- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2009

OPINION/ANALYSIS:

In modern liberal society, it is OK to be a bigot; just so long you are a bigot for the left.

We were once again reminded of this fact when conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh was unceremoniously dumped from an ownership group attempting to purchase the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams, after news of Mr. Limbaugh’s minority stake caused public backlash.

The opposition was fanned by DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, who urged NFL players to oppose Mr. Limbaugh and also sent a letter to the NFL commissioner denouncing Mr. Limbaugh’s ownership stake on the basis that he is a divisive figure. (Where, one wonders, was Mr. Smith when NFL quarterback Michael Vick was busy getting morbid thrills by forcing animals to tear out chunks of their flesh?)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell promptly caved, stating that Mr. Limbaugh’s “divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about.” Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Illinois Democrat, then piled on by publicly proclaiming that Mr. Limbaugh’s politics would undermine the league’s integrity: “Politics may be a contact sport, but football is not a political issue,” said Mr. Jackson, who added, “Rush’s ownership could detract from the players by making the politics of one [franchise’s] owner the story. Soon you’ll have players commenting on the owners. …”

(As opposed to players commenting on how Plaxico Burress discharged a gun into his own thigh? And while we’re on the subject, isn’t there a weekly story about an owner - like how Al Davis, who owns the Oakland Raiders, is palpably insane or how Daniel Snyder, who owns the Washington Redskins, places vanilla ice cream outside of his coach’s office with a note reading, “I want to see less of this.”)

Finally, the master of self-advertisement, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, delivered a five-minute floor speech warning that Mr. Limbaugh’s participation in the NFL would taint the sense of unity and teamwork supposedly embodied by the league. (Translation: Mr. Limbaugh was blacklisted because of his conservative views.)

Let me just say, I do not know Mr. Limbaugh. I have never met Mr. Limbaugh. I have no ties - by virtue of being a conservative commentator - to Mr. Limbaugh. But this whole mess is laughable on multiple levels.

First, the idea that Mr. Limbaugh would somehow taint the integrity of the NFL is ludicrous. The fraternity of billionaire sports owners is as wild a pack of insipidly immoral people as you could ever meet. Not one of them attained their status by being nice people. All of them get sued on a near daily basis for engaging in activity that is far more offensive than whistling conservative rhetoric.

How many sweatshops are financed by NFL owners? How many poor immigrant workers are stiffed on their salaries each time one of these owners finances a new construction project? This crew became billionaires precisely because they are adept at capitalizing on the misfortunes of others. The idea that NFL owners have cleaner hands than Mr. Limbaugh is laughable. (Is the logic that NFL players will work for sweatshop-financing industrialists but not for a conservative commentator? Does that make sense?)

Lost in the hubbub is a crucial point: Mr. Limbaugh is an entertainer. What he does and says is not real. He is an act trotted out for the edification of Middle America. He fattens himself on hyperbole. He loves to rattle liberal cages. He is an expert at kicking political correctness in the head. Along the way, he distills complex issues into sound bites designed to solicit knee-jerk responses. This makes him a pundit - not a racist.

This rousing point was not lost on Washington Post columnist William Raspberry who in 1993 penned this insightful apology to Mr. Limbaugh:

“Rush, I’m sorry. … When a caller asked me, quite reasonably, to give him an instance or two of a bigoted opinion from Limbaugh, all he got was my embarrassed silence. Sure he’s taken digs at poor people and rioters and feminists and the NAACP, but why should any of these be immune? … Limbaugh’s … often (for many of us) the hated opinion, but that doesn’t, by itself, make him hateful.”

The same, of course, can be said of talk-show host Keith Olbermann, who nightly shills liberal vitriol on his MSNBC show. Did NFL players demand that Mr. Olbermann be ousted when, in 2007, he insinuated on national television that a black Buffalo Bills player was motivated by chicken and waffles? Of course not. Mr. Olbermann, a self-promoting liberal, is free to use exaggeration and stereotypes to solicit knee-jerk responses. By contrast, the whole world ignited when, in 2003, Mr. Limbaugh said of Philadelphia Eagles’ Donovan McNabb, “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.” All of which only reinforces the fact that the Limbaugh opposition has nothing to do with race; it is about ideology.

Mr. Limbaugh summed up the situation succinctly:

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