Aaaaand, the forthcoming “30 for 30” documentary about the “Mike and the Mad Dog” show apparently goes “there.”
The most controversial moment in the history of the beloved WFAN show came in the days following 9/11 when Mike Francesa and Chris Russo spoke insensitively and idiotically about Israel’s place in geo-political conflicts, its perceived impact on international terrorism, and even debated the idea of American Jews having to decide between supporting the United States or Israel.
Over the years, these have become known as the “loyalty oath” comments. They were apparently never archived or captured by websites like Bob’s Blitz or Sports Funhouse that now chronicle Francesa’s show daily to point out false takes like last week’s blunder that Patrick Ewing has “zero” chance of becoming the next coach at Georgetown.
Because there were never any tapes made, the anti-Semitic discussion has never been proven, unless you heard it with your own ears, as some did during that troubling time.
The Anti-Defamation League complained to the station and, according to published reports, never received a response. WFAN’s Craig Carton, who is Jewish, has been a vocal critic of the "loyalty oath" comments for years.
Like most of his blunders, Francesa has always downplayed the controversy and as recently as September 2016, he dismissed the explosive comments when a caller asked him about it.
“It was a very heated time and nothing ever came of anything,” Francesa said. “People completely twisted everything that was said. It was a very emotional time unfortunately in our country, one we don’t want to live through again, one that was very, very tough on everybody and something that we had to kind of learn to live through, something we had not seen before, to have those kinds of attacks happen on our doorstep. It was a very emotional period for our country.”
Francesa said any reference to the anti-Semitic comments is “utter nonsense.”
But after years of denials, Francesa and Russo addressed the controversy as part of the “30 for 30” documentary. Director Daniel Forer asked the two about it, according to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch.
“They are both aware of the role that that incident plays in the history of ‘Mike and the Mad Dog,’" Forer said. “Neither one shied away from answering it and their takes on it. They were both very direct. Mike was Mike. He maintained the position he has always maintained: There was nothing controversial and he doesn’t believe they offended anyone.
“Chris is a little more sensitive to it and does understand criticism of it. He was more forthright in sharing with us his opinion of what happened that day. I was very pleased both addressed it and neither was afraid to address it. I said nothing would be off the table and they accepted that.”
So there you have it. After years of denials, Mike and the Dog apparently will come clean in the highly anticipated ESPN documentary, confirming the most hurtful words ever uttered on their show were not a figment of our imagination.
“You can’t deny it for the last 20 years and then acknowledge it took place and talk about it, right?" Carton said on his show Tuesday morning. "That’s like a big to-do. Because for all these years I said it happened, they’re (like) ‘It never happened,’ and all this nonsense."
The documentary premieres April 21 at the Tribeca Film Festival and will air on ESPN this summer.