The Cutline

Don Imus cancels Bill O’Reilly’s Fox Business appearance over ‘Today’ show plug snub

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Imus and O'Reilly (Fox Business/Fox News)

Bill O'Reilly was supposed to be a guest on Don Imus' radio show--simulcast weekdays on the Fox Business channel--on Tuesday morning to plug "Killing Lincoln," O'Reilly's new book about the 16th president's assassination. But Imus canceled O'Reilly's appearance the program. Why? The shock jock was apparently incensed that O'Reilly, the top-rated Fox News host, plugged an his appearance on Tuesday's "Today" show during Monday night's "O'Reilly Factor" without mentioning Imus.

"[O'Reilly's representatives] asked to be on to promote his dopey book," Imus told listeners Tuesday, adding that he watched O'Reilly's show Monday night looking for a mention. "He says, 'I am going to be on the 'Today' show tomorrow morning.' I said, 'That's nice.' I am waiting for 'and I am going to be on with my friend Imus.' I didn't hear that."

O'Reilly has had a regular monthly slot on Imus' Fox Business show, though Imus said Tuesday that "the success of this show is not going to rely on him being on once a month--or anybody else for that matter."

"Imus in the Morning" was simulcast on MSNBC for more than 10 years before being dropped by the network in 2007 in the wake of a backlash over his comments about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. New York's WFAN, which broadcast the show, and CBS Radio, which distributed it, dropped him, too. Imus returned to radio later that year on WABC in New York with national distribution through Citadel Media. He signed a multiyear deal with Fox Business and Roger Ailes in 2009.

Since his return to cable, Imus has complained about booking guests who opt to appear on other shows, including "Fox and Friends," instead of his.

"So I see O'Reilly promotes he's going to be on the 'Today' show this morning at around 7 or so," the New Mexico cattle ranch owner said. "So I'm thinking, 'That's when I'm on.' That's when 'Fox & Fiends' is on. He knows better."

According to Nielsen figures, Imus' show averages 77,000 total viewers on Fox Business, and just 11,o0o of the 25-to-54-year-old viewers coveted by most advertisers. "Fox and Fiends," as Imus calls them, averages close to a million total viewers and 323,000 25-to-54-year-olds. (During the current quarter, Imus' FBN show is down nearly 50 percent among 25-to-54-year-olds compared to the same quarter last year, with just 5,000 tuning in to watch Imus each day, per Nielsen estimates.)

"How does he go out of his way to promote the stupid 'Today' show?" Imus added. "We hate them. So if he's so hot, let him hang out with Matt and Katie and Al and have donuts or whatever he wants to do."

The "Today" show is the top rated morning show on network television, with more 5 million total viewers and 2.5 million in the 25-to-54-year-old demo.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Fox Business' Connell McShane asked Imus during the segment. "If you take this away, you might lose O'Reilly as a guest."

Imus replied: "Fine."

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