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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 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.

‘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?"

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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.

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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.

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LISTEN: The Strangest Moments Of Trump’s ‘Virtual Rally’ With Rush Limbaugh

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

President Donald Trump conducted a two-hour phone interview on Friday with talk radio host and Trump-conferred Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh. Promoted beforehand by Limbaugh as the "largest virtual rally in radio history" — and coming right after Trump publicly refused to hold next week's presidential debate remotely, despite his recent COVID-19 diagnosis — the appearance instead became a lengthy conversation between the two men, attempting to cast the president as America's great leader in these tumultuous times.

The interview began in a quite surreal fashion, with Limbaugh's production team playing a recording of God Bless the U.S.A., a country song often performed at Republican rallies, followed by the canned sound of imaginary cheering crowds. And then Limbaugh greeted the president, asking his guest to envision the sight of a great campaign rally.

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Rush Limbaugh Offers Plan For Trump To Steal Election

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has been busy this week helping to build up a conspiracy theory about the increased use of mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, which has the potential to set off national chaos as votes are counted in the 2020 election.

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Rush Limbaugh Smears Harris With Myth About Her Ancestry

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Rush Limbaugh has joined the bizarre right-wing chorus questioning whether Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), the Democratic candidate for vice president, is authentically a Black American, due to her reported descent from an Irish-born slaveholder in Jamaica — an analysis that is both factually wrong and morally repugnant on multiple levels.

On Monday's edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, the host read an article from right-wing site PJ Media by Senior Editor Tyler O'Neil titled "Joe Biden Alienated Black Voters by Picking Kamala Harris." (Both Limbaugh and O'Neil are white.)

Limbaugh then went on to his own discussion of Harris' ancestry:

From the August 17, 2020, edition of Premiere Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Now, "why" — you're asking, "Why would Kamala Harris alienate Black voters when, all intents and purposes, she appears to be Black?" Well, there may be this little ditty.

Dinesh D'Souza had been looking into Kamala Harris, and he had a tweet a couple of days ago. "The privilege Kamala Harris has enjoyed throughout her life was built on the backs of 200 Black slaves, forced to work on five plantations by her ancestor Hamilton Brown. I've yet to hear any sympathy from the kleft for these Black lives, which evidently don't matter at all."

But apparently, her — look, this is not "apparently," we've all known it. Those of us who have studied Kamala Harris, those of us who looked into her background, we know she's not African American. She doesn't have slave blood, she's not down for the struggle. She's not — none of that. She doesn't have any attachment, like Obama didn't.

Obama didn't have any direct attachment to the struggle. He didn't have any direct attachment to Selma, even though he went there, tried to make it look like he did. She doesn't, either. In fact, her family was wealthy in Jamaica, and they owned slaves.

If this language seems at all familiar, it is because Limbaugh said similar things about former President Barack Obama, whose father was from Kenya. Limbaugh said in 2012, for example: "He wasn't down with the struggle. He doesn't have slave blood. You know all that."

As for Limbaugh's assertion that Harris' reported ancestry discredits her credentials as being part of the Black American experience, this requires a lot of nerve given the well-known history of white men sexually assaulting slave women and children who were conceived as a result.

PolitiFact discussed an essay written by Harris' father Donald Harris, a retired economics professor, tracing his ancestry to Hamilton Brown, an Irish plantation owner in Jamaica in the early 1800s, and his son also named Hamilton Brown. The outlet explored the social status of Black Jamaicans in the immediate post-emancipation period as barely changed from slavery itself.

It seems possible that Kamala Harris is as likely a descendant of a slave-owner as she is an enslaved person. Jessian Prince, who the family tree identified as Miss Crishy's mother and would therefore be Kamala Harris' great-great-grandmother, is listed on birth and death records as a "labourer." Almost always, [author Tom] Zoellner said, laborers in Jamaica at that time were "people of African extraction who were the children and grandchildren of enslaved people who had been freed in 1838."

From 1834 to 1838, the term "labourer" meant "apprentice" — "basically a paid slave," Zoellner said. After emancipation, "the energy of planters was now to be directed towards converting a former slave labour force into a permanent plantation labour force," according to the government. "From the perspective of the planters, it was the same rider on the same mule, cantering towards the same destiny."

During Harris' presidential run last year, Snopes also wrote about the accusations regarding her family tree. After reviewing the sparse historical records, the site nevertheless concluded, "That particular branch of Brown's family tree derived just as much from an enslaved woman, whose identity may well be lost to history, as it did from Brown himself."

Even if it is the case that the Harris family ... are descendants of Hamilton Brown, those who seek to attack or undermine Sen. Harris for the wrongdoing of a man who died almost 200 years ago should first gain a better understanding of the often complicated, traumatic histories of black families in the United States — and tread much more carefully.

As an example of how this discussion might affect Black families in the United States, Limbaugh also credited this discussion to right-wing commentator Dinesh D'Souza, who had previously stated on the August 11 edition of Fox News' The Ingraham Angle: "Kamala Harris seems to be descended less from the legacy of, let's say, Frederick Douglass, than she is from the legacy of the plantation itself."

D'Souza may have said quite a bit more than he realized, however, by invoking the name of the great Black American abolitionist Frederick Douglass — whose own biological father was known to have been a white man, possibly either his first or second owner, before Douglass himself later escaped to freedom. Douglass also wrote extensively on the topic in his first two memoirs: "For thousands are ushered into the world, annually, who—like myself—owe their existence to white fathers and, most frequently, to their masters, and masters' sons. The slave woman is at the mercy of the fathers, sons or brothers of her master. The thoughtful know the rest."

D'Souza was not alone in thinking this was some kind of real point, however. Fox News host Mark Levin, on his BlazeTV show the same day, had claimed that Harris' "ancestry does not go back to American slavery. To the best of my knowledge, her ancestry does not go back to slavery at all."

This claim was immediately met with the appropriate combination of ridicule and serious debunking:

Clarification (8/17/20): The language in this piece has been updated for clarity.

Republican Reaction To Kamala Reveals Same Old Pathologies

What was for most Americans a moment of inspiration — the ascent of Sen. Kamala Harris, a woman of African and Indian descent, to a national party ticket — has instead provoked paranoia and rage on the Republican right. Along with the usual petty insults spat by President Donald Trump, his minions in the media are returning to their habitual obsessions of nativism, racism and misogyny.

It is a repellent and buffoonish spectacle, but it is unlikely to make any impression on voters who don't already share Trump's narrow, delusional worldview.

In the barrage of confused attacks on Harris, there is much to be learned about the psychopathology of the far right. So-called conservatives have little interest in the senator's actual record in public office or views on substantive issues, only in assaults on her background and character. Somehow, they miss the irony of calling her "nasty" while they launch hundreds of these vicious broadsides.

From Rush Limbaugh and Joe Pagliarulo, we hear the insinuation that Harris somehow used her sexuality to rise to the political pinnacle she now occupies. They're just "putting it out there," as Pagliarulo smarmily intoned, but why bother? Only someone very stupid would believe that a romantic relationship that concluded decades ago elevated Harris from the district attorney's office to statewide office in California, a seat in the United States Senate, and then her party's vice presidential nomination. Life and politics obviously don't work that way.

The only reason to "put it out there" is to detract from Harris' impressive achievements, with the kind of innuendo that is never inflicted on men. These Trump toadies dismiss the Access Hollywood tape, the Jeffrey Epstein photos, the Stormy Daniels affair, and the multiple credible rape and assault allegations against their idol -- yet they're troubled by those dates that Kamala Harris once had with the mayor of San Francisco. (Let's not even delve into Limbaugh's own problematic personal life, which is colorful in all the wrong ways.)

From former George W. Bush administration flack Ari Fleischer, and sundry other self-styled white experts on African American affairs, comes the suggestion that Harris is somehow not truly Black (or at least not Black enough). Those old racial dog whistles were blown when Barack Obama first ran for president, too, because his mother was white and he grew up in the home of his white grandparents. Does anyone believe that Fleischer — a ludicrous figure on his best days — knows what will "excite" Black female voters, as he put it?

African Americans supposedly won't embrace Harris because her father was from Jamaica and her mother from India. Indeed, according to the pardoned felon and provocateur Dinesh D'Souza, Harris is really white because one of her ancestors was a white slaveholder.

Again, this is a profoundly idiotic jape. Where would Kamala Harris' paternal forebears have originated other than Africa? She is an American of African descent. And how many other Black Americans, like Harris, have a white slaveholder somewhere in their ancestry? Many millions, surely, and like them, that fraction of her lineage is tiny.

The plain truth is that like so many Americans, Harris is proud of the ethnic variety in her background. And like many Black Americans of mixed heritage, she has chosen to identify strongly with the Black community throughout her life. It isn't a contradiction but represents what David Dinkins, the first Black mayor of New York City, likes to call "the gorgeous mosaic."

The unappetizing tableau of Republican race baiting wouldn't be complete without a reversion to "birtherism" — in this case, fake concern over Harris' eligibility for the presidency based on her parents' immigration status at the time of her birth. Desperate for clicks, Newsweek dredged up a right-wing law professor to claim that she just might not pass constitutional muster. It's a feeble argument, fully consistent with the professor's unimpressive, highly ideological resume. But is anybody surprised that the falsehoods flung at Obama for years are now aimed at the next person of color nominated for national office?

I'm not.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at