One day after the national press hammered Rush Limbaugh for his comment that a black star football player is overrated, the National Enquirer and New York Daily News splashed today’s front pages with allegations radio’s top talker has abused drugs.

Limbaugh, 52, the most listened-to radio talk-show host in history, syndicated in more than 650 markets worldwide, is under investigation for allegedly buying thousands of addictive painkillers from a black-market drug ring, the Enquirer said, according to the Daily News.

Rush Limbaugh

He reportedly was turned in by his former housekeeper, Wilma Cline, 42, who said the radio commentator went through detox twice and was addicted to the highly potent prescription drugs OxyContin, Lorcet and hydrocodone.

On his website this morning, Limbaugh issued the following statement: “I am unaware of any investigation by any authorities involving me. No governmental representative has contacted me directly or indirectly. If my assistance is required in the future, I will, of course, cooperate fully.”

Limbaugh gave the keynote address this morning at the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention in Philadelphia. A guest is hosting his program today.

Meanwhile, Limbaugh insisted during his show yesterday there was “no racist intent whatsoever” in his comment that the media have overrated Philadelphia Eagles’ Donovan McNabb because they want to see a black quarterback succeed, reported the Associated Press.

Nevertheless, as a result of the media furor, late last night Limbaugh resigned from his position on ESPN’s NFL pre-game show, on which he had made the controversial remark.

Cline said she turned in information about Limbaugh and others to prosecutors four years after the drug deals began, the Enquirer reported. The exchanges included clandestine handoffs in a Denny’s parking lot.

For her last two deliveries to Limbaugh, she said, authorities gave her a wire, and she handed in the tapes.

The Enquirer said it obtained from Cline e-mails from Limbaugh and a ledger documenting her purchase of 4,350 pills in one 47-day period.

“There were times when I worried,” Cline told the tabloid. “All these pills are enough to kill an elephant – never mind a man.”

The Daily News reported it independently confirmed Limbaugh is under investigation, but the agency running the probe, the Palm Beach County state attorney’s office, said it could not confirm or deny the allegations.

The Associated Press, citing law-enforcement sources who requested anonymity, also said it confirmed an investigation is under way.

The Daily News was unable to reach Cline for comment but reported her lawyer, Ed Shohat of Miami, said his client “stands behind the story.”

The New York paper contacted Limbaugh’s lawyers, Jerry Fox and Dan Zachary, but they refused comment, adding any “medical information” about the radio commentator was private and not newsworthy.

Limbaugh was traveling and had no comment, the lawyers said, according to the Daily News.

Housekeeper’s story

Cline said she began supplying Limbaugh with drugs about nine months after he hired her as a housekeeper at his Palm Beach, Fla., mansion in 1998, the Enquirer reported. After a casual conversation in which Limbaugh learned her husband had been taking hydrocodone 750, the radio commentator asked, to her “astonishment,” if she “could spare a couple of them.”

She began supplying Limbaugh with 30 of her husband’s pills per month, the Enquirer said. But in early 1999, the doctor quit renewing the prescription, and Limbaugh became enraged.

“His tone was nasty and bullying. He said, ‘I don’t care how or what you do, but you’d better – better! – get me some more,'” the housekeeper told the Enquirer.

Cline said she found a new supplier for Limbaugh and worked out a way to hide the pills from his wife, Marta, by stashing them under his mattress.

The arrangement continued for several months until Limbaugh announced to her he no longer needed the pills and was going to New York for detox.

However, one month later, he asked her for hydrocodone, then OxyContin, because his left ear was hurting. Limbaugh announced in October 2001 he was getting increasingly deaf – unable to hear callers, radio, television or music. Later, he was diagnosed with autoimmune ear disease and underwent cochlear implant surgery to correct it.

Cline quit her housekeeper job in July 2001 but continued making the deliveries. She said, however, Limbaugh became increasingly paranoid and even patted her down to make sure she had no recording devices.

Limbaugh went to New York for detox again in June 2002 and returned worried, Cline indicated.

“I went to talk to him, and he cried a little bit,” she told the Enquirer. “He told me that if it ever got out, he would be ruined.”

Cline said she contacted prosecutors shortly after receiving a payoff of $80,000 Limbaugh owed her, plus another $120,000. She claims Limbaugh asked her to destroy the computer containing his e-mails.

A May 2002 e-mail urged Cline to get more “little blues,” or OxyContin.

“You know how this stuff works … the more you get used to, the more it takes,” the e-mail reads, according to the Enquirer. “But I will try and cut down to help out.”

‘I offered an opinion’

The comments that led to Limbaugh’s resignation from ESPN generated a media firestorm yesterday.

“My comments this past Sunday were directed at the media and were not racially motivated. I offered an opinion. This opinion has caused discomfort to the crew, which I regret,” said Limbaugh in a prepared statement. “I love NFL Sunday Countdown and do not want to be a distraction to the great work done by all who work on it. Therefore, I have decided to resign. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the show and wish all the best to those who make it happen.”

ESPN spokesman Dave Nagle said earlier in the day he didn’t think Limbaugh’s remarks were racist. “He was comparing McNabb’s performance on the field to his reputation in the media,” Nagle said, according to AP.

WorldNetDaily founder and fellow talk-show host Joseph Farah noted on his daily show on Radio America, “I know Rush Limbaugh’s heart and his soul, and there’s not a racist bone in his body.”

But some were not so charitable. Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark got into the act, insisting Limbaugh should be fired and calling the talk-show host’s remarks “hateful and ignorant speech.”

When Limbaugh announced he no longer could hear, President Bush reportedly expressed personal concern about Limbaugh’s condition with senior staff.

“The president noted Rush Limbaugh is a national treasure,” said one senior White House staffer.

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