choice of the public airwaves as his venue of choice for spewing the bile that made him famous.

The total Solar Eclipse of March 19 at 28 Pisces fell on yet another Black Hole in the larger pattern, in trine to natal Mercury, and with Pluto exactly conjoined the 28 Sagittarius Pulsar highlighting the yod, combined to precipitate the comments which would lead to Imus’ eventual downfall, barely two weeks later.

Mars at 12 Leo is also conjoined a Maser at 13, the source of the often vicious comments, which vented and amplified a vein of bigotry and hatred all too prominent in American culture. Jupiter and Saturn at 12 and 13 Taurus exactly square this Mars/Maser union, inflating the rhetoric (Jupiter) and tingeing it with a bitter sarcasm that many saw as just plain nastiness (Saturn). Neptune at 23 Virgo is a close match for the USA’s own at 22, and in square to the Galactic Center, making Imus’ brand of “entertainment” a good, if unfortunate, fit with the national psyche, and helping to enhance his national appeal and profile (via the qualities of universality conferred by GC contacts).

Venus at 27 Gemini conjoins both a Quasar at 26 Gemini and the asteroid Achilles at 2 Cancer, and opposes the Galactic Center at 26 Sagittarius. Ultimately, it was his commentaries about women (Venus) which proved his Achilles heel (asteroid Achilles), and led to the universal (Galactic Center) opprobrium which manifested (Quasar) as his downfall.

A new planetary player is active in Imus’ nativity as well, namely minor planet Eris, a Trans-Neptunian Object named for the Greek goddess of strife and discord, both of which Imus fostered with his hate-filled speech. At 5 Aries retrograde natally, Eris conjoins the South Node at 13 Aries, and exactly opposes a manifestation-evoking Quasar at 5 Libra, as well as being trine Imus’ Sun/Pluto conjunction in early Leo. Making divisive ethnic and racial slurs came easily to Imus, who repeatedly fell back into that old bad habit which had established his notoriety (all South Node), and this aspect of his nature was highly visible, prompting his success (both Quasar).

On April 4, 2007, the day Imus made the derogatory comments, transit Jupiter at its station degree and exactly conjoined the Black Hole at 19 Sagittarius was in an exact square to transit Mercury at 19 Pisces. Jupiter was trine to Saturn at 18 Leo retrograde and Mercury was inconjunct, indicating the rhetorical overreach (Mercury/Jupiter) which would alter Imus’ career reality (Saturn) in the twinkling of an eye (Black Hole).

Venus at 20 Taurus tied to this pattern as well, sextile Mercury with a square to Saturn and inconjunct Jupiter, identifying Imus’ target as women (Venus); while Eris at 20 Aries formed a Galactic Grand Trine with Jupiter/Saturn, adding the elements of outrage and discord. Mars exactly conjoined the Black Hole at 28 Aquarius and sextile Pluto on the Pulsar at 28 Sagittarius added the sports team angle (Mars) and assured the Media’s (Pulsar) scrupulous attention to the scandal (Pluto). The Sun at 14 Aries opposed a Black Hole at 13 Libra and the Quasar at 15 Libra, indicating a startling development (Black Hole) with far-reaching implications (the Quasar).

On the dates of the actual firings, April 11 and 12, the transit Sun had moved to conjoin Eris at 20 Aries, while Mercury at 0 through 2 Aries was opposing the supermassive Black Hole center of Galaxy M-87 at 1 Libra, the largest anomaly of its kind of which we are aware, while applying to Imus’ natal Eris at 5 Aries. The double activation of transit Eris and Imus’ natal Eris provoked a groundswell of indignation and protest at his words, and it became feasible for his employers to make the reversal of judgment (Mercury/Black Hole) which compelled his ouster. Venus had moved on to cross the Maser at 28 Taurus, now inconjunct Pluto/Pulsar at 28 Sagittarius, once again representing the female victims (Venus) of the controversy (Maser) which provoked the media firestorm (Pluto/Pulsar).

That national conversation on race and bigotry in America which was touted at the outset of the controversy seems to have stalled a bit since Imus’ cancellation. Uncomfortable questions began to arise about his disgrace for using these terms, when the same and much worse language garners praise and large receipts for gangsta rap artists, as the quote from the Academy Award-winning song at the beginning of this article will demonstrate. People have also not forgotten the use of the term “Hymietown” by Jesse Jackson and the involvement of Imus’ chief critic, Al Sharpton, in the anti-Semitic Tawana Brawley fraud, and the hypocrisy that exposes. Perhaps, as with so much of substance, this is a conversation that Americans are simply not ready for.

A return to the national public airwaves seems unlikely at this point, though Imus has resurrected himself before, but the disgraced host may find a place for himself with fellow shock jock Howard Stern on satellite radio. Some people will pay for anything.

* This meeting eventually took place, the night of Imus’ firing. After a three-hour discussion at the Governor’s Mansion in Princeton, the team stated that they had accepted Imus’ apology. In a vivid example of the law of unintended consequences, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, on his way to moderate this meeting, was involved in a hit-and-run accident on the Garden State parkway, suffering a broken leg, sternum, collarbone, twelve broken ribs and several fractured vertebrae. The governor’s SUV was traveling in excess of 90 mph, and Corzine was not wearing a seat belt.

Alex Miller-Mignone, photo
Alex Miller-Mignone is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of "The Galactic Calendar," and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society.

His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. Alex can be reached for comment or services at