S.E. Cupp has become a minor bete noir here, partly because I’ve been tracking reaction to her profoundly inaccurate book. But today, she actually says something I agree with. Or at least, she accidentally implies something I agree with.
The essay is a bit of sports commentary, or rather sports journalism commentary. She can’t fathom why Keith Olbermann is blogging for MLB.com, while Rush Limbaugh wasn’t allowed to buy a football team. It all comes down to politics, she’s sure. She recites various things Olbermann has said which she finds offensive (e.g., saying President Bush foisted “fake threats” the nation). She never gets around to pointing out that Olbermann started his career as a sportscaster on radio, broadcast TV, and cable. He was thrice voted best sportscaster by the California Associated Press. He worked at ESPN. He covered the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Olympics. He started a sports program on Cupp’s own home network: Fox. He covered the World Series for Fox. He regularly injects sports trivia into his news and commentary program on MSNBC. He’s among the more famous American sportscasters, and it makes some sense that Major League Baseball might want to share his insights.
Olbermann is also, of course, a rather prominent liberal commentator, and is seen in some circles as a lefty equivalent of Rush Limbaugh. So Cupp compares Olbermann’s gig with MLB.com to Limbaugh’s failed attempt to buy a stake in an NFL team. That effort failed last year when players insisted they would not work for him due to his history of racist remarks, especially racist remarks about football players during a brief time commenting for ESPN.
So Cupp sets up a parallelism. She cites political commentary by Olbermann, and notes that MLB invited Olberman to offer sports commentary despite his political views. Then she cites sports commentary by Limbaugh that many people ? including many players ? regarded as insulting and racist, and wonders why Limbaugh didn’t get to buy an NFL franchise.
The reason, she’s sure, is politics. Limbaugh is being discriminated against because of his conservative views. Which, for the argument to work, has to mean that his racism is actually conservatism. Let’s see how this plays out in practice:
Folks involved in ousting the conservative radio talk show host from his bid to buy the St. Louis Rams focused on a 2003 incident when Limbaugh suggested that the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed in the NFL. [Not to mention his comment, "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it."]
For this, NFL players union head DeMaurice Smith accused Limbaugh of inciting discrimination and hatred. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL – absolutely not.”
So let’s get this straight. Limbaugh is too conservative for football, evangelical minister the Rev. Franklin Graham is too Christian for the National Day of Prayer, and Islam is too touchy for “South Park.”
Paragraphs 1 and 2 here are fairly reasonable. She omits Limbaugh’s longer history of racist commentary, but yeah, Limbaugh’s claim that Donovan McNab was being propped up by a media hungry for a successful black athlete was certainly the major focus of commentary. Cupp omits to mention that McNab had led his team to divisional championships for the previous two years, that he went on to take his team to the Super Bowl a few months after Limbaugh’s remark, and that he is has set the Philadelphia Eagles’ team records for career wins, pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. But yeah, Limbaugh was blocked because he made a racist comment.
Then paragraph 3 just assumes that racist comments mean someone is “too conservative.” Which doesn’t strike me as an inherently erroneous take on much modern American conservatism, but not an admission I’m used to hearing from the horse’s mouth.
To her discredit, though, Cupp later refers to “Olbermann’s misogyny, race-baiting and fear-mongering,” but never gives examples to back up the claim. It’s the shoddy sort of work that we’ve come to expect from Cupp, and which her forthrightness about conservative racism seemed to set behind her.