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1985 Bears Coverage: False story brings McMahon threats

Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

False story brings McMahon threats

Dan Pompei

Originally published Jan. 24, 1986

For a change yesterday, what Jim McMahon didn’t say caused a commotion.

McMahon did not call New Orleans’ women “sluts,” and New Orleans’ people “ignorant” as was reported on WDSU-TV in New Orleans Wednesday night.

But response to the report included death threats against McMahon. At the Bears’ New Orleans headquarters there were bomb threats, a demonstration of about 30 people and more than 250 angry phone calls.

WDSU yesterday issued an apology and indefinitely suspended sports director Buddy Diliberto, who broadcast the remarks.

“I want to find the guy who started this thing,” McMahon said. “I plan on doing something. I don’t know if it’s a lawsuit or what, but I’ll figure out something.

“I’ll just be lucky to be alive after today.”

Bears general manager Jerry Vainisi said the Bears would rather forget the incident than pursue legal action.

Diliberto, who was unavailable for comment, received his information from WEZB-FM disc jockey Boomer.

The New Orleans radio announcer said while he was working his 6-to-10 p.m. shift Wednesday he received a phone call from a woman who said she heard McMahon call New Orleans women “sluts” and New Orleans people “ignorant” on Chicago’s WLS-AM early that morning.

Boomer said the caller alleged McMahon was being interviewed at Tony’s Spaghetti and Pizza House by WLS disc jockey Fred Winston, who was broadcasting live from the spot.

McMahon and WLS sports director Les Grobstein later said McMahon never was interviewed on WLS.

Boomer said 10 more callers phoned in similar stories within an hour, although none of the others mentioned WLS.

None of the calls were aired on WEZB, nor did Boomer mention McMahon’s alleged comments on WEZB.

But he did call Diliberto, who ran with the story.

“I think he thought I heard a WLS broadcast,” Boomer said. “There was some miscommunication.”

Diliberto told Boomer he would check into the comments. Boomer said he didn’t think Diliberto would broadcast the information without confirming it.

“I feel really responsible for this,” Boomer said. “I’ve got to take the heat. Who cares if I believed it or not?”

In a prepared statement, Diliberto apologized and said he had no reason to doubt McMahon’s denial. Nor did Boomer.

“I don’t want Jim McMahon coming after me,” Boomer said.

McMahon just might. Yesterday he refused to talk to the press until his agent, Steve Zucker, coaxed him into clearing the air.

“I’ve been good to you guys all week, then I get screwed,” McMahon said to the media. “The damage has been done. You guys on TV do that all the time.”

McMahon said he has enjoyed the people of New Orleans and they have enjoyed him. He said he has been signing autographs. “I don’t think I’ve been abrasive.

“This story is tough to live with and very distracting,” said McMahon, who was deluged with phone calls from enraged women. “I don’t blame them for being upset.” Some were so upset they showed up with signs for a demonstration at noon.

“Go Home McMahon,” and “McMahon is a ham, not a man,” and “Only a True Patriot Would Recognize a N.O. Lady,” were written on signs.

When one demonstrator named Roxanne was informed McMahon denied making the comments, she said, “I still don’t like him.”

The flap overshadowed McMahon’s rapid improvement from a severe buttock bruise that once threatened to keep him out of Super Bowl XX.

After receiving acupuncture treatments Wednesday and yesterday, McMahon went through a full practice yesterday.

“I tell you what, it’s incredible,” coach Mike Ditka said of McMahon’s recovery.

McMahon said he feels a lot better since being treated by acupuncturist Hiroshi Shiraishi. But McMahon still will wear special pads Sunday and might require a Novocain injection.

“I don’t care why he’s better, I just care that he is,” Ditka said. “He’ll be OK if they don’t shoot him down by helicopter.”

During Wednesday’s practice, McMahon mooned a passing helicopter.

“I was just letting them see where it hurt,” McMahon said.