Inside Rush Limbaugh’s Short, Disastrous Stint at ESPN

Talk show host lasted only four weeks at the network.

Rush Limbaugh speaks at San Jose Civic Auditorium in San Jose, California, United States
Rush Limbaugh speaks at San Jose Civic Auditorium in San Jose, California, United States
John Medina/WireImage/Getty

Maybe one of the most controversial conservative political pundits of our time, Rush Limbaugh makes a living off ruffling people’s feathers. Especially, lefties. Despite this, he’s become wildly wealthy and popular on the airwaves, with radio’s The Rush Limbaugh Show.

Of course, Limbaugh’s also made his share of mistakes, the most glaring of which might have been his extremely short stint on ESPN (another instance, by the way, where the worlds of sports and politics collided head-on). Deadspin‘s David Roth fills us in on the details.

Limbaugh was ultimately fired for the blowback following a Sunday NFL Countdown segment from 2003, in which he tried to argue against the decision to start quarterback Donovan McNabb, who he felt shouldn’t have been given any credit for his team’s play. “I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern from the NFL; I think the media has been very desirous that a Black quarterback do well,” said Limbaugh, to a stunned panel that included two Black analysts, one of whom, Tom Jackson, immediately fired back at Limbaugh.

The cameras quickly panned away from Limbaugh, with the other analysts — including three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Steve Young, going to bat for McNabb.

At the time, ESPN‘s vice president of programming and production Mark Shapiro told Variety that “Rush is a great communicator and a fan’s fan. …His acute sense of what’s on the minds of his listeners, combined with ability to entertain and serve as a lightning rod for lively discussion, makes him the perfect fit for this new role.”

Limbaugh would last only four weeks at ESPN.

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