ESPN sports analyst Pat McAfee apologized after Aaron Rodgers came on his talk show and implied that Jimmy Kimmel was among those named in the highly anticipated Jeffrey Epstein court documents.
McAfee opened his self-titled show Wednesday by addressing the controversy and chalking up Rodgers’ remarks to making a “s— talk joke” that became a “massive overnight story.” The documents, which were released Wednesday, included the names of Epstein associates and sex-trafficking victims, as well as others who were loosely tied to the late disgraced financier but not accused of wrongdoing. Kimmel was not named in Wednesday’s documents.
“Whenever you’re freewheeling and dealing in here … your conversations can certainly lead to places that cause international news. And whenever there’s accusations made about people, that can lead to lawsuits,” McAfee said before noting that he’d previously faced a lawsuit from Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, which was dropped, according to McAfee, after he agreed to read a letter “stating that I know nothing that anybody else doesn’t know publicly already.”
The former football punter turned sports analyst said that his 3½-hour YouTube talk show gives those who participate an opportunity to talk about “damn near everything.” Although there’s an upside to the show’s format, he said, the flip side is that “there could be some things that were probably — I mean, we’re gonna have to hear from Aaron on that — meant to be a s— talk joke that can then become something that is obviously a very serious allegation.”
Kimmel and Rodgers had been publicly trading slights for years (Kimmel once called Rodgers a tinfoil hatter and a Green Bay whack-packer). But on Tuesday, the New York Jets quarterback appeared on “Pat McAfee” and suggested without evidence that the late-night host’s name could surface in the Epstein documents.
“There’s a lot of people, including Jimmy Kimmel, really hoping that doesn’t come out,” Rodgers said.
“I’ll tell you what, if that list comes out, I definitely will be popping some sort of bottle,” Rodgers added, while speaking on the show from what appeared to be his wine cellar.
Kimmel responded swiftly via social media, reposting a video of Rodgers’ comments on X (formerly Twitter) with a forceful rejection of Rodgers’ remarks. “Dear A—: for the record, I’ve not met, flown with, visited, or had any contact whatsoever with Epstein, nor will you find my name on any ‘list’ other than the clearly-phony nonsense that soft-brained wackos like yourself can’t seem to distinguish from reality,” Kimmel wrote. “Your reckless words put my family in danger. Keep it up and we will debate the facts further in court.”
McAfee said Wednesday that he understood why Kimmel responded in anger but downplayed Rodgers’ remarks as the kind of trash talk that can often happen in locker rooms. “I think Aaron was just trying to talk s—. Did it go too far? Jimmy Kimmel certainly said that was the case,” McAfee continued. “Aaron and Jimmy, they’ve been jousting a bit.”
The ESPN sports analyst continued that he doesn’t like his show to be associated with anything negative and apologized. “We’d like our show to be an uplifting one, a happy one, a fun one, but because we try to make light of everything — some things people get very pissed off about, especially when they’re that serious of allegations. So we apologize for being a part of it.”
In December, a judge ruled that the court documents would be made public, leading to frenzied anticipation, especially among the radical right, including some conspiracy theorists.
The release follows a years-long legal battle and piecemeal disclosures. The identities of the people named in the document may provide a fuller picture of Epstein and his associates.
Julie K. Brown, the Miami Herald investigative journalist known for exposing Epstein’s crimes and bringing him to justice after many had failed, weighed in on the Kimmel vs. Rodgers dispute on X, writing “Is @ESPN also oblivious that the Jeffrey Epstein case is about the rape of young girls? It is absolutely shameful that the network would allow anyone to exploit this tragedy for cheap political fodder.”
Times staff writer Alexandra E. Petri contributed to this report.