Question For Media: Is Rush Limbaugh Conservative Movement's 'Unofficial Leader?'

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brandon Hersh (202) 471-3205
bhersh@mediamatters.org

Question For Media: Is Rush Limbaugh Conservative Movement's 'Unofficial Leader?'

WASHINGTON - Rush Limbaugh rose to prominence in the early 1990s through a
relentless series of smears leveled at President Clinton, his administration,
and his family. With a progressive back in the White House, Limbaugh has
returned to regular attacks on the president. The Los Angeles Times described
him as "the politically wounded party's unofficial leader"
and his keynote speech at this weekend's Conservative Political Action
Conference (CPAC) was broadcast live on Fox News and CNN and then rebroadcast
on Fox News the next day - a treatment that, according to Fox News'
Greg Jarrett, "not even the president" gets.

Limbaugh started a media firestorm with his comments in January -- just
days before President Barack Obama's inauguration -- that he
"hopes" Obama "fails." Since then Limbaugh has
continued his drumbeat repeating this theme, recently asserting that it is not
only him but "every Republican in this country" who "wants
Obama to fail."

Among top conservatives, reaction to
Limbaugh's sentiment has been mixed. Former Rep. Tom
DeLay
and former
Sen. Rick Santorum
have publicly agreed with Limbaugh's sentiment
while some
conservative
figures have
distanced themselves the conservative commentator. RNC Chairman
Michael Steele
recently joined Rep.
Phil Gingrey
in the list of conservative leaders who have bowed down to
Limbaugh after publicly
criticizing him.

With Republican at a crossroads on whether Limbaugh speaks for the
party, it might be best, as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in
yesterday's briefing "to ask individual Republicans whether they
agree with what Rush Limbaugh said this weekend." Media Matters today launched "Rush
Watch," a resource center for all of the latest research on the top-rated
radio talk show host:

www.mediamatters.org/rushwatch/

Below are some of Limbaugh's attacks on President Obama and his
policies since the inauguration as well as conservative commentary on
Limbaugh's rhetoric:

Limbaugh's "I
Hope He Fails" Mantra Against President Obama

During the broadcast of his January 16 show, in response to the invitation
of "a major American print publication" to describe his "hope
for the Obama administration," Limbaugh replied "I hope he
fails." Limbaugh has continued to pound this theme on his show, not only
saying that he wants "the stimulus package" to fail but that
"every Republican in the country wants Obama to fail."

A Limbaugh Fissure Within
Conservative Movement?

Since President Obama's inauguration, there has been a wide range
of reactions from conservative officials and media figures to Limbaugh's
rhetoric.

Conservatives in Congress such as Rep. Eric Cantor and other prominent
leaders such as Republican strategist Mike Murphy have distanced themselves
from Limbaugh.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor

  • Responding to George
    Stephanopolous' question whether "the Rush Limbaugh approach
    of hoping the president fails" is "the Eric Cantor House
    Republican approach," Cantor replied "absolutely not." [Media Matters' County Fair, 3/1/09]

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford

  • Gov. Sanford, when
    about the "view that perhaps Republicans are rooting for President
    Obama to fail," replied: "I don't want him to fail. Anybody who wants him to fail is an idiot,
    because it means we're all in trouble.
    "
    [Center for American Progress' Think Progress, 2/25/09]

GOP Strategist Mike
Murphy

  • Mike Murphy disagreed with Limbaugh saying "Republicans want the country to succeed,"
    and warned against a "party of 25
    percent of the vote going to Limbaugh rallies
    ." [Media Matters' County Fair, 3/1/09]

While other conservative leaders and
personalities such as Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum have echoed Limbaugh's
comments.

Former House Minority
Leader Tom DeLay

  • When asked if he agreed with Rush Limbaugh that we
    shouldn't hope for President Obama to succeed, DeLay replied "Well, exactly right. I don't want this for
    our nation. That's for sure."
    [Center for American
    Progress' Think Progress, 2/27/09]

Former Pennsylvania
Senator Rick Santorum

  • Similarly, when asked "do you hope, should we hope
    that President Obama fails," Santorum replied that "absolutely we hope that his policies fail," adding "I believe his policies will fail, I don't
    know, but I hope they fail."
    [Center for American
    Progress' Think Progress, 2/28/09]

RNC chairman Michael Steele and Rep. Phil Gingrey actually backed down
from their respective criticisms of Limbaugh.

RNC chairman Michael Steele

  • RNC Chairman Michael
    Steele originally said "Rush
    Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes it's incendiary, yes
    it's ugly
    ." [Politico,
    3/2/09]
  • After Limbaugh addressed
    those comments on his radio show, asserting that Steele that he is
    "head of the RNC" and not "head of the Republican
    Party," Steele soon was backing down on his comments. Steele said
    his "intent was not to go after
    Rush
    " and that "[t]here
    was no attempt on my part to diminish is voice or his leadership.
    "
    Steele further claimed that what he was trying to say was that "a lot of people...want to make Rush the
    scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he's not.
    " [Politico, 3/2/09]

Rep. Phil Gingrey

  • Responding to
    Limbaugh's assertion that Obama is "obviously more frightened
    of me than he is Mitch McConnell" and "John Boehner,"
    Rep. Gingrey said "I mean, it's easy if you're Sean
    Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and
    throw bricks."
    Gingrey continued: "You know you're just
    on these talk shows and you're living well and plus you stir up a
    bit of controversy and gin up the base and that sort of thing."
    [Politico, 1/27/09]
  • Gingrey appeared on
    Limbaugh's show the following day to express his "very sincere
    regret for those comments
    " and said "I clearly ended up
    putting my foot in my mouth on some of those comments.
    " [Center for
    American Progress' Think Progress, 1/28/09]

Limbaugh's Influence on
Conservative Echo Chamber: Health IT falsehoods and Other Attacks on
Obama's Policies

As evidence of Limbaugh's influence among both
conservative and mainstream media, he was the first to unabashedly advance
former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey's falsehood that a provision in the
House-passed version of the economic recovery bill grants the government
authority to "monitor treatments" and "make sure your doctor
is doing what the federal government deems appropriate." This dubious
claim was soon being parroted by several conservative media figures. Limbaugh
took credit, saying "I found it. I detailed it for you and now it's
all over the mainstream media."

Media Matters has documented Limbaugh leading
the conservative echo chamber in advancing other false and misleading
information about President Obama's economic proposals.

###

Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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