"Not much has changed. Dick Cheney is still a war criminal, Hillary Clinton is still Satan, and I'm back on the air!"
That's how Don Imus announced his return to the airwaves after eight months in broadcast purgatory since he was fired for making racist comments about the Rutgers' women's basketball team.
At times brash and at times choking up with feeling, the 67-year-old radio legend addressed the scandal for 15 minutes this morning, saying that there was no excuse for his infamous comment in April when he called the players "nappy-headed hos." Imus said his firing was a life-changing experience like his stint in alcohol rehab 20 years earlier.
But Imus also defended his decision not to make a public mea culpa, explaining, "I didn't see the point of going out on some 'Larry King' tour to make a bunch of lame excuses for making a reprehensible remark about innocent people who did not deserve to be made fun of."
He described his emotional meeting with the Rutgers players at the Governor's Mansion in New Jersey and said one of the player's mothers screamed in his face.
He said that he considered himself fortunate to have been fired by CBS executives earlier that day.
"Had I been there talking to them and apologizing and still had my job, they would have thought I was there to save my job. But I was there to save my life," Imus said.
The shock jock said he will change his ways, sort of.
"I will never say anything in my lifetime that will make any of these young women at Rutgers regret or feel foolish that they accepted my apology and forgave me," he said.
He also vowed that "no one else will say anything on my program that will make anyone think that I didn't deserve a second chance."
Yet for the next four hours, his show didn't sound that different from the old show — with the same mix of country music, interviews with politicians and some locker-room humor with a little bit of humility tossed in.
One change is his new comedy sidekick: Karith Foster, a black comic from Texas who riffed on her new life in New York City for a few minutes.
Also part of Imus' cast was Bernard McGuirk, Imus' longtime producer who instigated the Rutgers comment and who was fired as well.
Imus was welcomed back to the airwaves by plenty of old friends, including Sens. John McCain and Chris Dodd, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and husband-and-wife political consultants Mary Matalin and James Carville, in front of a live audience at New York's Town Hall Theater. Tickets were $100 to attend.
The proceeds from the ticket sales were donated to the Imus Ranch for Kids, the talk-show host's charity for children with cancer.
Imus may have been contrite in his apology to the Rutgers players, but he poked fun at other targets, joking about Eleanor Roosevelt's reported gay orientation and Sen. Larry Craig's explanation of his men's room arrest. A President Clinton impersonator forgave Imus.
Imus also described a meeting he had with black kids at his charity ranch. "I had some 'splaining to do," he said.