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Archive for Friday, October 3, 2003

Limbaugh opted for ‘path of least resistance’

Radio talk-show host resigned ‘Sunday NFL Countdown’ post to protect ESPN employees

October 3, 2003

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— One day after giving up his job at ESPN amid a fury of criticism over his comments about Donovan McNabb, Rush Limbaugh explained his decision this way: It was the path of least resistance.

Speaking at the National Association of Broadcasters' convention here, Limbaugh said Thursday he resigned as an ESPN sports analyst to protect network employees from the uproar.

But he still refused to back down from the remarks he made three days earlier, when he said the Philadelphia quarterback was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

"The great people at ESPN did not want to deal with this kind of reaction," the commentator told the convention. "The path of least resistance became for me to resign."

Democratic presidential candidates and the NAACP had criticized the radio talk-show host, calling on him to quit. Limbaugh did late Wednesday.

It was on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" show -- before McNabb led the Eagles to a 23-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills -- that Limbaugh said he didn't think McNabb was as good as perceived from the start.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie Thursday criticized ESPN for hiring Limbaugh in the first place and called the commentator's comments "despicable."

"We thought we were long past this," Lurie said. "When you hire somebody like that, this is what you're going to get. It wasn't a surprise. You get what you hire."

He also criticized ESPN's new series about a fictional professional football team, "Playmakers," saying it promoted racial stereotypes of the league.

"They don't deserve to be portrayed like this for quick ratings," Lurie said.

Josh Krulewitz, a spokesman for ESPN, said, "We obviously disagree with his comments."

Limbaugh has denied that his comments were racially motivated. He said at the convention in Philadelphia that he thought about the issue the night before making the comments and wanted to write an essay on it.

"It's something I have believed for quite a while," Limbaugh said. "I don't mean it to hurt anybody. ... It's just an opinion."

McNabb said Wednesday that he didn't mind criticism of his performance, but was upset Limbaugh made his race an issue.

Meanwhile, law enforcement sources who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity confirmed Thursday that Limbaugh was being investigated in Florida for illegally buying prescription drugs.

Limbaugh, the radio host of the "Rush Limbaugh Show," did not address the drug investigation reports in his speech to broadcasters.

Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates the radio show to more than 650 markets, issued a statement from Limbaugh Thursday, saying: "I am unaware of any investigation by any authority involving me. No government representative has contacted me directly or indirectly. If my assistance is required, I will, of course, cooperate fully."

The allegations were first reported by the National Enquirer.

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