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Did Don Imus' bad joke shake up two WFAN shows?

(Credit: Watchdog)

One ill-fated crack by Don Imus in April of 2007 about "nappy-headed hos" brought down WFAN's long-time morning show.

Did it also contribute to the breakup of WFAN long-time afternoon show?

Mike Francesa said in my Sunday newspaper column that it might have, because his former partner Chris Russo had an interest in switching to mornings and Francesa did not.

Click below for much more on that topic, including Francesa's reasons for being reluctant to move to mornings.

Francesa on several occasions admitted not being sure what Russo was thinking and suggested asking him to clarify. Alas, Russo declined to speak to me through a Sirius XM spokesman.On how the fallout from Don Imus’ firing impacted the situation:

“I think what happened was really where everything started to change was when Don left. There was such upheaval that no one knew exactly what to do at the time. No one knew exactly how we were going to cover the afternoon and morning, and it was kind of like it was our responsibility. It was left to us and we decided to cover both for a while in the hopes the whole time that Don would come back.

“At the point it became clear that Don wasn’t going to come back and they weren’t going bring him back, you know, there was a lot of debate at the time about who would go to the morning. Should someone go to the morning? Should we go to the morning? I don’t think the station ever wanted to put us in the morning, but in retrospect I think Dog really had a lot of interest in going to the morning, more than I did. And he did discuss it with me a couple of times. But it wasn’t really something I wanted to do, and it wasn’t something the company every really embraced. They really never embraced it.

“So I think in retrospect I think it set us off on a bad path that last year. I don’t mean that caused Dog to leave. He left because he had an opportunity. I’m not saying he left because of anything that happened to he and I. We had a very rocky last year and I think what might have caused some of that that was his feeling, and stronger than I knew at the time, that he wanted to go to morning more than I did. I really didn’t. I don’t know much he did. You’d have to ask him, but I think a lot stronger than I did.’’

On the idea of adjusting to a morning show:

“I thought it would be a very tough transition. I was worried about the idea of doing an all-sports show in the morning. You have to change the show to go to the morning. You have to do news, you have to do weather and you have to do traffic. And I think people want to talk a little more current events. They want to do more different things. You can be far more specific and pointed in one direction in the afternoon.

“The most successful morning shows are more generalist in their approach. They have to be. The morning lends itself to politics, sports, humor, music, but there’s also the ABCD’s that have to be dealt with every morning so you have to do a very different show, and I don’t know that our show would have played there. You have to pay attention to a lot of different things you don’t have to pay attention to in the afternoon.

“I think that is something you have to develop, how you do your schedule. I don’t want to stay up until 12:30 watching the game and then get up at 4 o’clock. I think it’s a very difficult thing to do at the level we do it, to watch all the games or be at the games. It’s very hard. When do you sleep? It’s very difficult. And if you’re ever at a game, my God, you don’t get home until 2 in the morning. These playoff games don’t end until midnight.’’

On how much tension the morning issue created:

“I didn’t realize that was the case. In retrospect it was more so than I thought. It became more of an issue than what I thought at the time. Just based on hearing stuff that’s gone on since. Just based on Dog talking to other people about it. He did talk to me. I just didn’t have a lot of interest in it. I just think he had more interest in it than I knew. It might have worked out very well but I think the company was very strong on keeping us in the afternoon. You’d have to ask Dog if that was a big factor.

“In retrospect the morning thing and what role he wanted to play in the morning may have had a bigger role in his leaving than I thought it did at the time. Afterward I find in discussions that he had addressed the morning thing more than I thought he did. He did address it to me. I’m not saying he hid anything. But I wasn’t that interested. I think it was more frustration toward the company than toward me.’’

On whether the morning slot led to tensions between Russo and the company:

“I think basically it made him maybe think it was time to move on because whatever he approached for the morning he didn’t get the response probably that he wanted so it may have led him to think, you know what, maybe it’s time for me to do something else. I think it might have changed his mindset. The key to this, when Don left that might have been something he thought about. He brought that to me. He liked the idea. He wanted to rally me for the morning and I wasn’t interested, to be honest with you.’’

On the idea of Russo moving to the morning without Francesa:

“It never was discussed. I think they wanted to keep us together in the afternoon, is what the station wanted. I never discussed going to the morning by myself. I was just filling in. People thought I was interested in going to the morning. I never was. I was just keeping the seat warm until Don hopefully came back. I felt if I went to mornings it would give Don a better chance to come back.

“Really people thought I was jumping in there to be ambitious. I wasn’t. I didn’t have any interest in going to the morning. Then, after Dog left, I found out he had more interest in the morning than I did. You’d have to ask him, but maybe that influenced him a little more toward his decision.

“If the station had come to me and was like 100 percent, you know, you guys should go to the morning now, I think it’s imperative to go to the morning, I would have treated it differently. But that never happened. Their approach was that we couldn’t afford to even think about taking you guys out of where you are now. It’s imperative that we remain with that base, and that was the conversation. Did I know Dog had interest in the morning? Yes, because he came to me. Did I know it went past what I knew it was? No, I didn’t know it was. I found that out later.’’

On Russo’s reaction to Francesa’s initial lack of interest in mornings:

“I sensed he was a little disappointed but Dog will bring it up but he never pushes the issues. He’s not a guy who pushes the issues. When he brought it up and said, ‘I think we should take a real run at the morning,’ and I said, ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea,’ and the station never encouraged it, at least to me, it wasn’t until after he left that I learned he was even more interested in the morning than I knew.

“Whether that spoiled Dog a little bit on the company, that they didn’t respond the way he wanted, I don’t know. The idea of maybe splitting up and going to the morning, I wouldn’t have been averse to that if that’s what he wanted to do. I wouldn’t have taken that as an insult in any way, but that was never approached to me. It wasn’t what the company wanted. They never wavered on us going to the morning.’’

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