P H I L A D E L P H I A, Oct. 2, 2003 -- Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh saidtoday he resigned as an ESPN sports analyst to protectadvertisers and network employees from the uproar over criticalcomments he made about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback DonovanMcNabb.
Limbaugh stepped down from the sports network's Sunday NFLCountdown late Wednesday, three days after saying on the showthat McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a blackquarterback succeed.
"The great people at ESPN did not want to deal with this kindof reaction," Limbaugh told the National Association ofBroadcasters at its convention in Philadelphia today. "Thepath of least resistance became for me to resign."
Limbaugh did not directly address media reports that begansurfacing Wednesday that said the talk show host was underinvestigation in Florida for allegedly illegally obtaining andabusing prescription painkillers.
Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates the politicallyfocused Rush Limbaugh Show, issued a statement from Limbaughearlier today saying: "I am unaware of any investigation by anyauthority involving me. No government representative has contactedme directly or indirectly. If my assistance is required, I will, ofcourse, cooperate fully."
The New York Daily News, without identifying its source, reportedtoday that Limbaugh was being investigated by the Palm BeachCounty state attorney's office. The newspaper said it hadindependently confirmed the allegations, first reported by theNational Enquirer.
CNN reported today that sources close to the investigationthat it did not identify said Limbaugh had turned up as a buyer ofpowerful painkillers but that he was not the target of theinvestigation.
Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County stateattorney's office, told The Associated Press early today thathis office could neither confirm nor deny that an investigation wasunder way.
The Enquirer had interviewed Wilma Cline, who said she becameLimbaugh's drug connection after working as his maid, according tothe Daily News. She said that Limbaugh had abused OxyContin andother painkillers. A Miami lawyer for Cline, Ed Shohat, did notimmediately return a phone message to the AP today.
Talking about the ESPN comments, Limbaugh said today he hadthought about the issue the night before making the comments. Hesaid he was used to scrutiny after 15 years in radio and expects toget attention.
"I figured if I'm going to do this [the ESPN show] I should bewho I am," he said.
Limbaugh has denied that his comments were racially motivated.
"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in theNFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback dowell," Limbaugh said on Sunday's show. "There is a little hopeinvested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performanceof this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried thisteam."
About a half-dozen people protested outside the convention.
George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, acceptedLimbaugh's resignation Wednesday. ABC and ESPN are owned by WaltDisney Co.
"We regret the circumstances surrounding this," Bodenheimersaid. "We believe that he took the appropriate action to resolvethis matter expeditiously."
Limbaugh is the radio host of the politically focused RushLimbaugh Show, syndicated in more than 650 markets. ESPNspokesman Dave Nagle said ratings for Sunday NFL Countdown wereup 10 percent overall since Limbaugh joined the show this year.