Michael Rapaport Escalates Beef With ESPN’s ‘Twinkie-Eating F— Boy’ Dan Le Batard

Actor rips sports show host for entire 42-minute podcast, considers defamation suit against Le Batard’s producer

Actor Michael Rapaport dedicated an entire 42-minute episode of the “I Am Rapaport: Stereo Podcast” to bashing Dan Le Batard, calling him a “Twinkie-eating f— boy” on Tuesday and threatening the possibility of a defamation lawsuit against the ESPN star after a producer tweeted over the weekend that Rapaport has herpes.

“I feel bad about the whole incident,” Rapaport told TheWrap on Wednesday. “But I was under attack and being publicly defamed, so I needed to respond. I wish it never got this far.”

TheWrap has learned that while his lawyers suggest legal action, Rapaport doesn’t want to put ESPN in that situation unless things continue to escalate.

The feud started last week when Le Batard criticized the Los Angeles Lakers for putting Magic Johnson in charge of the organization. The ESPN radio host said Johnson wasn’t qualified for the job and only landed it because he is “famous and charming.”

Rapaport criticized Le Batard’s comments on Twitter, pointing to the sports host’s father, Gonzalo Le Batard, not being qualified for his gig on ESPN’s “Highly Questionable” and only landing the job because he is the star’s dad.

This turned into a nasty Twitter battle between Rapaport and two of Le Batard’s producers, Mike Ryan and Roy Bellamy, who came to their boss’ defense. Eventually, Rapaport tweeted out a disparaging photo of Bellamy. It was a typical Twitter flame war until Ryan sent a photo of Rapaport with a facial injury, writing, “That herpe was the most standout performance you’ve had since 1994.”

“In the picture, it looks like I got like a cut, infection or if you wanna pop sh–, a herpe,” Rapaport said on his Tuesday podcast before explaining it was actually an infected lesion that gave the actor a skin cancer scare. “And then I got a letter from my lawyer… If this guy is saying that you have herpes, that’s defamation.”

Throughout Tuesday’s podcast, Rapaport mocked producers Ryan and Bellamy, referring to them as interns and a “friend of a friend” who would be unemployed if it weren’t for Le Batard.

In fairness, Ryan and Bellamy have good reputations at ESPN, known as vital to the operation. Le Batard regularly credits Ryan for the show’s success. Ryan and Bellamy both speak on-air throughout Le Batard’s show, which Rapaport chalked up to copying something Howard Stern started with his producer Gary Dell’Abate, also known as Baba Booey.

Rapaport also appears on ESPN fairly often, as he’s a regular on Rachel Nichols’ “The Jump” and produced the ESPN Film “When the Garden Was Eden,” so this has the added facet of being a feud between two ESPNers.

ESPN declined to comment, while Ryan did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

“I’m done wasting my time on it,” Bellamy told TheWrap.

Rapaport was particularly set off when Le Batard said Monday on his ESPN radio show that the actor “really loves black people” and “seems like he wants to be black.” Rapaport took to Twitter to share the audio and decided to respond with a full podcast dedicated to the situation:

Rapaport asked, “I want to be black? What the f— does that mean?”

Le Batard also said on Monday that it would be “amazing” if the situation resulted in Rapaport being banned from ESPN and predicted the actor was “done” at the network.

Rapaport repeatedly referred to Le Batard as the “Cupcake Kid” on his Tuesday podcast, adding, “Get the f— out of here, you fat f—.”

“You’re claiming that I’m not going to work at ESPN? Let me tell you something, if I’m going down, the whole sh–‘s burning down. If I’m going down, we’re talking defamation case,” Rapaport said. “These guys laughing and giggling like they’re going to end my career… If I sh– my pants and dropped dead. That sh– in my pants, on my dead body would be more relevant than anything you did in your whole life.”

And while Rapaport isn’t sold on the idea of pursuing legal action, entertainment lawyers contacted by TheWrap said he has a case.

“Claiming that a person is infected with a sexually transmitted disease constitutes defamation per se, which means that damages are presumed,” said David Swift, Partner at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert. “And while Mr. Rapaport will likely be considered a public figure, which means he will need to prove the statement made with malice, that should not be a difficult burden to meet considering the ongoing Twitter feud between the two.”

Swift added, “It is not a defense” that the statement was made on Twitter, as opposed to a medium such as television or radio.

“If anything, pursing a defamation case based on libelous tweets is much simpler than an oral defamation case because there is no debate over exactly what was said,” Swift explained.

Attorney Bryan Sullivan, Partner at Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae, echoed the same theory. “There is potential liability for making statements that someone has a sexually transmitted disease. It is arguably defamation per se. Just because it happened over Twitter rather than orally or in print makes no difference,” Sullivan said, adding that Courtney Love was sued for defamation for a Twitter post. “It has been coined Twibel — libel through Twitter.”

Rapaport told TheWrap that he is open to putting this beef to bed, but only if Le Batard reaches out to him personally.