There was a time in journalism where it was frowned upon to allow people to spread false information in a public forum. That was before the ghouls at FOX News realized there was a lot of money in telling people what they wanted to hear – damn – first as wild speculations about former President Barack Obama’s birthplace circulated, later as lies about election fraud and January 6th reared their ugly heads. The only thing that stopped FOX’s hosts from claiming that Dominion voting machines had been manipulated in favor of Joe Biden’s election was that Dominion sued FOX for defamation and was awarded 787 million dollars. Only Jets fans thought Aaron Rodgers would come back.
All of this of course brings us to The Pat McAfee Show, for which ESPN paid the proud price of 85 million dollars just to turn midday sports chatter into a litany of conspiracy theories and misinformation every Tuesday when Aaron Rodgers (who McAfee pays to be on the show) makes his weekly appearance. For a man who supposedly shows up to talk about football, Rodgers has so far only expressed interest in discussing vaccines with Dr. Anthony Fauci, promoted Robert F. Kennedy, a celebrated anti-vaccine advocate and serious presidential candidate who mocked Travis Kelce for advertising Pfizer, and now seemingly defamed late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.
I wish I could say that it was ESPN’s decision to recently cancel the acclaimed show Outside the Lines, which actually presented journalism that addresses all the anti-vaxxer and anti-intellectual garbage that Rodgers promotes on his platform on the McAfee Show (without any pushback from McAfee), but that would be… wait… misinformation. It seems that ESPN is okay with lying about a public health crisis that has claimed nearly 1.2 million American lives (many of whom, I suspect, were ESPN viewers). At least they have not publicly disavowed any of Rodgers‘ comments or apologized for his untruths.
But ESPN may finally be forced to address the mess they have created as Rodgers fervently defamed late-night star Jimmy Kimmel yesterday, implying that his name is on the list of Jeffrey Epstein’s clients to be released in the coming days. This prompted Kimmel to respond on the cesspool known as X (formerly Twitter):
„And lest you think people aren’t taking him seriously: Rodgers‘ comments were quickly followed by brain-dead idiots on X, tweeting as if it were a foregone conclusion that Kimmel is on the so-called Epstein client list:“
And McAfee himself opened his show on Wednesday claiming, „A-Aron just tried to talk some s***.“
There are a lot of things about Rodgers‘ comments that are absolutely insane: that he has apparently resorted to calling Kimmel a pedophile because he was upset that Kimmel mocked his anti-vaxx stance, Rodgers‘ smug expression as he immediately got the reaction he wanted from McAfee and Ed McMahon’s stand-in AJ Hawk, the fact that no one on the show immediately called out Rodgers for crossing the line, and that pedophilia is merely a punchline to Rodgers, something he can use as a „gotcha“ rather than a life-altering trauma for Epstein’s victims. But perhaps the worst part is that almost 24 hours after Rodgers threw Kimmel under the bus, ESPN has remained silent, declining to issue a statement.
Since being in the spotlight, Rodgers has become the easily-led conspiracy theorist convinced he’s the smartest guy in the room. But this time he may have messed up, as his words seem to meet the definition of defamation, even if there is a higher burden of proof for Kimmel as a public figure. To successfully sue Rodgers for defamation, Kimmel must prove that Rodgers acted with malice, meaning that Rodgers accused Kimmel of being on the Epstein list while knowing it wasn’t true, or without caring whether it is true or not. Adding to the difficulty, both ESPN and ABC, which airs Kimmel’s show, are owned by Disney. And a pompous, egotistical fool on a Disney show accusing a major late-night host on another Disney channel of being a pedophile seems like a bad look for everyone at Disney.
And despite McAfee’s extensive apology on behalf of Rodgers, „just trying to talk some s***“ is by no means a legal defense against defamation. And it could actually bolster Kimmel’s argument, as McAfee essentially admits that Rodgers knew his statements were untrue but just wanted to go after Kimmel.
If ESPN does not take action against Rodgers, it’s entirely possible that Disney chief Bob Iger may get involved, as there are currently dozens if not hundreds of loyal Rodgers followers in social media running with Rodgers‘ claim that Kimmel was a known associate of the most notorious pedophile ever pursued by the US. Disney cannot be happy about this.
As we’ve seen this show before, we know that Rodgers will lay low for a week, return to McAfee’s show next week, and claim that his words were taken out of context and that the mainstream media twisted his statement. But like almost everything else Rodgers says it’s not about football, that will be untrue. And one has to wonder why any team would invite such trouble into their clubhouse.