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On the March 27 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, former Imus sports announcer Sid Rosenberg appeared on the program and referenced a story in the New York Daily News headlined "Serena Shocked by Racist Heckler." Rosenberg commented, "I was on an airplane," suggesting that he could not have been the one heckling professional tennis player Serena Williams.
Rosenberg's joke appeared to be a reference to racially insensitive remarks he made in June 2001 about Williams and her sister, Venus, both of whom are African-American. According to a November 20, 2001, Newsday article, Rosenberg said on the air: "One time, a friend, he says to me, 'Listen, one of these days you're gonna see Venus and Serena Williams in Playboy.' I said, 'You've got a better shot at National Geographic.'" Rosenberg also referred to Venus Williams as an "animal." A June 18, 2001, New York Times article (subscription required) on Rosenberg's remarks noted that host Don Imus subsequently "fired him, but he reversed himself and rehired Mr. Rosenberg after the sports commentator apologized on the air."
Nonetheless, on the November 12, 2004, edition of Imus in the Morning, Rosenberg referred to Palestinians as "stinking animals" and said, "They ought to drop the bomb right there, kill 'em all right now," as Media Matters for America documented. On November 29, 2004, MSNBC offered an apology for those remarks: "The views expressed on the program are not those of MSNBC. Having said that, it was unfortunate that these remarks were telecast on MSNBC. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by these remarks."
In May 2005, Rosenberg was once again fired from Imus in the Morning, this time for comments about singer Kylie Minogue, who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. According to a May 25, 2005, New York Post article, Rosenberg said: "She won't look so pretty when she's bald with one [breast]." The Post quoted a spokesperson for Viacom-owned Infinity Broadcasting, which operates WFAN, the New York radio station that is the flagship for the radio version of Imus in the Morning, stating that Rosenberg "will not be returning to the Imus in the Morning show."
But in recent months, Rosenberg has repeatedly appeared on the show. A January 29 article in the New York Daily News asserted: "Sid Rosenberg, who was last seen crashing and burning on the Imus morning show on WFAN (660 AM), returns this week to fill in for Chris Carlin, who replaced him." In fact, on the January 29 edition of Imus in the Morning, Imus asserted, "I gave Sid today off thinking, 'Why take the chance?'" Rosenberg did, however, appear on the following four broadcasts of the program, from January 30 through February 2, and on at least two occasions between then and the March 27 broadcast, including the February 7 and March 23 broadcasts. However, March 27 was the first time since Rosenberg filled in for Carlin in January that he appeared in MSNBC's studio in Secaucus, New Jersey. Rosenberg appeared in the MSNBC studio again on the March 28 edition of Imus in the Morning. Imus introduced him by saying, "Sid Rosenberg, in the house." Executive producer Bernard McGuirk added, "The comeback is complete."
On February 5, when Carlin returned, Imus said: "By having Sid on -- he really -- a spotlight was thrown on your many shortcomings." Carlin defended himself: "I don't get you sued on many occasions. I don't get you in trouble all over the place." Imus replied, "And you don't get us any ratings." During the February 2 edition of Imus in the Morning, Imus asked WFAN radio host Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, "Guess who's been on all week with us who's been great?" Russo answered, "I know Mr. Rosenberg. You gonna blow off Carlin now that you've got Sid back?" Imus said that he intended to keep Carlin but that "we're going to try and work something out with Sid, too."
From the March 26 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning:
ROSENBERG: Did you see this story in the Daily News, I-Man? Page 70. "Serena Shocked by Racist Heckler."
CARLIN: See, I personally stayed away from that for your benefit.
ROSENBERG: I was on an airplane.
IMUS: Fourteen after the hour --
McGUIRK: It was in Florida.
IMUS: Chris continues.
ROSENBERG: I was in Miami.
IMUS: And Sid kills himself.
From the March 28 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning:
IMUS: Sid went to the Sopranos party last night. And has anybody seen Sid this morning?
CARLIN: He's right next to me.
McGUIRK: He's in the house.
CARLIN: He got here a half-hour early.
CHARLES McCORD (co-host): He's front and center.
IMUS: That is unbelievable. Sid Rosenberg, in the house.
McGUIRK: The comeback is complete.