NEW YORK — Months after returning to the radio with a pledge to mend the wounds caused by his comments about a women's basketball team, Don Imus is once again defending on-air remarks regarding race.
During an on-air conversation Monday about the arrests of suspended Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones, Imus asked, "What color is he?"
Told by sports announcer Warner Wolf that Jones, who used to be nicknamed Pacman, is "African-American," Imus responded: "There you go. Now we know."
In the face of criticism that ensued, Imus said Monday that he had been misunderstood.
"I meant that he was being picked on because he's black," Imus said in a statement released by his spokesman.
The on-air exchange came six months after Imus' return to work on a new show on WABC-AM following his firing from MSNBC and CBS Radio for making a sexist and racially charged comment about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. When he returned to work, Imus gave a lengthy on-air apology and pledged to use his new show to foster an open dialogue on race relations.
Before Imus offered his explanation Monday, civil rights leader Al Sharpton criticized the remark, saying his National Action Network would look into it.
"I find the inference of his remark disturbing because it plays into stereotypes," Sharpton said in a statement. "We will determine in the next day or so whether or not his remark warrants direct action on our part."
Sharpton was one of the chief critics who successfully pushed for Imus' firing from his televised radio show in April 2007.
WABC and Citadel Broadcasting Corp. Vice President Phil Boyce said Imus would explain his comments on his Tuesday morning show and said it was unlikely the broadcasters would take disciplinary action.
Boyce said Imus had explained himself in a private conversation Monday afternoon and the explanation was satisfactory.
"I think some people may be misunderstanding what he meant," Boyce said.
Jones' attorney did not immediately respond to an e-mail.
Rutgers University women's basketball spokeswoman Stacey Brann said there was "no need to revisit the past" and wouldn't comment further.
On Monday's show, Imus and Wolf were discussing Jones' request Saturday that people stop using his nickname. Wolf explained Jones was suspended from the NFL following a shooting at a Las Vegas nightclub, and he added that Jones had been "arrested six times since being drafted by Tennessee in 2005."
Imus' next words were, "What color is he?"