Rush Limbaugh

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Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021) was an American radio host and right-wing political commentator. He hosted the nationally syndicated The Rush Limbaugh Show, which was broadcast for three hours a day on weekdays. In the past, he identified as an "entertainer", but increasingly presented himself as the leader of the Republican Party (United States) and American conservatism.

The show had an estimated 13.5 million listeners per week. Limbaugh wrote two books - The Way Things Ought To Be and See, I Told You So.

On his website, he described himself as

America's Truth Detector; the Doctor of Democracy; the Most Dangerous Man in America; the All-Knowing, All-Sensing, All-Everything Maha Rushie; defender of motherhood, protector of fatherhood and an all-around good guy.

There is a "consensus" among the American people, who have made this the most listened to program, that it is also the most accurate, most right, and most correct. People who disagree with this are Rush Deniers. [1]

Media interaction

Limbaugh fans often refer to themselves as "dittos" or "dittoheads". He explained the usage:

The national media was all liberal. Here was this conservative program that reflected the views of millions of people. As people would call in, the first couple minutes of their call, literally, they'd spend thanking me and talking about how great it was to have something like this on the radio, finally, it was so great, and I of course loved hearing it. After awhile, after about six months, it finally just grew old. It was delaying getting to the discussion of the issues. A woman called from I think it was like New Hampshire, and after just one of those calls, said, "Ditto to what they guy just said." So ditto means, "I love the program. Don't ever go away." It doesn't mean, "I agree with you." It doesn't mean, "You're always right." It means, "I love the program." Mega dittos means, "I really love -- I, mean I adore -- this program. It's the only program!" That's what mega dittos means.[2]

He had varied opinions about other conservative commentators. He did like Ann Coulter and her ability to outrage liberals. As far as Bill O'Reilly, “somebody’s got to say it,” he told me. “The man is Ted Baxter.”

Sean Hannity, his one-time stand in and now perpetual No. 2 on the Talkers list was described with affectionate condescension. “I have no competitors...Hannity isn’t even close to me.” He considered Camille Paglia and Thomas Sowell as honest thinkers. Speaking of Christopher Hitchens, “He’s misguided sometimes, but when you read him, you finish the whole article.”[3]

Comments about race

He also hosted a television show from 1992 to 1996, and was a commentator for the ESPN sports cable channel on Sunday NFL Countdown, resigning after stating that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb received favorable treatment from the media because of his race.[4]

In 2008, he told ABC News that Colin Powell had endorsed Barack Obama only because Obama is black.

Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race...OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with.

I was also unaware of his dislike for John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia. I guess he also regrets Reagan and Bush making him a four-star and secretary of state and appointing his son to head the FCC. Yes, let's hear it for transformational figures." [5]

Limbaugh deflected some criticism by saying he was an "entertainer" rather than a serious political commentator, as with his song "Barack the Magic Negro", and referring to Barack Obama as "Halfrican American". He said "magic negro" is a historical cultural term, a reference to benevolent African-Americans portrayed in old films, and was used by a black commentator in the Los Angeles Times. [6]

Criticism from Republicans and conservatives

In March 2009, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele began calling Limbaugh's rhetoric "incendiary" and "ugly", and responded to Limbaugh's claims that he represented the Republican mainstream with "Rush will say what Rush has to say; we'll do what we have to do." After Limbaugh counterattacked, saying "saying the Republican chairman appears to be supporting President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.... [Steele seems] obsessed with seeing to it President Obama succeeds. I frankly am stunned that the chairman of the Republican National Committee endorses such an agenda...I have to conclude that he does, because he attacks me for wanting it to fail."

Steele said, to an online reporter, that he "was maybe a little bit inarticulate."[7]

Limbaugh was attacked as destructive to the conservative movement by conservative commentators such as David Frum,[8] who argued that his policies were exclusionist, and were cutting the Republican Party (United States) and American conservatism down to a "base" of extremists that could not win elections. Frum, after the Democratic-sponsored healthcare bill passed, named Limbaugh as a reason for failure to work out compromises.

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.[9]

"Is something up?"

Limbaugh himself suggested there should be suspicions, even when he himself said he had no evidence that an issue actually existed.

In October 2008, Limbaugh referred to an April suit by an individual, Philip Berg, demanding that Obama produce his birth certificate. Limbaugh said he himself had no specifics, but cast suspicions:

This birth certificate business, I'm just wondering if something's up. I have no clue, and folks, I'm telling you, this has not reached the threshold until now, and it's popping up all over the place. There are a lot of people now that are starting to speculate and be curious about this. [10]

Criticism by Obama

President Obama said, in an CBS News interview on 2 April 2010, in response to a question by co-anchor Harry Smith that "Well -- I mean, I think that -- when you've listened to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck it's …" Smith interrupted and said "it's beyond that."

It's pretty - apparent and -- it's troublesome. But -- you know, keep in mind that there have been periods in American history where this kind of -- this kind of vitriol comes out. It happens often when -- you've got an economy that is making people more anxious and people are feeling that there's a lot of change that needs to take place. But that's not the vast majority of Americans.[11]

Limbaugh replied,

I and most Americans do not believe President Obama is trying to do what's best for the country. Never in my life have I seen a regime like this, governing against the will of the people, purposely. I have never seen the media so supportive of a regime amassing so much power. And I have never known as many people who literally fear for the future of the country.[12]


  1. Rush Limbaugh, About the Rush Limbaugh Show, The Rush Limbaugh Show® Premiere Radio Networks
  2. The Limbaugh Lexicon: "Dittos", The Rush Limbaugh Show® Premiere Radio Networks, July 26, 2007
  3. Zev Chavets (July 6, 2008), "Late-Period Limbaugh", New York Times
  4. Limbaugh resigns from NFL show, ESPN
  5. Jake Tapper (October 19, 2008), "Limbaugh Implies Powell Only Endorsed Obama Because He's Black", ABC News
  6. "US DJ criticised over Obama song", BBC News, 10 May 2007
  7. "GOP chairman Steele backs off Limbaugh criticism", CNN, March 3, 2009
  8. David Frum (16 March 2009), "Why Rush is Wrong: The party of Buckley and Reagan is now bereft and dominated by the politics of Limbaugh. A conservative's lament.", Newsweek
  9. David Frum (21 March 2010), Waterloo
  10. "Obama "Rushes" to Grandmother's Bedside (After Just a Few Days)", Rush Limbaugh show, October 23, 2008
  11. "Obama: Extreme Right-Wing Shows "Troublesome"", CBS News, 2 April 2010
  12. Byron York (2 April 2010), Limbaugh responds to Obama: 'Never in my life have I seen a regime like this'