Radio icon Don Imus — a New York institution for decades at WNBC and WFAN — is dead at 79.
The veteran shock jock had reportedly been hospitalized since Christmas Eve. He died at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, Texas, on Friday, according to a statement issued by his family.
Imus, who frequently sported a cowboy hat over his unruly locks, made a name for himself by living rough and talking tough. He was no stranger to controversy.
Serving as emcee at the 1996 Radio and Television Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., Imus joked about Bill Clinton’s reputation as a womanizer with the president and first lady sitting only a few feet away. Some critics wondered if he’d crossed a line.
In April 2007, Imus infamously referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” in a rant that many saw as racially insensitive. He later issued an apology for his characterization of those players and went on Al Sharpton’s radio show to admit he’d gone too far.
The apology wasn’t enough to keep Imus at WFAN, where he’d worked for nearly 20 years. He rebounded by the end of the year and wound up on WABC.
Among the first radio personalities to offer condolences to Imus’ wife and 21-year-old son was former WFAN host Mike Francesca.
“Shocking news on the passing of my friend, Don Imus. He will long be remembered as one of the true giants in the history of radio,” Francesca wrote. “My thoughts and prayers to Deirdre and Wyatt. God speed.”
Imus had been married to Deidre, his second wife, for 25 years. He also leaves behind two daughters and a second son.
Imus had been on radio for 50 years before stepping away from the mic in 2018. He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1989.