The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: rush limbaugh

Why There Will Never Be Another Rush Limbaugh (Thank God)

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Before Fox News there was Rush Limbaugh. Before Breitbart, InfoWars and QAnon, there was Rush, purposefully polluting American minds for profit. Today's billion-dollar, name-calling conservative media traces its origins to the rise of Limbaugh's three-hour radio show. But now, with the host's passing this year, the nationally syndicated program represents a propaganda void that's unlikely to be filled.

That's not to say there will be fewer, less dangerous conservative voices in the media, spreading deliberate lies and dividing Americans. There won't be a shortage there, particularly on cable TV, online, and with burgeoning podcasts. But it does mean that in the increasingly fractured media landscape that the uniquely powerful and national position that Limbaugh occupied on the AM dial will not be replaced.

Premiere Networks, which syndicates the show, is currently airing Limbaugh reruns instead of hiring a new host for the noon-to-three time slot. That's not ideal for radio station programmers across the country, since talk radio is supposed to revolve around current events. (Today on Rush Limbaugh: Why Obamacare will destroy America!) But are the existing options any better, in terms of finding new talkers who can command the attention of millions of right-wing followers each afternoon?

For years, talk show hosts mostly stayed clear of competing with Limbaugh's three-hour afternoon slot. Since his passing, Cumulus Media's Westwood One announced Fox News contributor Dan Bongino will launch a noon show starting in May. Meanwhile, former NRA flack Dana Loesch has signed a new three-year deal with Radio America to continue to her noon-to-three, right-wing show. Both hosts stand almost no chance of replicating Limbaugh's success or taking over his mantle. Stations could hire local hosts to fill that afternoon slot, but that costs more than signing up a nationally syndicated program.

Trying to launch a new conservative talk show during the Biden era also represents a huge challenge for GOP radio. Like Fox News, conservative radio seems to be struggling to land rhetorical punches against the Democratic president. (Look at how its Hunter Biden obsession has flopped.) Fixated on fighting cultural wars while Biden enjoys solid public support, the conservative media remains adrift in the Biden era, as Trump remains mostly in seclusion in Palm Beach, Florida.

"Biden, not only do I think is a terrible president in these last few months, it's just terrible for talk radio," Bongino recently admitted. "I think Biden is a disaster for the country and his ideas are an atrocity. But he's boring. He's just boring. It's going to be a challenge."

Another missing element will be the way the mainstream press treated, and often lauded, Limbaugh — this New York Times Magazine profile of Limbaugh from 2008 still reads like a 4,000-word press release, touting the AM troll as "an American icon." Overly impressed by his inflated claim of having 20 million listeners, the Beltway media treated Limbaugh as a Very Serious Person, even though he was a name-calling bully who often had no idea what he was talking about — he told listeners Covid-19 was no worse than "the common cold," and claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump.

Still, the media loved to portray Limbaugh as deeply informed and influential, even as his ratings sagged, and presented the country club demagogue as a spokesman for (white) working class Americans. It's unlikely Ben Shapiro for instance, the far-right ideologue with a large following, is ever going to land that kind of glowing, mainstream media coverage.

Limbaugh helped save AM radio when he emerged as a talk radio star in the late 1980s at a time when AM stations had lost out to the cleaner, less static sounds of FM radio. At the same time, in 1987, Ronald Reagan's Federal Communications Commission repealed the Fairness Doctrine, which had required stations to present politically "balanced" programming. That meant Limbaugh could bash Democrats for three hours nonstop every day. Fast forward three decades and Limbaugh's death arrived alongside AM's slow motion demise.

"Once a leading platform for popularizing conservative candidates and policies, talk radio is on the verge of becoming background noise, drowned out by a cacophony of voices on podcasts, cable TV and social media," the Washington Post reported this year.

The pandemic also hit talk radio hard. "2020 is the year that in-car AM/FM radio has hit the proverbial iceberg," Radio World reported. "The COVID-19 pandemic and its related lockdowns severely curtailed regular commuting journeys, where much of consumers' radio-listening originates."

The right-wing talk format also skews way too old. "We're at the sea-change moment," Radio America's Mike Paradiso recently told Axios. "At some point, the stations need to make a shift to bring in younger listeners."

Demographically, that's just not going to happen on AM radio. Today, fewer than 8 percent of those who regularly listen to talk radio are between the ages of 25 to 54, according Nielsen's research. And just 4 percent of consumers 18 to 34 listen to talk stations.

Online, Limbaugh's presence had also been dwindling. In January of 2020, his website ranked as the 15th most popular among conservative outposts, according to TheRighting's analysis. By January 2021, the Limbaugh site had fallen out of the top 20. In terms of audience size, last November RushLimbaugh.com drew 1.4 million unique visitors, compared to Fox News' 130 million for that month.

For three decades, Rush Limbaugh held a uniquely powerful and influential position in American media. Thankfully, that won't be replicated on the AM dial.

Why I’d (Always) Rather Talk About Michael J. Fox

How do we acknowledge the death of someone who made a career of inflicting harm?

Perhaps I should start with a story.

I first met Michael J. Fox in 2006, not long after Rush Limbaugh had mocked his involuntary movements caused by Parkinson's disease. Michael was in Ohio for a rally in support of stem cell research that could save countless lives.

This is how I described our encounter in a book about my husband's Senate campaign:

"It is heartbreaking to watch this gracious, talented actor and father of four struggle to perform the simplest of tasks — like sitting still, for example, or completing a sentence. He has made it clear, time and again, that he does not expect to live long enough to benefit from the research he is championing — and yet there he was, sitting onstage with Sherrod along with a number of other people afflicted with diseases that stem cell research might cure.

"I got a healthy dose of humility from Michael J. Fox that day. Sherrod and I sat on either side of Michael, watching as a sixth-grade boy with Type 1 diabetes gave a speech. He was going on a bit, and I smiled nervously at Sherrod. I was worried that all of this waiting would tire Michael.

"Michael leaned over and whispered in my ear, 'You know, it is going to make him feel so good to get his whole story out.' He smiled at me, and I was appropriately reprimanded. When it was Michael's turn at the microphone, he turned to the boy and said, 'At any age, you feel the need to tell your story, and I consider you an inspiration.'"

This was my first thought after I heard that Rush Limbaugh had died on Wednesday. Lucky me.

Limbaugh died of lung cancer at age 70. The response on social media was the predictable ricochet of emotions. Many on the right tried to cast him as a fallen god; many on the left celebrated his demise. This is the world he created.

I kept trying to figure out how to publicly acknowledge Limbaugh's death in a way that didn't make me feel worse about myself in the typing. In the end, I posted the ultimate cop-out:

"This is one of those days when I know I'm still my mother's daughter because no matter how many ways I try to type my response to the news I feel her gentle hand on my arm as she says, 'But who does this help?'"

Some misinterpreted my words as a scolding or a recycling of the admonishment to never speak ill of the dead. This was not my intention. This was an act of self-preservation. I wanted to keep my soul intact.

On his show, Limbaugh had called me "brain-dead" and "blitheringly ignorant," and once speculated that I lacked "an IQ of three figures." Every time he mentioned me, his mob heard the same message: "Go get her." My inbox would fill with mountains of hate mail.

This was nothing compared to his attacks on other women, the LGBTQ community, racial minorities — anyone who didn't fit his idea of a patriot, which demanded loyalty only to him.

Now the video of Limbaugh jeering at Michael J. Fox and accusing him of faking his symptoms is making the rounds again. You may have seen it in some of the coverage. I don't know how this makes him feel, but I can encourage you to listen to what he has to say.

Last November, Fox released his fourth book: No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality. It is a meditation on aging, told by a man whose body betrayed him long ago. After 40 years in public life, he is "straddling the void."

"I'm probably the only person who has been featured on the cover of Rolling Stone and AARP in the same year," he writes. "I'm living the life of a retired person, a decade too soon. My world is contracting, not expanding. In terms of the space-time continuum, I'm closer to my exit than to my entrance point."

And yet.

"When I visit the past now, it is for wisdom and experience, not for regret or shame. I don't attempt to erase it, only to accept it. Whatever my physical circumstances are today, I will deal with them and remain present. If I fall, I will rise up."

Repeatedly, he insists, "With gratitude, optimism becomes sustainable."

Not one word about the rabid, millionaire talk-show host who held him up to scorn and ridicule.

Moving forward, I hope to follow his lead.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. She is also the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, The Daughters of Erietown.To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

#EndorseThis: Trump Makes Kimmel Cackle With His 'Perfect' Limbaugh Eulogy

Who will miss the late right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh -- infamous for his bigoted attacks on minorities, women, and liberals? Judging by Donald Trump's self-centered eulogy of the man he gave a medal, apparently not even the former president.

Yesterday Trump went on Fox News to share remembrances of Limbaugh. But he immediately turned that nostalgic moment into an opportunity to talk about himself -- and to continue lying about the election.

For Jimmy Kimmel, this presented a perfect occasion to roast Trump on Jimmy Kimmel Live! -- where he reminded the Mar-a-Lago loser that there is "no I in eulogy."

Consider this bit of comedic genius our very own farewell to El Rushbo.

The Right-Wing Theatre Of Cruelty: Rush Limbaugh, 1951-2021

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Before Fox News and Donald Trump, there was Rush Limbaugh. A talk radio trailblazer who chased ratings by stoking bigotry and shielding his listeners from uncomfortable truths, Limbaugh reshaped right-wing media and eventually the Republican Party itself.

On February 17, Limbaugh's wife announced on air that he died after a battle with lung cancer.

The Rush Limbaugh Show began broadcasting nationwide in 1988 and the host soon amassed an army of "dittoheads," a term which came to signal fans with unquestioning support for Limbaugh's views. According to Talkers Magazine, more than 15 million unique weekly listeners tuned into his show in December 2020.

Not only was Limbaugh syndicated on hundreds of stations across the country, but most other conservative talk radio hosts who came after him were — with few exceptions — Limbaugh wannabes. His disciples included future Vice President Mike Pence, who once described his own 1990s talk radio personality as "Rush Limbaugh on decaf." The cumulative effect was a never-ending stream of Limbaugh or Limbaugh-like rhetoric available day or night to anyone with access to a radio.

GOP leaders recognized the hold that Limbaugh, the self-described "titular head of the Republican Party," had on their voters. They responded by heaping praise on the host and fashioning their politics to fit his monologues. After the 2012 election, when some Republicans pushed to expand outreach to minority voters, the party instead chose to double down on Limbaugh's exclusionary politics.

As my colleague Matt Gertz observed, Republican leaders' constant appeasement of Limbaugh foreshadowed their approach to candidate and then President Donald Trump. Trump and Limbaugh understood the value they offered one another; Trump as the fighter Limbaugh's audience always wanted, and Limbaugh, who was awarded the Medal of Freedom by Trump last year, as the sycophant who could be counted on to spin or ignore Trump's failures.

Weeks before the 2020 presidential election, Trump turned to Limbaugh once again, participating in a two-hour interview in which he knew his lies would never be questioned. And throughout the final days of his program, Limbaugh continued to falsely insist that President Joe Biden had not legitimately won the election.

Media historian Brian Rosenwald notes that talk radio is an intimate medium, one in which hosts develop a deep and lasting bond with longtime listeners. Limbaugh manipulated that bond to convince his audience of things that were not true and to turn them against Democrats, the news media, and anyone else who failed to share his hardline views.

Bigotry And Lies Were Essential To His Appeal

Limbaugh entertained an audience that was primarily composed of older, white conservative men by mocking women, minorities, and anyone else who did not embody his default listener — setting the tone for the toxic, cruel politics of the modern-day conservative movement.

Sexism was one of the most reliable features of Limbaugh's program, and women were regularly referred to on the show as "babes" or even "feminazis" — a term which Limbaugh boasted about coining. Feminism, according to Limbaugh, was created to enable "unattractive women" to have "easier access to the mainstream."

In 2012, the host faced widespread backlash and advertiser boycotts after he referred to a law student who testified in favor of health care coverage for contraceptives as a "slut." During the #MeToo era, Limbaugh mocked and attacked women who reported sexual assault. The host was also virulently opposed to reproductive health care, once comparing abortion clinics to "death camps" and attacking groups like Planned Parenthood as "death squads."

People of color and members of the LGBTQ community were also frequent punching bags on Limbaugh's show.

Limbaugh once remarked that "all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson" and that "the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons." During Barack Obama's presidency, the host fed into birtherism and the conspiracy theory that Obama was secretly a Muslim.

Limbaugh repeatedly downplayed racial discrimination and espoused white nationalist talking points, arguing that immigrants are trying to "invade" the United States. Once, when discussing genocide against Native Americans, Limbaugh asked, "They all have casinos -- what's to complain about?"

After the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, Limbaugh described the decision as an "assault" on American culture that would lead to incest and polygamy. Limbaugh referred to transgender people as mentally ill and blamed the Roman Catholic Church's sex abuse scandals on "the gay infiltration of the Catholic Church."

When confronted with facts that contradicted his conservative worldview, Limbaugh promoted conspiracy theories and obvious lies.

A staunch climate denier throughout his entire career, Limbaugh once bragged about his role in undermining the American public's belief in climate science.

After a Trump supporter mailed pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and media organizations in 2018, Limbaugh suggested that the attack was a false flag designed to damage conservatives. The host made similar remarks in 2019 after the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.

And when the coronavirus first began to spread through the United States, Limbaugh assured his audience — one of the oldest in conservative media — that it was merely "the common cold." As the death toll continued to mount, the host claimed that the virus had been weaponized by Trump opponents, mocked mask wearers, and accused journalists and hospitals of inflating COVID-19 case counts.

Limbaugh's Toxic Legacy Is Secure

For more than 30 years, Limbaugh's show helped to set the agenda for hosts across the country, and it's not clear who is likely to succeed him as talk radio's unifying voice.

One possible replacement may ironically be the only Fox News prime-time host without radio experience. Tucker Carlson's monologues are already frequently cited by right-wing radio hosts, and his emphasis on culture war topics — particularly his xenophobic, anti-trans, and misogynistic content — aligns well with standard talk radio fare.

But even Carlson is unlikely to match the hold Limbaugh had on a now-declining industry. Today, conservative talk radio is just one facet of a much larger right-wing media ecosystem, where television hosts and conservative writers all sound somewhat like Limbaugh. This ecosystem controls a political party whose latest president regularly sought the counsel of Fox News hosts.

Even without one of its central architects, a right-wing media machine built on outrage and cruelty will continue to deceive its audience long into the future.

Kinzinger’s Family Sends Wild Letter That Says He Joined ‘Devil’s Army’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger made many enemies within his own party by standing up to former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election, a break that included voting in favor of impeachment pushed by the Democrats. And on Monday, a new profile of Kinzinger revealed that some of his harshest critics come from within his own family.

The New York Times obtained a letter signed by 11 of Kinzinger's relatives and sent to his father, as well as other Republican officials in the state. It was written by his cousin, Karen Otto, the Times reported.

In style, the letter was clearly influenced by Trump's own writing — though it included far more religious references than the former president typically employs, unless he is intentionally addressing a religious audience.

"Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!" Otto wrote.

She continued:

We were once so proud of your accomplishments! Instead, you go against your Christian principles and join the "devil's army" (Democrats and the fake news media). How do you call yourself a Christian when you join the "devil's army" believing in abortion! We thought you were "smart" enough to see how the left is brainwashing so many "so called good people including yourself and many other GOP members. You have even fallen for their socialism ideals! So, so, sad!
President Trump is not perfect, but neither are you or any of us for that matter! It is not for us to judge or be judged! But he is a Christian. (If God can forgive and use King David in the Bible, He can do the same with President Trump.) Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, to just to name a few, of many Pastors who mentor President Trump, know that he is a believer! Obviously, you did not hear President Trump's "Christmas Message" to the American people (fake news media did not cover his message) where he actually gave the plan of salvation, instructing people how to repent and ask the Savior into their heart to be "Born Again"! (To believe in John 3:16) When was the last time you proclaimed your faith Adam? (Oh, we forgot you now belong to the "devil's army.") You won't convince us otherwise with your horrible, rude accusations of President Trump! (To embrace a party that believes in abortion and socialism is the ultimate sin.) We should list even more grievances against you, but decided you are not worth more our time to list them. We have said enough!
You should be very proud that you have lost the respect of Lou Dobbs, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Greg Kelly, most importantly in our book, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh and us!
It is now most embarrassing to us that we are related to you. You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name!
We are not judging you. This letter is our opinion of you!
Oh, by the way, good luck in your fund raising endeavor. We are sure we know there are many other good GOP and CHirsitans supporters that feel the same way we do. Also very disappointed with the many other GOP that have sided with the Democrats. (We should demand our money back!)

View an image of the letter below:

"I wanted Adam to be shunned," Otto told the Times.

The message was a stark demonstration of the force of negative polarization. Because Kinzinger's family hates the Democrats so much, they see Kinzinger's turning against Trump and most of the Republican Party as an ultimate betrayal. What's binding the right-wing together isn't so much shared values as much as the shared belief that the Democratic Party is the ultimate threat. Parallel trends are affecting the political left in the United States, though it's unclear if the forces are as extreme.

"We just fear," Kinzinger said in an interview with the Times. "Fear the Democrats. Fear the future. Fear everything. And it works for an election cycle or two. The problem is it does real damage to this democracy."

‘Civil War’ And ’Secession’ Chatter Getting Louder On Far Right

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Right-wing figures online are now toying with the ultimate act of resistance against Joe Biden's win over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election: secession and civil war. The idea has picked up steam in the past few days, thanks to a boost it got from talk radio host and Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh made waves on Wednesday when he said, "I actually think that we're trending toward secession." I see more and more people asking what in the world do we have in common with the people who live in, say, New York?"

Read Now Show less

Forcing Trump’s Election Lawyers To Tell The Truth

There is no penalty for lying on television, as anyone who watches cable news already knows. It is considered normal today when Fox News personalities — to name one prominent group of habitual liars — repeat absurd falsehoods, even if the result is that people contract the coronavirus and die.

There is no penalty for lying on the radio, as everyone has known for decades. It is a highly lucrative daily routine for talk jocks such as Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage — among the most successful of their ilk — who are often exposed but never feel embarrassed.

Read Now Show less

Rush Limbaugh Can’t Do Election Math, But He Loves Conspiracy Theories

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

With Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appearing likely to clinch the election on Friday against incumbent President Donald Trump, right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh provided his listeners with a cornucopia of conspiracy theories about Democratic officials manufacturing votes to overcome what would otherwise have been a Trump landslide victory.

His propaganda creates an image of fraud at the polls — in contrast to actual election results — that would put Charles Foster Kane's newspapers to shame.

Read Now Show less