By DAVID BAUDER and DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
NEW YORK (AP) — New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers denied he implied comic Jimmy Kimmel was a pedophile and condemned those who do, but he stopped short of apologizing for his role in escalating their burgeoning feud.
Rodgers returned to ESPN’s “The Pat McAfee Show” on Tuesday for his weekly appearance and addressed comments he made the week before that appeared to suggest Kimmel’s name might appear on a list of associates of Jeffrey Epstein, a millionaire accused of sex trafficking involving underage victims before he died by suicide.
“Any type of name calling is ridiculous and I’m not calling him (a pedophile), and neither should you,” Rodgers said on the show Tuesday.
The feud between ABC’s late-night star and Rodgers, who regularly appears on the daily ESPN show, has proven embarrassing for The Walt Disney Co., the parent company to both television networks.
Rodgers criticized Mike Foss, an ESPN executive who oversees McAfee’s show, for saying that Rodgers had made “a dumb and factually inaccurate joke” about Kimmel.
“Mike, you’re not helping,” Rodgers said. “You’re not helping because I just read earlier exactly what I said. This is the game plan of the media and this is what they do: They try to cancel, you know, and it’s not just me.”
Rodgers last week said a lot of people, “including Jimmy Kimmel,” are really hoping that a list of Epstein’s associates doesn’t come out publicly. Kimmel, who has denied any association with Epstein, threatened Rodgers with a lawsuit for the comment and said the NFL star was putting his family in danger.
Rodgers suggested that people were reading too much into what he said, that he was not stupid enough to accuse Kimmel of being a pedophile.
Kimmel made the first appearance of the year Monday on his late-night show and laced into Rodgers. He said he would accept an apology from Rodgers but didn’t expect one.
“A decent person would apologize,” Kimmel said. “But he probably won’t.”
Kimmel called Rodgers “hamster-brained” and said that he got two A’s on his report card — “they’re both in the name Aaron.”
“It might be time to revisit that concussion profile, Aaron,” Kimmel said.
Before addressing his specific comments, Rodgers had a lengthy preamble about his grudges against Kimmel, including jokes the comic has made about the quarterback’s anti-COVID-19 vaccination comments.
Even after that, he said he didn’t care what Kimmel said about him, “but as long as he understands what I actually said and that I’m not accusing him of being on a list … I’m all for moving forward.”