Don Imus, who hosted the popular and long-running Imus in the Morning radio show, died at the age of 79, multiple outlets have reported.
The broadcasting veteran, known for his blunt personality and cowboy hat, was hospitalized on Christmas Eve and passed away Friday morning at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, Texas, according to The Hollywood Reporter. His cause of death was not immediately announced.
Imus is survived by his wife, Deirdre; daughters Nadine, Ashley, Elizabeth and Toni; and sons Wyatt and Lt. Zachary Don Cates, the outlet reported.
“Don loved and adored Deirdre, who unconditionally loved him back,” the family said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “[He] 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.”
While Imus made a name for himself for his shocking commentary over his five-decade-long career, he drew criticism in 2007 when he made racist comments on his show about the Rutgers University’s women’s basketball team.
He was fired by CBS Radio soon after.
“From the outset, I believe all of us have been deeply upset and revulsed by the statements that were made on our air about the young women who represented Rutgers University in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship with such class, energy and talent,” then CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in a statement, in response to Imus calling members of the team “nappy-headed hos.”
Imus apologized for the comment, and during an appearance on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show, he called the remark a joke that “went way too far.”
Despite the controversy, Imus continued in radio until he retired in March of last year.
In Fox and Friends meteorologist Janice Dean’s 2019 memoir, Mostly Sunny: How I Learned To Keep Smiling Through the Rainiest Days, she accused Imus of harassment while working on his radio show in 2002.
Dean claimed Imus regularly called her “an idiot, stupid, useless,” and a “moron,” and repeatedly told her to lose weight. She also alleged that Imus carried a gun and once “pointed his gun a few feet away from the back of the traffic reporter’s head.”
Imus spoke to CBS News last year of his career as a shock jock, which saw him be fired at least four times over 50 years.
“I wasn’t trying to be outrageous,” he said. “It’s just the way I thought. My feeling was then, and is now, that if they didn’t like what I did, get somebody else to do it.”
When asked if he had any regrets, Imus told the network, “A few, the Rutgers thing I regret … ‘Cause I knew better.”