Former radio broadcaster Don Imus has died at age 79, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Per the report, which cites a family representative, Imus was hospitalized Christmas Eve and passed away at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, Texas.
“Don loved and adored Deirdre, who unconditionally loved him back, loved spending his time watching Wyatt become a highly-skilled, champion rodeo rider and calf roper, and loved and supported Zachary, who first met the Imus family at age 10 when he participated in the Imus Ranch program for kids with cancer, having battled and overcome leukemia, eventually becoming a member of the Imus family and Don and Deirdre’s second son,” the Imus family said in a statement.
Imus was known for his nearly 50 years behind the microphone, broadcasting the Imus in the Morning show from June 1, 1968, to March 29, 2018, on various stations, eventually being syndicated nationally in 1993. The controversial radio star was known for several on-air characters he played, including the Right Reverend Billy Sol Hargus, Blind Mississippi White Boy, Pig Feets Dupree, and more.
Imus started his New York morning radio show at WNBC in 1971 and later and famously butted heads with fellow radio personality Howard Stern, who was the afternoon host at the station. The duo’s rivalry was legendary. In 2018, Imus told CBS Sunday Morning that it was Stern who had a problem with him, and not the other way around. He later named Stern as one of the “best” radio hosts out there.
Imus has been called a “shock jock” and was the subject of several controversies stemming from racially-charged comments he’s made over the years.
In April 2007, Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “rough girls,” seemingly commenting on their tattoos. In the discussion that followed, he subsequently described them as “nappy-headed ho’s,” as The New York Times reported at the time. he initially dismissed the outrage that ensued and said his remark was “some idiot comment meant to be amusing.” He further stated that such language “didn’t originate in the white community,” and instead pointed to its origin in hip hop music. The controversy cost him a CBS syndicated radio show and a show on MSNBC.
Imus later expressed regrets about his comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
“It did change my feeling about making fun of some people who didn’t deserve to be made fun of and didn’t have a mechanism to defend themselves,” he told CBS last year.
In 2009, Imus stunned his Imus in The Morning listeners when he announced that he was battling prostate cancer. He assured fans that he had a good prognosis and would be “fine.”
In early 2018, Imus announced that he was retiring after five decades on the air. On Twitter, the cowboy hat-wearing host told fans the party was “over” and that it was time to turn out the lights.
Just ahead of his retirement, Imus told CBS that he felt a special connection with his listeners and that he would miss them.
“I always had it in my head I was talking to one person,” he explained to CBS. “I felt that when I walked in there and sat down and turned the mike on, that I was talking to you.”
In addition to his radio career, Imus devoted many years to the Imus Ranch, where he met young leukemia patient Zachary, whom he later adopted. He was also known for his private charity work, in which he raised millions for rehabilitation for wounded Iraq veterans, cancer patients, and more.
The radio pioneer is survived by his wife Deirdre, daughters Nadine, Ashley, Elizabeth, and Toni, and sons Wyatt and Lt. Zachary Don Cates.
The Imus family has requested that donations in Don’s memory be made to the Imus Ranch Foundation.