Readers Write: Does Rush Speak for the Mainstream Media?


In a discussion during his "Rush Challenge" segment of ESPN network's Sunday NFL Countdown show, which was focused on underachieving players, Rush Limbaugh singled out African-American Donavan McNabb, a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, who has been struggling this season.

"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. "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."

That anyone in their right mind who has watched this player over the past three years could describe McNabb's play as poor is hardly the issue. Limbaugh laying his bigotry and ignorance out in full view was the story here, and what a disappointing story it is.

Amid an uproar of protest that included Democratic presidential candidates Wesley Clark and Howard Dean, the head of the NCAAP, high-ups in the National Association of Black Journalists and Rev. Al Sharpton, the heat became unbearable for Limbaugh, and possibly the executives at ESPN. During the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Philadelphia, Limbaugh took the opportunity of his keynote speech to tender his resignation from the NFL show.

Limbaugh's departure from ESPN's NFL countdown gave him the perfect pulpit from which to fire off even more pompous self affirmations to the public, essentially stating that it was the liberal media's fault once again.

"All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something," Limbaugh said, "If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sports writer community."

But to some degree, it is the mainstream (not liberal) media's fault. What does it say about ESPN, and ultimately Walt Disney that Limbaugh was hired in the first place? This is a man who once told an African-American who called his nationally syndicated radio show to "go home and take the bone out of your nose, then call back."

Clearly his employers are comfortable with Rush's beliefs and condone him to the fullest. While not every executive may share his bigoted beliefs, the revenue that he brings in is deemed well worth the bile that he spews. (Case in point: ESPN spokesman Dave Nagle said Tuesday that with Limbaugh on the show this season, ratings for "Sunday NFL Countdown" are up 10 percent overall, and 26 percent among the 18 to 34 male demographic. Sunday's show drew its biggest audience in the regular season since November 1996.)

ESPN executive vice president Mark Shapiro came to Limbaugh's defense, saying, "This is not a politically motivated comment. This is a sports and media argument." Shapiro was quoted as saying in a USA Today column published Wednesday, "Rush was arguing McNabb is essentially overrated and that his success is more in part [due] to the team assembled around him.

"We brought Rush in for no-holds-barred opinion. Early on, he has delivered," Shapiro told USA Today.

It appeared to be a somewhat awkward situation for some folks associated with the program. Chris Berman, one of ESPN's longest standing broadcasters rationalized it like this: "As the quarterback of the show, I feel bad about it. I don't think it was meant the way it came out. I don't think that defines the way Rush feels about people."

Fortunately, Dem candidate Wesley Clark pulled no punches in his comments: "There can be no excuse for such statements. Mr. Limbaugh has the right to say whatever he wants, but ABC and ESPN have no obligation to sponsor such hateful and ignorant speech. Mr. Limbaugh should be fired immediately."

Howard Dean concurred: "To imply that the success of an African-American is an undeserved gift from a biased media is absurd and offensive."

While it was nice to see some black luminaries and organizations sound off on the matter, where were the universal media organizations? Why didn't the National Association of Broadcasters kick Limbaugh off of the Keynote Speech pulpit?

If there was any doubt about the beliefs and intentions of the mainstream media, the sorry case of Rush and ESPN will hopefully be the last proof needed for the naive who might still believe that best interests of we the people are represented by the powers that be.

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