Yesterday I was referred to on air as "scum" by Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh called me out by name on his radio show because, along with Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press, I challenged Limbaugh's efforts to own a NFL team, saying that his history of racial bombast should count against him.
Limbaugh said of us:
They are the ones with prejudice and bigotry coursing through their vanes [sic], through their hearts, and through their souls. They are consumed with jealousy and rage. They are all liberals--and make no mistake: That's what this is about. It is about ideology. It isn't about race. It's about their being jealous and attempting to discredit me, and they've now sunk to the low of repeating fabricated quotes that they cannot source.... These people are scum.
What we all did was carry a quote from Limbaugh that he absolutely insists he did not say. The quote is:
We didn't have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I'm not saying we should bring it back; I'm just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.
For all the dittoheads out there, here is how we came up with the quote: it was in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Detroit Free Press, the Washington Post, and in the book 101 People Who Are Really Screwing America by Jack Huberman. In Huberman's book, it must be added, it is unsourced. It is also true that the quote has been out in the ether for years. Now that it is endangering his chances to become an NFL owner, Limbaugh is serving up a full heaping of indignation.
As Jason Whitlock, with whom I have had every manner of political disagreement over the years, writes:
Limbaugh claimed on his radio show Monday that his staff could not find any proof that he ever joked about slavery. I'm sorry. Limbaugh doesn't get the benefit of the doubt on racial matters.... You can argue the comments are presented out of context and were meant as jokes. Then I'd argue that Limbaugh needs to get on the comedy-club circuit and out of the business of attempting to influence presidential politics. Limbaugh wants to be taken seriously.
But let's take Limbaugh at his word that he didn't say it. We should also look at the myriad of quotes on record he makes no effort to dispute. We can only assume that he is proud to have said, "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons."
Or these other gems:
The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.
Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?
To an African-American caller:
Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.
Upon hearing that Spike Lee said that black schoolchildren should take off from school to see the movie Malcolm X:
Spike, if you're going to do that, let's complete the education experience. You should tell them that they should loot the theater and then blow it up on their way out.
Or calling Barack Obama "Halfrican-American" and saying:
In Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, "Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on".... We need segregated buses--it was invading space and stuff. This is Obama's America.
The real reason Rush is doing a slow-burn on his show and setting loose his army of Internet flame throwers is that his dream of owning an NFL franchise is going up in smoke. After seven players and the union went public and stood up to Rush getting his mitts around the most powerful cultural and athletic brand in America, commissioner Roger Goodell finally spoke out. Goodell said on Tuesday that Limbaugh's "divisive comments" had no place in the NFL. "I have said many times before, we're all held to a higher standard here," Goodell said to reporters. "I would not want to see those kinds of comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL. No. Absolutely not."
Goodell's statement was complemented by Colts owner Jim Irsay, who told ESPN, "I, myself, couldn't even think of voting for him.... I'm very sensitive to know there are scars out there. I think as a nation we need to stop it. Our words do damage, and it's something that we don't need. We need to get to a higher level of humanity, and we have." Other owners issued decidedly lukewarm comments about the possibility of sharing space with Rush.
Some are surprised that ownership isn't welcoming Limbaugh with a passionate embrace because most owners are to the right of Attila the Hun. They are billionaires who have feasted at the public trough of corporate welfare while basking in tax breaks for the rich. In other words, they constitute Limbaugh's base. But his membership in this exclusive fraternity of billionaires would violate the first rule of ownership: protect the bottom line.
The inconvenient truth is that no matter how much he rants and raves, no matter how often he calls columnists like Burwell, Sharp and me "state-run-media scum," it's the commissioner and the owners who believe that his history of ugly vitriol would be just too harmful to the NFL brand. You reap what you sow, and Rush Limbaugh has reaped a whirlwind.