Conservatives in Media Close Ranks Around Limbaugh

By Steve Brown | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - Conservative commentators and media watchers Thursday came to the defense of commentator Rush Limbaugh following Limbaugh's resignation as an ESPN football analyst. Limbaugh had been under fire for comments he made about Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNab.

During ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, Limbaugh told viewers he thought McNabb, a former NFL all-star, was overrated.

"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 on Sunday. "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."

A mountain of criticism ensued, including from several Democratic presidential candidates who called for ESPN to fire Limbaugh. McNabb said it was "sad that you've got to go to skin color. I thought we were through with that whole deal," he told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Against this backdrop, Limbaugh Wednesday night issued a statement that he was resigning

"My comments this past Sunday were directed at the media and were not racially motivated. I offered an opinion. This opinion has caused discomfort to the crew, which I regret," Limbaugh stated.

Limbaugh added that he did not want to be a "distraction to the great work" done by all who work on NFL Sunday Countdown. "Therefore I have decided to resign. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the show and wish all the best to those who make it happen."

Thursday, conservatives, including Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, defended Limbaugh. Those involved in "excoriating Rush Limbaugh...are hypocritical grandstanders or opportunists," Ridenour stated.

The furor over Limbaugh is centered on his success as a right-leaning radio talk show host "and a white guy on top of it all," self-described libertarian pundit Neal Boortz wrote on his website.

"Limbaugh is seen by the left as a huge, almost insurmountable threat to their designs on regaining control in (Washington) D.C.," Boortz said. "Limbaugh crossed a politically-correct line. Only liberals are allowed to bring race into any issue."

Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, the parent organization of, said the episode was an example of a media "double-standard," and suggested Limbaugh's resignation may have been forced.

"I think that the response of ESPN afterwards, saying this was the appropriate action to take (for Limbaugh to resign) suggests they wanted him to resign. They were happy he resigned," Graham told

When asked whether ESPN considered keeping Limbaugh after he offered his resignation, particularly in light of the reported 10 percent ratings spike since Limbaugh's inclusion in the network's pre-game show, ESPN spokesperson Dave Nagle told only that "Rush offered his resignation and we accepted it.

"We think the device of the '(Rush) Challenge' (the segment featuring Limbaugh) was one of many factors that helped this season get off to a good start and it's hard to say what will happen going forward," Nagle said.

Susan Jones contributed to this article

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