PHILADELPHIA – Rush Limbaugh (search) insisted Wednesday he had "no racist intent whatsoever" in saying the media have overrated the Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb (search) because they want to see a black quarterback succeed.
In fact, the conservative commentator said he must have been right; otherwise, the comments would not have sparked such outrage.
Limbaugh offered no apology, and McNabb said it was too late for one anyway.
"I'm sure he's not the only one that feels that way, but it's somewhat shocking to actually hear that on national TV," the NFL star said. "An apology would do no good because he obviously thought about it before he said it."
Before McNabb led the Eagles to a 23-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Limbaugh said on ESPN's pregame show that he did not think McNabb was as good as he was perceived to be.
"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. "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."
Limbaugh did not back down during his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday.
He reiterated that he does not think McNabb is a bad player, just that he isn't as good as some members of the media think he is.
"This is such a mountain out of a molehill," he said. "There's no racism here, there's no racist intent whatsoever."
"All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something," he said. "If I wasn't right there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sports writer community."
On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidates Wesley Clark (search) and Howard Dean (search) said Limbaugh should be fired. Clark, a retired Army general, called the remarks "hateful and ignorant speech."
The NAACP also condemned Limbaugh's remarks, calling them "bigoted and ignorant," and called for the network to fire Limbaugh or at least provide an opposing point of view on the show.
"It is appalling that ESPN has to go to this extent to try to increase viewership," NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said in a statement.
The NFL (search) disclaimed any responsibility for Limbaugh's remarks.
"ESPN knew what it was getting when they hired Rush Limbaugh," league vice president Joe Browne said. "ESPN selects its on-air talent, not the NFL."
ESPN spokesman Dave Nagle said he did not believe the comments were racially biased. "He was comparing McNabb's performance on the field to his reputation in the media," Nagle said.
Chris Berman, who anchors the ESPN show, said he did not believe Limbaugh's tone or intent was malicious. "As cut and dry as it seems in print, I didn't think so when it went by my ears," he said. "I probably should have looked to soften it."
McNabb, who was runner-up for the MVP award in 2000 and has led the Eagles to two straight conference championship games, said he has no quarrel with Limbaugh's comment on his playing ability. "I know I played badly the first two games," he said.
But McNabb said that the comments about his race were out of bounds and added that someone on the show should have taken Limbaugh on. Among the other panelists were former players Michael Irvin and Tom Jackson, both of whom are black.
"I'm not pointing at anyone but someone should have said it," McNabb said of the panelists, who also include Berman and Steve Young. "I wouldn't have cared if it was the cameraman."
A decade ago, there were few black quarterbacks in the NFL. This season, 10 of the 32 teams will have started black quarterbacks in at least one game.
Limbaugh has helped increase the ratings for "Sunday NFL Countdown." Nagle said ratings are up 10 percent overall. Sunday's show drew its biggest audience in the regular season since 1996.
Limbaugh is the radio host of the politically focused "Rush Limbaugh Show," which is syndicated in more than 650 markets worldwide.