Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos Getty Images
Aaron Rodgers could, very generously, be described as a man who likes doing his own research. The conspiracist New York Jets quarterback has unique perspectives on topics as varied as vaccinations, UFOs, tendon rehabilitation, and September 11. Naturally, he has some ideas about Jeffrey Epstein.
In an appearance on ESPN’s The Pat McAfee Show on January 2, Rodgers said he was looking forward to the incoming release of new information about alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s contacts, referring to a trove of documents related to a victim’s defamation suit settled in 2017. Rodgers did not list the usual high-society names associated with the financier: Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Donald Trump. Instead, he suggested that a late-night host would be exposed in the unsealed documents expected as early as this week. “There’s a lot of people, including Jimmy Kimmel, are really hoping that doesn’t come out,” Rodgers said. He added that when the list comes out, “I definitely will be popping some sort of bottle.”
The comment seemed at first like a random haymaker from Rodgers; while Kimmel has done some regrettable things in his past, the late-night star has never been associated with Epstein. Later in the segment, host Pat McAfee provided some context for Rodgers’s remark: In March 2023, Rodgers had appeared on the ESPN talk show and brought up his theory that last year’s news cycle on UFOs may have been designed to distract from further revelations in the Epstein saga. In a segment on his own show, Kimmel joked that it “might be time to revisit that concussion protocol, Aaron” — a riff that Rodgers apparently did not take kindly to.
Kimmel certainly wasn’t pleased, responding with a mean tweet of his own: “Dear Aasshole: 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. Your reckless words put my family in danger. Keep it up and we will debate the facts further in court.” Rodgers was initially silent, but ESPN host Pat McAfee apologized on January 3, stating that Rodgers’s comment was most likely “meant to be a shit talk joke that can then become something that is obviously a very serious allegation, that then leads to a massive overnight story.” ESPN vice-president of digital production Mike Foss also apologized to Kimmel on January 5, stating that Rodgers’s comment “never should have happened.” In an interview with Front Office Sports, Foss said that McAfee’s show “will continue to evolve” and that “it wouldn’t surprise me if Aaron’s role evolves with it.”
If all parties involved were rational actors, this intra-Disney feud between the ESPN-paid quarterback and the ABC comedian would have wrapped up quickly. But during a January 8 segment on McAfee’s show, Rodgers — who is reportedly paid $1 million for his weekly appearances there — did not apologize to Kimmel, stating that he did not actually accuse Kimmel of being a pedophile. “I’m not stupid enough to accuse you of that with absolutely zero concrete evidence,” he said. Rodgers, however, did go on for 20 minutes about anti-malarial drugs in Africa, as well as vaccine skeptic (and certified Epstein plane passenger) RFK Jr.’s book on COVID.
While Kimmel has stated he is open to moving on from the feud if Rodgers were to apologize, the injured quarterback appears ready to double down this offseason. “It’s impressive that a man who went to Arizona State and has 10 joke writers can read off a prompter,” Rodgers said. “My education at [junior college] and my three semesters at Cal, that I’m very proud of, has worked out for me and I’m glad to see it’s worked out for him as well. I wish him the best. Again, I don’t give a shit what he says about me. As long as he understands what I actually said and that I’m not accusing him of being on a list, then I’m all for moving forward.”
This post has been updated.