We'll never know for sure, but Imus might have survived if instead of pandering to Sharpton, he attacked him. He could have said this once Sharpton started calling for his resignation:
I am apologizing directly to the Rutgers girls for my stupid comment. The last thing I'm going to do is answer to Al Sharpton, one of America's champion race baiters. Before he asks anyone to resign or apologize, he needs to come clean in the Tawana Brawley case. And while he's at it, he ought to apologize to the Duke boys. Then, and only then, might he have sufficient moral authority to be lecturing me.He would have been criticized for being combative, but he might have neutralized Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and thus stopped the story's momentum against him. (I didn't care one way or another if he got fired because I rarely watched him and when I did, I never found him to be funny or entertaining).
An aside: Certainly, the comment Imus made was inappropriate. But, in reality, isn't the sympathy thermometer overheating a bit when it comes to the Rutgers' girls? These aren't helpless creatures. They are accomplished, tough young ladies who by virtue of their hours of work on a basketball court in the midst of the highest level of competition, almost won a national championship. I don't think a moronic attempt at humor by a wise-cracking ex-crack head is going to cause them to go into depression. They have learned to shrug off much bigger challenges on a daily basis.
Do we really need Oprah to make this all better?