GREGORY: We are back on HARDBALL. The breaking news of this hour, MSNBC and NBC News have decided to take Don Imus off the air. The simulcast of the IMUS IN THE MORNING radio program will no longer be simulcast on this network, MSNBC. He has also been suspended without pay for two weeks by CBS Radio.
Weve been talking to NBC News president Steve Capus.
Earlier today, I spoke to Senator Barack Obama about the Don Imus incident. This is what he had to say.
GREGORY: Senator Obama, I want to begin by asking you about Don Imus.
You have condemned his remarks about the women basketball team at Rutgers.
Let me ask you pointedly, do you think he should be fired?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I dont think MSNBC should be carrying the kinds of hateful remarks that Imus uttered the other day. And he has a track record of making those kinds of remarks.
Look, Ive got two daughters who are African-American, gorgeous, tall, and I hope that at some point, are interested enough in sports that they get athletic scholarships. And my wife and I every day are reinforcing our love for them and how special they are.
I dont want them to be getting a bunch of information that somehow theyre less than anybody else. And I dont think MSNBC should want to promote that kind of language.
GREGORY: So he should be off the air, off MSNBC and off CBS, off the air completely in your judgment?
OBAMA: Ultimately, you guys are going to have to make that view. He would not be working for me.
GREGORY: Is there a larger conversation that this incident has started about public discourse in this country, about race in this country, and if so, what is that conversation youd like to see?
OBAMA: Well, I think it goes beyond race. Obviously, what this reveals is that we still have a host of racial stereotypes that are out there. And that we are fast and loose in playing with those racial stereotypes and bandying them about and thinking that there arent going to be any consequences to it. And thats a problem.
But I also think theres a broader problem of a coarsening of the culture, where we think that its entertainment to insult people. And I dont think its that funny. And I think that we need to think about how are we promoting tolerance and how are we promoting intelligent debate, and thats not been the trend in too much of our media. Thats something I think that weve all got to think about.
GREGORY: The final point on this, youve been a guest on the Imus program to promote your books. Will you or would you be a guest on his show in the future?
OBAMA: No, I would not. I was on their once, actually, after the Democratic National Convention. I spoke about my book briefly. Thats been my only experience on the show. And he was fine when I was on that show.
But I dont want to be an enabler or be encouraging in anyway of the kind of programming that results in the unbelievably offensive statements that were made just a few days ago.
GREGORY: Senator Obama in a conversation earlier today, obviously before the NBC News decision to take Don Imus off of MSNBC.