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Don Imus: He's Back, But Who Will Be Listening?

Radio personality Don Imus appears on Rev.Al Sharpton's radio show, in New York Monday April 9, 2007. Imus issued another apology for referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos" on his morning show last week. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Richard Drew
Radio personality Don Imus appears on Rev.Al Sharpton's radio show, in New York Monday April 9, 2007. Imus issued another apology for referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos" on his morning show last week. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

It's been eight months since MSNBC and CBS Radio fired Don Imus, soon after he made an offensive comment and his advertisers went running. Monday morning at 6 am EST, he'll be back on the air now on WABC radio, which is owned by Citadel Broadcasting .

You can bet that everyone and their grandmother will tune in Monday morning, even people who hate Imus, just because they're curious about what he'll say. I think the fact that Imus has kept such an incredibly low profile since the fiasco has only piqued people's interest more.

Advertisers will be watching ratings, and listening carefully. Imus had $20 million worth of annual advertising for his previous radio show, and most of those advertisers are sitting on the sidelines. Some, like Home Depot and Wyeth aren't commenting on whether or not they'll buy spots. General Motors , a huge sponsor of Imus' for years is very upfront, saying that they'll evaluate the program starting Monday.

I'm no fan of Imus, I always flipped away if I caught his show--I simply prefer the interview style and content I get elsewhere. And I do think that he crossed the line, and that's pretty much his signature style. But my personal lack of interest in ever listening to Imus has nothing to do with the fact that he can spin advertising gold.

Without a doubt, I'd say it was a smart decision for Citadel Broadcasting to bring Imus on board. The company's stock has fallen off a cliff in the past month. I think if Imus handles himself, and is suitably contrite advertisers will feel comfortable spending on his air time. And I think that all this controversy has made him more popular and famous than ever before, so he may end up with more listeners than ever.

The big question is what tone he takes Monday. As my colleague Dennis Kneale pointed out on air with me earlier today, America loves to forgive a sinner. The Rutgers athletes he offended forgave him. Will he behave in such a way that everyone else does? And most importantly--if he's contrite, can he still have his Imus EDGE--that snarkyness that keeps people watching?

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.