NEW YORK (Reuters) - Radio personality Don Imus returned to the airwaves on Monday promising to keep his edgy tone but refrain from the kind of racist and sexist comments that got him fired earlier this year.
"We now have the opportunity to have a better program, to obviously diversify the cast... but the program is not going to change," Imus said at the start of his new daily radio show on Citadel Broadcasting Corp's ABC Radio Networks.
Imus's return comes nearly eight months after CBS Radio fired him and shut down his program for referring to the predominantly black members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy headed hos," a phrase combining a derogatory term for coarse, curly hair with slang for whore.
"I will never say anything in my lifetime that will make any of these young women regret or feel foolish that they accepted my apology or forgave me," said Imus, who referred to his earlier remarks as "reprehensible."
The show added a black woman and a black man to the cast -- comedians Karith Foster and Tony Powell -- along with regular sidekicks Rob Bartlett and Charles McCord.
"I can only wait and see if his deeds will follow up his words," said civil rights leader Al Sharpton, who led the charge for Imus' dismissal in April. "Imus marginalized himself as the picture of hate talk radio."
"Imus in the Morning" previously was produced and broadcast by the CBS-owned WFAN radio station in New York, and was syndicated on some 60 stations and simulcast on MSNBC cable television.
The new "Imus in the Morning" will run from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. EST on weekdays. The show will be based out of New York City's 77WABC, one of 243 Citadel stations.
His show has mixed often ribald commentary on current events with interviews with high-profile politicians.
Imus preserved that flavor on his new program, declaring Vice President Dick Cheney was "still a war criminal" and New York senator and Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton was "still Satan," drawing laughter and applause from the audience.
Two other presidential hopefuls -- Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut -- phoned in to the show on Monday.
"I just hope he doesn't compromise, that he is himself," said audience member Linda Knight, 50, of Queens, New York. "He is really not the shock jock that people say he is."
The first show was broadcast from New York's Town Hall theater near Times Square, and was a $100-per-ticket benefit for the Imus Ranch, a cattle ranch in New Mexico that offers the American cowboy experience to children suffering from cancer and blood diseases.
Editing by Vicki Allen