But on the ESPN thing, I did not watch any of the pregame shows yesterday. I did hear about what took place on ESPN, and I’m getting a number of e-mails from you, from people who are angry at the cast at ESPN NFL Sunday Countdown. And, ladies and gentlemen, I meant what I said here on Friday. I really like those guys. There’s some things that they said yesterday that, frankly, I’ve heard for the first time. For example, I only learned when I was told about this that I guess they said something about they had no input in my being there. Let me tell you something. Every – I was told, anyway – that every one of them had signed off on the concept before ESPN executives even approached me. And that wouldn’t have happened…they wouldn’t have forced me on this cast without the cast’s full knowledge that I was going to be talked to about joining the program.
You have to understand the position those guys are in. Those guys have no desire for anything like what happens on this program, and has for 15 years. They’re straight football, they want to worry about what the fantasy performers are going to do and who’s going to win games and who’s going to perform well. The other aspects they just don’t want any part of it. They were answering their friends yesterday who have been beating up on them. It’s the typical cocktail party analogy that I have given you over the course of many years here, that many people determine, in fact, their entire point of view based on what their friends will think of it.
They were in a sort of no-win situation yesterday. I know it’s difficult to not be angry at them, but I didn’t expect them to come out and at all support me. That wasn’t in the cards. That would have only furthered the trouble they think they’re in – and they weren’t in any, but they thought so. So they were doing what they had to do for themselves. I was already gone. There was no bringing me back. There was no attempt to even make it look like that was in their cards. Yeah, I was somewhat disappointed by it when I heard about it because I thought we were all friends and we did all get along – production meetings, on the set, on the show itself, and I think that was clear to people who watched the program.
And it’s, in fact, one of the most often heard comments I’ve got from people, “Yeah, you guys look like you’re really having a lot of fun,” and we were. But this is a situation and a circumstance that obviously they didn’t wish to be part of. But I’ve got some sound bites here from other of people over the weekend about this whole imbroglio, and there are four of them here, and I want to just get started with those, and then we’ll – I guess we’re not going to get it out of the way because I’m sure some of you will still have your say on it. We’ll get to other items in the stack. Of course the California recall election is tomorrow and they’re doing everything they can to destroy Arnold Schwarzenegger now. In some quarters I can say that that’s beginning to backfire on them, and that’s a good sign.
It is clear that supposed objective newspapers, particularly the Los Angeles Times, are doing everything they can to destroy this man’s candidacy, and people are wise to it now. There’s a new sophistication that the consumers of media have regarding the suppliers of media, the providers. And things that the providers used to get away with when they were a monopoly they don’t get away with anymore. I know it’s still maddening and frustrating as it can be, but there appears to have actually been a backlash, including among Democrats and women where Schwarzenegger is concerned. We’ll get to that in just a few moments. But first let’s start with the Beltway Boys on the Fox News Channel. Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes discussing the ESPN situation.
KONDRACKE: This story about, you know, criticizing the press for favoring black quarterbacks is not racially insensitive. It’s no different from you or me saying that Jayson Blair would have been fired a lot earlier from the New York Times had he been white. It’s the same kind of thing. That’s not racist.
RUSH: And now to the Capital Gang from CNN. This is Saturday night. This is Bob Novak’s “Outrage of the Week.”
NOVAK: Three Democratic candidates for president, – Wesley Clark, Howard Dean and Al Sharpton – not only attacked Rush Limbaugh, they called on ESPN to fire him. Heaven help us if they think they caused Rush’s demise. Where is the ACLU, if self-appointed political leaders think the First Amendment means so little they can get rid of any commentator that they consider politically incorrect? That’s bad news for the people at this table who make their living the way we do. It could be worse news for the American people.
RUSH: I’m sort of happy to hear that because one of the comments that I shared with you last week, an EIB executive dropped in here during a commercial break and said, “You know, it’s interesting. The First Amendment, as does the whole Constitution, limits what government can do. The Constitution is a limitation on the government. That’s where the whole concept of limited government derives. That’s where it all comes from. The Constitution limits government and empowers people, and yet in this whole episode you had three presidential candidates demanding that an American citizen be fired for exercising the First Amendment, free speech.” That’s what Novak is talking about here, asking: Where is the ACLU? “It’s a little scary,” he says, “when people who seek the top job in this country, top executive job, and swear an oath to the Constitution then set out to get people who are saying things they don’t like fired.” In Novak’s words, “That’s not healthy.” And then Kate O’Beirne on the Capitol Gang as well.
O’Beirne: Of course Rush Limbaugh enjoys the same First Amendment rights as the rest of us, but that’s not why he shouldn’t have been forced to resign. There was nothing racist about Rush’s remark, that some people are rooting for McNabb because he’s black. Some especially welcome the success of the Williams sisters or Tiger Woods. Nothing wrong with that and nothing wrong with noting that. The media, players and management have injected race into the NFL. When others are race obsessed you can’t fault someone for noticing.
RUSH: Here’s the last sound bite we have on this. It’s from the CBS NFL Today Show. Yesterday morning, Jim Nantz and Deion Sanders.
NANTZ: One thing is very bizarre. This went unnoticed and unchallenged for more than 48 hours – on the set, in the building, in the newspapers. Where were all the people out there for the first 48 hours? I didn’t read about anything here on Monday or Tuesday. Why did it take so long before the PC police stood up and really went in and challenged this?
SANDERS: And they wonder why my dear friend Mike Irvin didn’t take the issue to this situation on the set. You know, Mike said Rush and he were riding back and forth from Connecticut to New York in a G4. Mike say, I’m not going to say nothing! I?m not gonna lose my ride on that G4!
RUSH: I don’t know how many people heard – and, by the way, thanks to Jim Nantz for making that point about this, because I think that’s a relevant point. Let me explain Deion Sanders here and Michael Irvin. Take you back to last week. In talking about my whole experience at ESPN, let me tell you. They all work very hard – you have to understand this – and they all dearly love what they do, and Michael Irvin, this is his first year on the program too, and he’s coming back from some tough obstacles that he has overcome and he’s doing his best and he’s really working hard on this show. I happen to think Irvin is doing a fantastic job.
Tom Jackson even told me after one of the production meetings that he appreciated Irvin’s presence on this show because it brought a new perspective of the NFL to him. Tom has been retired from the NFL for quite awhile, and when Tom played, there was no such thing as a salary cap. Michael Irvin is part of a generation of players that in large part governs their career with the salary cap. Their careers are governed by it, and he brings a perspective to the program in analyzing player movement, free agency and so forth, that Tom Jackson doesn’t have. And Jackson was saying he was very appreciative of that, and he’s right.
Now, this business about flying back and forth from Connecticut to New York. That happened one time after the show. It was early on in the history of the program, and I had to come back to New York after a Friday rehearsal at ESPN and Irvin, Michael, wanted to come. He was going to come have dinner with Deion, and I offered to bring him back. We had a great conversation on that flight, and I told you last week we had conversations about life and the future, and that’s where this took place. It was just a very uplifting conversation to me, I think to Michael as well, and we were getting along quite well. I like him a lot, and I think he’s got a limitless future, and this is what we were talking about on the plane coming back. That’s what Deion Sanders is referring to, but there was no – I mean, Michael Irvin can go with me anywhere I’m going any time he wants to. I don’t care what he says, because I understand why the people up there have to say what they said. They may mean it, too, for all I know. But I understand why they have to say it.
Here’s Janet, West Haven, Connecticut. You’re up first today, Janet, and welcome to the Rush Limbaugh program.
CALLER: Hey, Rush, how are you?
RUSH: Fine, thank you.
CALLER: I know you don’t want to stay on the subject long. I just wanted to let you know – because I know you’ve got tons of e-mails and the odds of actually seeing mine are probably not good – but I did not watch ESPN at all this weekend because I was just really disappointed at how they handled it. I didn’t watch the Steelers game – and I’ve been a Steelers fan forever, and to me, football is listening to Chris Berman and everything and I couldn’t bring myself to watch it just because I didn’t like how it was handled, and it was handled really badly, and they didn’t bother to mention anything until Wednesday, which is coincidentally the day before you weren’t on the air.
RUSH: Well, look, I appreciate your comments. This is sort of a tough position for me because it’s over and it’s behind me, and there’s no changing it.
CALLER: I understand that.
RUSH: And as you say, what’s happening is speaking for itself.
RUSH: So, look, I appreciate your comments and you use your judgment in terms of what you’re going to choose to watch and what you’re going to do, but they’re nice people. In fact, Berman called me last week to ask me if I’m okay. He didn’t say anything to me in the phone call last week that at all indicated he was going to say what he said yesterday on TV. Nobody has been critical to my face.
RUSH: An executive, nobody, has said one thing to my face that they are saying when I’m not around. In fact the people who have spoken to me at ESPN – executives and Berman – have been just the opposite. They’ve been supportive and nice, so take that for what it’s worth. I appreciate your thoughts on it. Use your judgment. I’m not going to confirm what you’re doing or not because it’s probably not my place to do so. I don’t want to sit here in anyway suggest that you do or do not watch ESPN. I don’t want to go there, but if you want to make that decision, feel free. Okay?
CALLER: I’m just telling you I didn’t feel comfortable doing it just because I didn’t like how the whole thing was handled.
RUSH: Well, I appreciate that, and I understand, Janet, thank you very much.