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While Stew Leonard's reportedly has chosen not to fire back at radio personality Don Imus for the broadsides against the Connecticut-based retailer made during Tuesday's nationally broadcast "Imus in the Morning" radio/television program, MNB has obtained a copy of an internal memo circulated at the company.

To recap, Imus chose Tuesday morning to pick a fight with Stew Leonard's, saying that he'd been told by a food broker that the line of food products that he sells to support the Imus Ranch, a charity for children with cancer, were not available at Stew's because the family was made that Imus had called Stew Leonard Sr. "a crook."

Imus told a national audience (he is simulcast on MSNBC) that he couldn't remember why he had made such a comment - so he did an Internet search, found a decade-old story in The New York Times about Stew Leonard Sr.'s conviction on tax fraud charges, and then proceeded to read the entire NYT piece to his audience. The radio host noted that 100 percent of his food products' profits support the charity, said he didn't care if the products were carried at Stew's because you can also buy them at Stop & Shop, and then said - several times - that "you couldn’t get me to stop at Stew Leonard's at gunpoint."

The internal memo circulated to Stew Leonard's employees, written by Stew Leonard, Jr., reads:

    "This morning Imus spent most of his show talking about Stew Leonard's and why we don't carry his brother Fred's salsa, chips and marinara sauce. Here's the inside story as best as we can tell.

    "Imus has always been considered a friend. In 1995 we began advertising on the Imus show. We have been to his station about 6 times and hosted breakfasts and always joked with him and his crew (they loved the van with the cow head!) Roy Snider came and sang one morning too. Every time he would talk about Stew Leonard's, he would talk about the tax situation and my father. Actually, we really didn't really mind because he would give us great air time and we were trying to promote our new store in Yonkers. My Dad, Tommy and I even went to visit him one morning and we talked about the stores, the water safety foundation and he joked about the tax situation.

    "Once Yonkers opened, Tom Arthur did a survey of our customers and found a majority of our customers listened to WCBS 880 radio rather than Imus. We discontinued advertising and when I spoke to Imus he said, 'No problem, CBS and my show are both owned by the same company.' (I think Infinity Broadcasting.)

    "About a year ago, a broker named Mike approached Rich Baker with samples of Fred's products. All Rick said was 'we'll try them and get back to you if we want to sell them.' Nothing was ever said again until we heard Imus this morning.

    "From what we can tell, Imus was at his house in Westport this weekend and a neighbor asked him 'Why aren't Fred's products at Stew Leonard's?' Imus went to check up on it with the broker Mike. I guess he told Imus that we would not sell them because he called my father a crook on the air.

    "That's what fueled this mornings rampage on the Imus show. One funny thing is that when Senator John McCain came on for an interview Imus asked him, 'Have you even heard of Stew Leonard's?" He replied, 'No, but I have now!'"
KC's View:
Well, you gotta say this about Stew Leonard, Jr. - he's a "glass half full" kind of guy!

Still, we think that the best lesson in all this is that one should always try not to get into a public argument with someone who has nothing to lose. And Imus thrives on this stuff.

One other thing. The Imus Ranch for children with cancer sounds like an terrifically ambitious charity effort. We think it sounds like the kind of charity that is easy to get behind, and that makes it just a little bit harder to be harsh in one's judgment of Imus.