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The Limbaugh Rock: How Low Can You Go?

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The Limbaugh Rock: How Low Can You Go?


If you think Rush Limbaugh is fatally wounded, think again.

By way of explanation, let me tell you how a certain subset of my readers will react to this column. Experience dictates that once I’ve taken my last swipe at their dear leader, Limbaugh’s followers will well … rush to fire off angry emails in his defense. They will do this though there is no defense for what he did on his program last week — calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “prostitute” and a “slut” after she testified in support of requiring health insurers to pay for women’s contraception.

His followers will declare, through some arcane “logic” peculiar to true believers, that “Rush” — it’s always “Rush,” as if they and the multimillionaire talk-show host were in the same bowling league — didn’t say what I thought he said, or didn’t mean what I thought he meant.

Point being, he reportedly reaches 15 million people a week who worship him robotically and sycophantically. So it is a fact of life that the advertisers he’s lost as a result of his diarrheic mouth — at least 10 at last count — will soon return, or be replaced.

Which is not to say Limbaugh was not stung by the defections. To the contrary, after several days of doubling down on his coarseness — at one point suggesting women whose contraception is paid for by insurance post sex videos online — he abruptly reversed himself as the advertiser revolt grew. “I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choice,” he said in a statement.

The timing suggests he was sincere only in his concern for lost revenue. Two days later, Limbaugh elaborated on the air, saying that in fighting those dreaded liberals, “I became like them against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything I know to be right and wrong; I descended to their level when I used those two words to describe Sandra Fluke.”

So even when it’s his fault, it’s not his fault. The liberals made him do it. But repugnant as he is, last week’s attack says less about Limbaugh than about the social and political atmosphere he has come to symbolize.

“Severely conservative,” said Mitt Romney some weeks ago in self-description. He’d been driven to Freudian candor by the need to “out-conservative” his opponents and thus, spoke more truly than he perhaps intended. So “severe” are conservatives now that Ronald Reagan would not know them. Nor, given that he raised taxes and was not above compromising with opponents, would they know him.

That’s because what now passes for conservatism is less an ideology than an excuse for ideological rigidity, extreme language, shameless (indeed, proud) ignorance and situational ethics wherein the only thing that matters is victory and any tactic — fear, misogyny, bigotry, lies — is acceptable so long as it advances that goal.

Spare me the false moral equivalence of noting that liberals are sometimes guilty of the same crimes. Duh. Of course they are. But the frequency and intensity on the left do not begin to compare with that of the right.

Think the late Andrew Breitbart sliming Shirley Sherrod. Think James O’Keefe dressing like Superfly in his campaign of video mendacity. Think Fox “News” lying abed with birthers. Think Sarah Palin reading off her palm. Think Herman Cain trying to answer a question on foreign policy. Think Rick Perry trying to remember the third agency. And think a presidential primary that’s raised such a stench many party elders are holding their noses.

The GOP has been so overrun by extremists that “moderate” is now an epithet and the moderate Republican Olympia Snowe just ran for the door. Sacking Rush Limbaugh would not fix that. The problem is not a conservative talk-show host, but conservatism itself as presently construed.

It has become a landfill. Limbaugh is just a seagull circling the top.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

(c) 2012 The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.


Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. the esquire abby phelps March 8, 2012

    The ill reputed antics of Limbaugh is as inexcusable as it is disrespectful! Not just to a mere delegated party or association but to all people in general. He has proven that he has no class, no moral fabric and even more terse no dignity for himself nor the Republican Party. Truly, if Romney intends to secure his nomination as the Repeblican Presidential candidate, his company Bain must drop Limbaugh immediately like the other 11 sponsors did. If not, it will cost Romney his nomination and most assuredly the election. Limbaugh is toxic and defamatory to the entire human race!

  2. ms216 March 8, 2012

    What’s truly disconcerting is the number of people who listen to and parrot Limbaugh’s vile rhetoric. If these comments were spoken “closer to the truth” than he meant, how does he explain the request to view pornography online(the woman’s sex life)from a “christian” standpoint and how do his “christian” supporter’s accept that? It’s most disturbing not to hear that listeners are not tuning him out. The extremist conservative right looks more and more like the extremist Islamists in their no holds barred attempts to impose their ideology on everyone else.WWJD Rush? Christians need to review their history. It was not criminals nor liberals that had Jesus crucified, it was churh leaders, the “moral majority” of the day

  3. K.t.Doggett March 8, 2012

    Limbaugh is not an entertainer – he is an editorial journalist; and an extrememly irresponsible one, at that. Santorum and Romney are snidely laughing up their sleeves at the good-ole-boy “antics” of Limbaugh. He (Limbaugh) should be censored, fined, or suspended by the FCC for his remarks. Maybe that’s why fanatical rightists are always whining about “government overreach” – then, they and their cohorts could get away with more crimes, with impunity.

  4. 1olderbutwiser1 March 8, 2012

    The conservatism today as suggested in the above pile of bull, is not too conservative. The problem is that the democrats have become socialists or maybe marxists or fascists; the republican party has moved to the left as well, now espousing as policy what the democrats 30 years ago, professed to be “proper”. It’s easy to see this article above was written by a democrat, it was inclusive of the fact that Reagan raised taxes. Yes, after the democrat induced Viet Nam debacle, and then Carter’s inflation scheme, something had to be done to stop inflation. Interest rates and taxes did just that. No more easy money. No more exorbitant union demands in the private sector. Unfortunately, the government unions then began the pillage and rape they have continued to this day, and now wisconsin turns into a battleground. Right to work in every state, this will balance it all out in a balanced budget.And here comes the democrats most horrid nightmare with these two words.,…….RON….. PAUL…….Why can’t democrats be honest with the people about unions and inflation? The hidden goal is to move the whole country into the highest possible tax bracket while impoverishing these people who presumably are bragging about making 50 bucks an hour, not seeing that 30 of it goes to government. Wow! Talk about a dumbing down of the populace.

  5. jimackermann March 8, 2012

    So an entertainer (Rush) degrades a woman. You are all up in arms abour how horrible it is. So when an entertainer (Bill Maher) call a woman c***, you all think it’s cute. My assumption is that you believe that only the right should have standards.

  6. PamelaT March 8, 2012

    Double Standard: You have not read the law….defamation does not apply to people in the public eye such as Sara Palin and Michelle O’bachmann. They are in the pulbic eye and unfortunately can be treated badly by Bill Maher in his stand up program. No different that Eddie Murphy Stand up Routine. Limbaugh is different he attacked an ordinary citizen that was standing up for being a citizen of the USA she is was not a candidate in the public eye but an ordianary citizen. Know the law before you open your mouth.

  7. whitewater March 8, 2012

    Guys like Rush cannot help themselves. He will show his ass and then double down on it. The Rush faithfull (GOP extremists) will defend his obsessive bully behavior to the hilt. I simply refuse to listen to such trash. I vote every day by what I watch, listen to or buy. My advise to all women voters is to pay attention to what people do and vote accordingly. Evidently his sponsors are thinking in a similar fashion…. Many are dumping him. Bravo.

  8. jimackermann March 8, 2012

    Get some morality before you open yours.

  9. Shifu March 8, 2012

    I am 67 years old and was a Republican until they invaded Iraq. I have been very politically active my whole life. We are entering another Joe McCarty period with Limbaugh as the ring master. The nasty personal attacks by this poorly educated buffoon is a sad commentary on our time. It is not that this overweight first semester College dropout rides around in a Gold encrusted golf cart and milks 50 million a year from advertisers, but that we let him get away with it.

  10. Austin00005 March 8, 2012

    I’ve always been a so called left leaner.More to the middle though.I have been running from the middle,as to say away from anything conservative.I’ve never seen this type of.behavior from the whole conservative side.Sure, I used to disagree with most things with them, but now I couldn’t begin to even respect them.Republicans, your parties time has come.It’s shrinking daily with no end in sight. It’s all of you, Rush is just out in front for all to hear.You guys are the clapping penguins.Think you for making 2012 so east.

  11. scbeach March 8, 2012

    People like Limbaugh should not be on the air. He and others like him only spread hate and distrust. This does nothing to help people see all sides, this does nothing to bring about compromise and Limbaugh obviously has no respect for anything, anyone and especially none for women. When I was growing up, if a grown man made a comment about anyone in my family like the comments Limbaugh made about Ms. Fluke, my family would have paid him and his Mom and Dad a visit to discuss manners and how to be polite and neighborly. You just don’t talk about people like that. The level of disrespect we have reached in this country is embarrassing but when that disrespect and hatred is broadcast and then ultimately embraced by thousands – it’s frightening. Shock jocks are the lowest of the low. They prey on people who still believe everything they read and hear on TV/radio. The shock jocks like Limbaugh are like drug dealers and pushers doling out bad energy in place of drugs. We have to educate our kids to beware of people like him so they don’t believe the garbage they spew and our kids understand people like Limbaugh only do it for the thrill they get and the money. Now who is the prostitute.

  12. Howz 1 March 8, 2012

    Conservatives live in a bubble created by Fox news, Rush limbaugh, Glen Beck people like Ann Coulter. it is a place where the distortion of history and facts thrive. A place where Bush 2 was never President, since all his misdeads are never mentioned. In the bubble Obama caused the economy to collaspe and gave out the bailout, even though it was done before he took office. Health care reform is really a way to kill off your grannie, even though the pre reform system practiced dropping people for pre existing conditions after they had surgery, and 1 million kids between the ages of 22 and 26 weren’t insured. Most of the bankruptcies were for medical reasons. But in the Bubble that is ok. The only thing bubble dwellers are concerned with is keeping taxes low on the rich, even though they didn’t create any new jobs, and actually shipped 2.9 out of the country, and denying global climate change, even though the storms are setting new records for intensity. Can any Bubble dweller tell me where Halaburton’s corporate headquaters are? You know the company that Channey was CEO of and got a 6 billion/year no bid contract for Iraq Answer: Dubai. How partiotic. The Real crime of Rush is not only his his vile words against a college student, but the lies he tells about everyting else. Some things that are not lies: He is a convicted drug addict strung out on OXY, and for all his bluster on immigration, he hired an undocumented house keeper. That is the real Rush Limbaugh!

  13. Bigspender March 8, 2012

    Remember back in 2008 when Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman said the republicans were the party of the stupid? I don’t think he meant that all republicans are stupid. Far from it. But if you are stupid, you’re probably a republican. Hence the birth of the Tea Party. Its people like Limbaugh that share much of the responsibility for this trend. Because of Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and many other on-air talk show hosts, and of course the FOX channel, people with low self-esteem and education sometimes find their voice in this racist, anti-union, radical right-wing clique. By putting down other particularly non-white Americans they can feel that they are superior to someone else and hence not as worthless as they seem. Limbaugh and his ilk just feed the beast that they inspire in the gutter trash segment of our society.

  14. freethinker March 8, 2012

    I would presume Leonard views the world the same as PamelaT. If you are in the public eye, it is fair for the left to call you vile names. As if Ms. Fluke appearing for a specifically staged Pelosi event didn’t put her in the public eye. One second of real research Leonard, and you would have found liberals are far more fond of vile name calling than conservatives. Virtually every woman on the right has had to endure it. Most of these people responding have never listened to a Rush Limbaugh show and are simply parrots. The guy who said he was a Republican before the Iraq war has conveniently forgotten that most prominent Democrats encouraged action, so why would he have changed sides. That’s the problem with liberals, no logical thinking when they make stuff up.

  15. Jim Hengstebeck March 8, 2012

    I used to laugh at Rush. No more. His attack on Ms. Fluke was beyond the pale. His apology was as meaningless as it was insincere. He meant to use the words he did and they cannot be taken back. Please, America, help this guy retire. He’s a cancerous lesion 0n the meaning of free speech and an embarrassment on the national landscape.

  16. Casrekoli March 8, 2012

    Seriously people? You define if it’s ok to call a woman names like that solely on the law? It’s wrong period. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to get all bent out of shape because some woman was called a slut. If I recall correctly, slut was the nicest thing Palin was called. People are waking up the the double standard those on the left use. Limbaugh isn’t going anywhere. Get over it.
    Oh, and for the record, I don’t listen to him and haven’t heard in context what he said but it doesn’t matter. IIII don’t have double standards. It’s wrong under any circumstance. But y’all rest easy knowing you swapped out a few of his advertisers.


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