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Listening to Limbaugh

In his op-ed "Take the Limbaugh Challenge," (L.A. Times, 3/29/09), conservative writer Andrew Klavan states as a "certainty" that L.A. Times readers don't listen to Rush Limbaugh's show:

If you are reading this newspaper, the likelihood is
that you agree with the Obama administration's recent attacks on
conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh. That's the likelihood; here's
the certainty: You've never listened to Rush Limbaugh.

What's more, Klavan claims to listen to Limbaugh frequently, and
says he has never heard him "utter a single racist, hateful or stupid
word."

To someone like me who has been talking about racist, hateful and
stupid Limbaugh remarks since the mid-'90s, and who co-authored FAIR's
book The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error,
Klavan's charge that Limbaugh critics don't listen to his show is a
familiar one. In dozens of appearances on conservative radio shows to
talk about our book, it was rare that I was not confronted with this
now-hackneyed charge, even though I have been listening to Limbaugh for
25 years, starting with his local show on Sacramento's KFBK.

As for Klavan's claim that Limbaugh doesn't say racist, stupid or
hateful things, FAIR's book documents scores of Limbaugh statements
fitting those categories, including such stupidly false claims
as "the poorest people in America are better off than the mainstream
families of Europe"; that "there are more acres of forest land in
America today than when Columbus discovered America in 1492"; and that
"not one indictment" resulted from the Iran/Contra scandal
investigation.

As one of the Bush administration's most credulous media stooges,
Limbaugh enthusiastically repeated raw government propaganda. For
instance, after the invasion, Limbaugh trumpeted Iraq's nonexistent
WMDs (4/7/03): "We're discovering WMDs all over Iraq.... You know it killed NPR
to report that the 101st Airborne found a stockpile of up to 20 rockets
tipped with sarin and mustard gas.... Our troops have found dozens of
barrels of chemicals in an agricultural facility 30 miles northwest of
Baghdad."

Limbaugh's gullibility also leaves him vulnerable to wacky far-right
conspiracy theories. Shortly after Obama's election, Limbaugh attempted
to work up his listeners with the ridiculous rumor
that the new administration was planning to take over their retirement
accounts: "They're going to take your 401(k), put it in the Social
Security trust fund."

Limbaugh's falsehood was so egregious that it prompted L.A. Times reporter James Rainey to write:

To broadcast such a report--so drained of context as to
constitute a lie--would be a shameless act at any time. But Limbaugh
needlessly stirred the fears of the millions he holds in his
thrall--making the 401(k) thievery sound like nearly a done deal.
Shameless.

And why isn't Klavan familiar with years of hateful broadcasts where
Limbaugh heaped abuse on homeless people and those with HIV, using his
"Homeless Updates" to propose a "Homeless Olympics" with events
including "the Dumpster dig and the hop, skip and trip"; and "AIDS
Updates" where he talked about "Rock Hudson's disease" and introduced
segments with the Dionne Warwick song "I Know I'll Never Love This Way
Again"?

And what is it if not hateful to hope to see an American political
convention erupt in violence? That's what Limbaugh said was the aim of
his "Operation Chaos," which urged his listeners to support Hillary
Clinton in order to divide the Democratic Party:

The dream end of this is that this keeps up to the
convention, and that we have a recreation of Chicago 1968 with burning
cars, protests, fire and literal riots and all of that. That is the
objective here.

And speaking of racism, what about this gem where Limbaugh favorably compared victims of flooding in Illinois and Iowa, to Katrina victims in New Orleans, repeating discredited claims about rampant rape and murder in New Orleans in the process?

I want to know. I look at Iowa, I look at Illinois--I
want to see the murders. I want to see the looting. I want to see all
the stuff that happened in New Orleans. I see devastation in Iowa and
Illinois that dwarfs what happened in New Orleans. I see people working
together. I see people trying to save their property.... I don't see a
bunch of people running around waving guns at helicopters, I don't see
a bunch of people running shooting cops. I don't see a bunch of people
raping people on the street. I don't see a bunch of people doing
everything they can...whining and moaning---where's FEMA, where's Bush.
I see the heartland of America. When I look at Iowa and when I look at
Illinois, I see the backbone of America.

And has Klavan heard Limbaugh's commentary on Barack Obama? In his
response to criticism of his expressed hope that Obama fails, Limbaugh
notoriously declared:

We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that
we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward,
whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first
black president.

For more examples of Limbaugh racism, Klavan might have read this L.A. Times op-ed,
written by FAIR founder Jeff Cohen and myself. We document many
instances of outright racism, including his admission that he once told
a black caller to "take that bone out of your nose," asserted that "all
composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson," and
said of a group with a 90-year commitment to nonviolence: "The NAACP
should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice
robberies."

At this late date, no one who's listened to Limbaugh can honestly
say that he doesn't say racist, hateful or stupid things. Which raises
the possibility that Klavan doesn't actually listen to Limbaugh, at least with any real care. But what's the L.A. Times' excuse for publishing nonsense which has been debunked in its own pages for at least two decades?


© 2021 Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)

Steve Rendall

Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City).

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