Nader Throws Hat in the Ring Against Limbaugh
Criticizes radio host over stimulus
Another combatant joined the ever-expanding Limbaugh wars Monday.
Consumer activist Ralph Nader challenged Rush Limbaugh to reimburse the American public for his multimillion-dollar salary -- adding more discord to the life of the radio host, who skirts the line between media heavy and uber-politico.
"It's amazing how he gets away with it. Rush Limbaugh hammers away about big government and welfare and yet he's the corporate welfare king," Mr. Nader said. "He's an unctuous megalomaniac."
Mr. Nader, who turns 75 this month, was as ferocious about Mr. Limbaugh as he once was about smog.
"You are making this money on the public property of the American people for which you pay no rent. You, Rush Limbaugh, are on welfare," Mr. Nader wrote in a letter to the host, who has broadcast for two decades and enjoys a weekly audience of 20 million listeners on 600 stations.
"As you know, the public airwaves belong to the American people. The Federal Communications Commission is supposed to be our trustee in managing this property. The people are the landlords and the radio and TV stations and affiliated companies are the tenants," Mr. Nader said.
He urged Mr. Limbaugh "to set a capitalist example for his peers and pay rent to the American people for the very lucrative use of their property. You need not wait for the broadcast industry-indentured FCC and Congress to do the right thing. You can lead by paying a voluntary rent -- determined by a reputable appraisal organization."
"This is a ridiculous idea. Rush Limbaugh already pays his dues to the American people in the form of income tax," said Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers Magazine, which tracks talk radio.
"Limbaugh is a very influential entertainer who also informs and influences. He makes waves. That's nothing new. If Nader wants to attack a big moneymaker, he should attack all the big moneymakers. Jay Leno and Tina Fey are also influential entertainers," Mr. Harrison said.
Mr. Nader can get in line, though.
Mr. Limbaugh has been recently criticized by progressive, liberal and Democratic adversaries who are particularly vexed by Mr. Limbaugh's recent proclamation that he hoped President Obama "fails," prompting the president to warn lawmakers to ignore such talk. The feud escalated into a media war after Mr. Limbaugh penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal challenging Mr. Obama's economic stimulus plan.
On Tuesday, Moveon.org, Americans United for Change and other interest groups are set to launch TV and radio ads in 12 states targeting a half-dozen Republican senators, urging them to spurn Mr. Limbaugh's "extreme partisan" opinion and back the stimulus plan.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a "Rush to Judgement" petition drive against Mr. Limbaugh last week, while CNN's James Carville wrote an editorial, deconstructing Mr. Limbaugh's economic theories.
But even Mr. Nader acknowledged that media wars have unusual dynamics.
"Rush Limbaugh has to re-invent himself, and Obama gave him manna form heaven when he told Republicans not to react," Mr. Nader said. "And if Limbaugh gets cornered, he resorts to plan B -- which is to claim he's just an entertainer."