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Published: Wednesday, 10/24/2007

Imus gets a second chance

ASSUMING Don Imus returns to New York radio, as expected in December, the public will pay close attention to what the famous talk-show host has to say.

Will he bring up his banishment from the air because of his crude description of the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos"? Or will he ignore it, having spent his supply of apologies?

Chances are, Mr. Imus will have a larger-than-usual audience on WABC-AM, the nation's largest talk station, because people want to hear whether six months on the sidelines has made him more contrite. Faced with ad boycotts and condemnation from activist groups, CBS Radio fired the broadcaster after initially suspending him for his comments.

Even his most rabid fans don't expect Mr. Imus to revert to his pre-scandal behavior as a loudmouthed contrarian. The fun for those who know his shtick will be in listening between the lines as the chastened Imus gropes to reclaim the wild and uninhibited side that made him a guilty pleasure.

At the height of the controversy, the shock jock promised to make changes to his show. He even talked about hiring a black associate to supplement his sycophantic white sidekicks.

It took the fear of losing his multi-million-dollar gig to make Mr. Imus realize that the locker-room mentality that thrived on his show was contrary to the American spirit. Fair-minded people had heard enough of misogyny and racism.

Some insist the comments Mr. Imus made at the expense of the athletes were so egregious that he can never be allowed on the air again. Others feel he has paid an appropriately heavy price for his ignorance. Preventing him from making a living at doing what he does best would achieve nothing.

Mr. Imus should follow through on his pledge to broaden the show. Millions will be listening to what he does with a second chance.

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