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Fla. authorities investigate Limbaugh in drug probe

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Rush Limbaugh is being investigated for illegally buying prescription drugs, Florida investigators said yesterday, hours after the conservative commentator gave up his job as an ESPN sports analyst over reaction to comments he made about a black quarterback.

Law enforcement sources who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed to the Associated Press that Limbaugh is being investigated by the Palm Beach County state attorney's office.

The allegations were first reported by the National Enquirer. CNN reported yesterday that sources close to the investigation said Limbaugh had turned up as a buyer of powerful painkillers, but that he was not the target of the investigation.

Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates the politically focused "Rush Limbaugh Show" to more than 650 markets, issued a statement from Limbaugh yesterday saying: "I am unaware of any investigation by any authority involving me. No government representative has contacted me directly or indirectly. If my assistance is required, I will, of course, cooperate fully."

Limbaugh left his ESPN job late Wednesday, three days after saying on the sports network's "Sunday NFL Countdown" that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

McNabb said he didn't mind criticism of his performance but was upset that Limbaugh made his race an issue. Democratic presidential candidates and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People criticized Limbaugh's remark, and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie yesterday accused ESPN of "institutional racism" for hiring Limbaugh in the first place. Limbaugh said yesterday that he resigned so network employees would be spared the uproar over his comments.

"The great people at ESPN did not want to deal with this kind of reaction," he told the National Association of Broadcasters at its convention in Philadelphia. "The path of least resistance became for me to resign." George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, accepted Limbaugh's resignation, saying: "We believe that he took the appropriate action to resolve this matter expeditiously."

Limbaugh denied that his comments were racially motivated.

For its story about the drug investigation, the Enquirer had interviewed Wilma Cline, who said she became Limbaugh's drug connection after working as his maid. She said he had abused OxyContin and other painkillers. Ed Shohat, a Miami lawyer for Cline and her husband, said yesterday, "The Clines stand by the story."

David Perel, the Enquirer's editor in chief, said reports that the Clines were paid a six-figure sum for their story were untrue.

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