NEW YORK — Rush Limbaugh may chalk up record ratings for his syndicated radio show today, but he likely wishes there wasn’t so much heat surrounding it.
He’ll answers questions for the first time on air about a government investigation of his alleged drug use and his abrupt resignation as a football pundit on ESPN’s “NFL Sunday Countdown.”
The beleagured right-wing commentator didn’t do his radio show Thursday in order to fulfill a commitment as keynote speaker at a National Assn. of Broadcasters convention in Philadelphia.
Limbaugh faced a less-than-friendly audience in the City of Brotherly Love: He had to quit the ESPN job late Wednesday because of the hostile reaction ignited when he denigrated the skills of Donovan McNabb, quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. Limbaugh declared on ESPN Sunday that the liberal sports media were giving McNabb a free pass because he’s black.
But potentially even more threatening to Limbaugh’s career than the McNabb brouhaha is the revelation out of Florida that the Palm Beach County state attorney’s office is investigating Limbaugh on charges that he fed an addiction to painkillers like OxyContin by purchasing them illegally on the black market.
Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates Limbaugh’s show, put out a statement from Limbaugh in which he said, “I am unaware of any investigation by any authority involving me,” adding that he would “cooperate fully” if he were contacted.
Limbaugh faced protesters outside the Concention Center ballroom in Philadelphia, but his speech went off without incident. He told the radio-industry audience that his resignation from ESPN was “the path of least resistance,” a recognition that network officials and on-air hosts “didn’t want to deal with this kind of reaction.”
Limbaugh is one of the most popular radio hosts in the U.S., with a fervent audience of “dittoheads,” fans who parrot his conservative views.
In July of 2001 Limbaugh signed a contract extension, reportedly worth $285 million, which would keep him on the air through 2009. In October of the same year Limbaugh announced that he was almost completely deaf.