A businessman forming a group to purchase a minority interest in the National Football League's St. Louis Rams approached popular conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Would Limbaugh be interested? Yes, said Limbaugh, but he warned there would be a firestorm of protests. The man was assured that this had been thought through. Not to worry.
"Responsible" cable news outlets CNN and MSNBC "reported" that Limbaugh once spoke positively about both slavery and the assassination of Martin Luther King. What???!!! "News anchors" such as CNN's Rick Sanchez even "quoted" Limbaugh speaking positively about slavery. That alleged quote and another supposedly applauding King's assassination whipped around cable news, newspaper opinion pieces and the Internet faster than you could say "balloon boy."
Never mind that Limbaugh denied saying such outrageous things. Never mind that no record exists of him ever uttering anything of the sort. Limbaugh threatened legal action against the "news" organizations that either "reported" these things as accurate or "reported" about others attributing these statements to him. Sanchez finally issued a retraction -- but never apologized to Limbaugh.
But the damage was done. The man who approached Limbaugh asked the host to remove himself from the group. Limbaugh refused. So he was dropped.
I feel Limbaugh's pain. If he is so offensive and has uttered incendiary, inflammatory remarks that render him unfit to the NFL, why lie in order to make the case?
It's happened to me.
Shortly after I started on radio, my station's account executives -- those who sell radio time to advertisers -- began getting distressing phone calls. Why is Elder so "offensive"? Advertising agencies and sponsors received numerous letters complaining about me from "the black community." These letters included statements I allegedly made, such as:
"Blacks are morally corrupt."
"Blacks are lazy."
"It's okay for white people to call black people (the N-word)."
"Blacks are immoral."
"It is understandable to be racist against blacks.""Blacks are the cause of all crime in America."
The letter also said, "(Elder) attacks black men, black women and black children almost every day. He also attacks black politicians, ministers, scholars, and other leaders on a regular basis." The letter listed advertisers that sponsored my show, including major national companies. The letter called for a boycott of "companies that finance hate speech against black people."
Of course, I never said those things. Had I done so, I would have -- and should have -- been fired before the next commercial break. Wouldn't anyone with an ounce of common sense know that? No, "corporate America" headed for the hills.
Sponsor after sponsor dropped my program, costing my station a great deal of money. In response to the "controversy" and the loss in revenue, my station cut my four-hour-a-day afternoon drive-time program in half. I wanted to go on the air, talk about this outrageous boycott and fight -- with the truth. But management naively thought that if we didn't respond to the smears, the boycott would simply whither away. The letters continued. Some local sponsors were picketed by protestors carrying signs, with my picture, saying "Hate Radio Must Go!"
After my show was cut, however, my listeners were outraged. Calls and letters of support poured in. Several support groups formed, and people such as conservative activist David Horowitz came to my defense. The boycott leaders refused to make themselves available for comment. It turned out that no more than a handful of people were sending out hundreds of letters on behalf of "the black community." My show was soon restored.
The NFL commissioner, during the Rush dust-up, said he opposes "divisive comments." This is an interesting standard in a league about which Sports Illustrated once wrote that more than 20 percent of its players had criminal records -- up to and including attempted rape.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann dons his viciously anti-Republican commentator hat on weekdays yet works NFL television games as an analyst on Sundays. Bob Costas works as an analyst for Major League Baseball games. On his radio show, Costas said about then-President George W. Bush, "It is sad to say, this is a tragically failed administration. That is to me an inescapable fact." Were there demands that Olbermann and Costas lose their sports jobs over their "divisive comments," or were lies spread about what they said?
What happened to Limbaugh is despicable. If Limbaugh had successfully acquired an interest in the team, critics could have chosen to refuse to patronize the product. They clearly choose to avoid listening to his radio show. Otherwise, why lie?