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Conservatives in Media Close Ranks Around Limbaugh

by Steve Brown Friday, Oct. 03, 2003 at 10:26 AM
dthibault@cnsnews.com

Self-described libertarian pundit Neal Boortz wrote on his website. "Limbaugh is seen by the left as a huge, almost insurmountable threat to their designs on regaining control in (Washington) D.C.. Limbaugh crossed a politically-correct line. Only liberals are allowed to bring race into any issue."

Conservatives in Media Close Ranks Around Limbaugh

Steve Brown, CNSNews.com, October 02, 2003

(Editor's Note: Adds reaction from columnist Mychal Massie. Susan Jones contributed to this article.)

(CNSNews.com) - Conservative commentators and media watchers Thursday came to the defense of commentator Rush Limbaugh following Limbaugh's resignation as an ESPN football analyst. Limbaugh had been under fire for comments he made about Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb.

During ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, Limbaugh told viewers he thought McNabb, a former NFL all-star, was overrated.

"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well," Limbaugh said on Sunday. "There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

A mountain of criticism ensued, including from several Democratic presidential candidates and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who called for ESPN to fire Limbaugh. McNabb said it was "sad that you've got to go to skin color. I thought we were through with that whole deal," he told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Against this backdrop, Limbaugh Wednesday night issued a statement that he was resigning

"My comments this past Sunday were directed at the media and were not racially motivated. I offered an opinion. This opinion has caused discomfort to the crew, which I regret," Limbaugh stated.

Limbaugh added that he did not want to be a "distraction to the great work" done by all who work on NFL Sunday Countdown. "Therefore, I have decided to resign. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the show and wish all the best to those who make it happen."

Thursday, conservatives, including Mychal Massie, who is a national advisory council member for the conservative African American group, Project 21 as well as a columnist for WorldNet Daily, defended Limbaugh. Massie called the media uproar "patently unfair," and said Limbaugh's remarks were inconsequential.

"What we have here is a classic example of the dirty little secret that blacks can say anything they want to about black athletes but whites can't," Massie told CNSNews.com, referencing comments attributed to Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker earlier this summer that black and Latino athletes were better suited for hot weather conditions than whites because of their skin color.

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, an African American, wrote at the time that, "a white manager probably would not have gotten away with his (Baker's) remarks."

But Massie also blasted McNabb for his handling of the situation, saying it showed an "incredible" lack of self worth on the quarterback's part.

"The only thing McNabb hasn't done yet is curl up in the corner in a fetal position and whimper," Massie said.

Massie recalled an incident a few years ago in which pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller made controversial remarks about fellow golfer Tiger Woods, who had recently won the Masters tournament. Zoeller called Woods a "little boy" and urged him not to serve "fried chicken" or "collared greens" at the Masters Champion dinner.

According to Massie, Woods showed "class," compared to McNabb, and handled the incident with "pride," despite the fact that Limbaugh's comments were directed at the sports media, not McNabb, and Zoeller's remarks were directed at Woods and in Massie's judgment, were racist.

"If McNabb were truly empowered like he would like everyone to believe that he is, he would have just shrugged it off," Massie said.

He added that the calls by NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and Democratic presidential candidates for Limbaugh to be fired were "expected" behavior from them.

"It reminds me of something (former pro basketball player) Charles Barkley once said, that the only thing liberals ever give blacks is an inferiority complex," Massie said.

The furor over Limbaugh is centered on his success as a right-leaning radio talk show host "and a white guy on top of it all," self-described libertarian pundit Neal Boortz wrote on his website.

"Limbaugh is seen by the left as a huge, almost insurmountable threat to their designs on regaining control in (Washington) D.C.," Boortz said. "Limbaugh crossed a politically-correct line. Only liberals are allowed to bring race into any issue."

Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com, said the episode was an example of a media "double-standard," and suggested Limbaugh's resignation may have been forced.

"I think that the response of ESPN afterwards, saying this was the appropriate action to take (for Limbaugh to resign) suggests they wanted him to resign. They were happy he resigned," Graham told CNSNews.com.

David Almasi, executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research, agreed, and wondered why ESPN would be surprised when the network "got what they wanted" after hiring Limbaugh for the pre-game show.

"After all, Limbaugh was brought to ESPN to spice things up, right," Almasi told CNSNews.com.

When asked whether ESPN considered keeping Limbaugh after he offered his resignation, particularly in light of the reported 10 percent ratings spike since Limbaugh's inclusion in the network's pre-game show, ESPN spokesperson Dave Nagle told CNSNews.com only that "Rush offered his resignation and we accepted it."

"We think the device of the '(Rush) Challenge' (the segment featuring Limbaugh) was one of many factors that helped this season get off to a good start and it's hard to say what will happen going forward," Nagle said.

In a related story allegations surfaced Thursday about Limbaugh being involved with illegal prescription pain medication.

Almasi compared the "media frenzy" surrounding the Limbaugh remarks and drug allegations to revelations earlier this summer that former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett had a gambling problem.

"Any chance they (the media) get to pile it on Limbaugh...this is something that they're loving," Almasi said.

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