- The Rush Limbaugh Show
The Rush Limbaugh Show Genre Talk show Running time 3 hours Country United States Languages English Home station Premiere Radio Networks Hosts Rush Limbaugh Recording studio Palm Beach County, Florida Air dates since August 1, 1988 Opening theme "My City Was Gone" Website www.rushlimbaugh.com
The Rush Limbaugh Show (also called The Rush Limbaugh Program) is an American talk radio show hosted by Rush Limbaugh on Premiere Radio Networks. Since its inception on August 1, 1988, The Rush Limbaugh Show has become the highest-rated talk radio show in the United States.
- 1 Show airtime and format
- 2 Program staff
- 3 Stand-ins for Limbaugh
- 4 Holidays
- 5 Jargon
- 6 Show history
- 7 Dan's Bake Sale
- 8 Rush to Excellence Tours and Cruises
- 9 Controversial incidents
- 10 Operation Chaos
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Show airtime and format
The Rush Limbaugh Show has a format which has remained basically unchanged since the program began. The program airs live and primarily consists of Limbaugh's own monologues, based on the news of the day, interspersed with parody ads, phone calls from listeners and a variety of running comedy bits (some live, some taped). Limbaugh also does a few live commercials during the show for certain sponsors, and he also sometimes promotes his own products, such as his political newsletter, The Limbaugh Letter. He only occasionally features guests, but once in a while a politician or a fellow political commentator will appear on the show. An 800 number is announced for incoming calls from listeners. However, Limbaugh generally takes far fewer calls per show than most other national talk programs.
The listeners to the show are affectionately referred to as "Ditto-heads." Early in the show's run, listeners began to use the variations on the expression "ditto" to speed up the beginnings of the calls, which typically (as on most popular call-in shows) tend to open with the listener excitedly expressing his or her gratitude to the host and his or her appreciation of the show.
An edited instrumental version of The Pretenders' “My City Was Gone” has been Limbaugh's theme song almost continuously since the start of his show. Briefly in 1999, Limbaugh stopped playing the song while negotiating with the song's writer, Chrissie Hynde. Limbaugh now pays her one hundred thousand dollars per year, which she donates to the animal rights organization PETA.
The Rush Limbaugh Show airs on a network of approximately 590 AM and FM affiliate stations throughout the United States. Limbaugh also hosts his own online Internet streaming audio and video broadcast, through Streamlink. This broadcast is restricted to members of Limbaugh's “Rush 24/7” service, but can also be heard on some stations' streaming audio feeds. Premiere Radio Networks, a division of Clear Channel Communications, the largest U.S. radio station owner, owns distribution rights to the program. The program is not heard on any stations in Canada, although stations along the northern border of the United States give the show coverage in much of southern Canada. The show has never been carried on any satellite radio service.
The show airs live on weekdays from noon to 3 pm Eastern time. A few stations air it on tape delay. The program normally originates from Limbaugh's studios near his home in Palm Beach County, Florida. In the early years of the program, it normally originated from the studios of WABC in New York City (the program's traditional flagship station), which still serves as the home to some of the program's staff and broadcast facilities. Limbaugh states that he avoids New York as much as possible due to that state's high taxes and that he spends an average of 15 days in the state, usually to keep updated with his staff and as a backup in the event of a hurricane (in the latter case, he is seeking an alternative location). Limbaugh also produces a "Morning Update," a 90-second monologue recorded after the show that airs on many of Limbaugh's stations the next morning.
An official weekend edition of the program, consisting of "best of" clips from the weekday show, entitled The Rush Limbaugh Week in Review, launched in January 2008.
Former President George W. Bush has appeared six times on the program. The first time was during the 2000 presidential campaign. Then, in 2004, he "called in" to a live broadcast during the week of the 2004 Republican National Convention to give a preview of his nomination acceptance speech. He called in again in 2006. The fourth time was April 18, 2008, when Limbaugh asked the White House to speak with Bush to thank him for the ceremony welcoming Pope Benedict XVI, which awed Limbaugh. The fifth call was during the show's 20th anniversary celebration, in which then-President Bush (and George H. W. Bush and Jeb Bush) congratulated Limbaugh. He appeared a sixth time for an interview regarding his autobiography, Decision Points on November 9, 2010.
In 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called in to a live broadcast of the show a day after having called Limbaugh "irrelevant;" adding, "I'm not his servant. I'm the people's servant of California," on an appearance on NBC's Today show.
Other notable guests who have called into Limbaugh's show include former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, unsuccessful Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, economist Thomas Sowell, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and television writer Joel Surnow, who took calls about events in his show, 24. In December 2006, Sylvester Stallone made an appearance on the show to discuss his upcoming movie Rocky Balboa. On February 27, 2004, actor Jim Caviezel called into the program to discuss The Passion of the Christ film, in which Caviezel played the role of Jesus Christ. Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) also called into a show before a rally in October 2008 to discuss the election and the economic distortion and impact of Senator Obama's tax policy; Palin returned to the show in November 2009 to discuss her book Going Rogue. Phil Gingrey, a congressman who compared shows such as Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to "throwing bricks" in January 2009, gave an interview on Limbaugh's show the next day.
Limbaugh has also had author and Washington Times columnist Bill Gertz on his show to discuss Gertz's books as well as national security issues. In 2007, Limbaugh (among numerous other hosts) interviewed Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and was the first to interview Tony Snow after his departure from his post as White House press secretary. He also interviewed NBC News host Tim Russert in 2004. In May 2010, country musician John Rich reported for Limbaugh on the May 2010 Tennessee floods.
Limbaugh interviewed James Farrior and Larry Foote, both from the Pittsburgh Steelers, and retired cornerback Rodney Harrison on the Friday before Super Bowl XLV. The show deviated from its usual "Open Line Friday" format to discuss the game that day.
The Rush Limbaugh Show uses music as a significant part of the show. This comprises "Updates" (songs usually played at full length leading into a particular themed story, such as "Ain't Got No Home" by Clarence "Frogman" Henry for a story about homeless people or an eccentric New Wave version of "You Don't Own Me" by underground artist Klaus Nomi for a homosexual-themed story), parodies (see below), and bumper music, most of which spans the classic hits and classic rock eras of the 1960s through 1980s (roughly corresponding to Limbaugh's time as a disc jockey). On occasion, Limbaugh will feature a particular song that he likes, which will often have a positive impact on the song's sales. For instance, after playing Waldo de los Rios's version of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, the album that contained the song briefly jumped to the top of Amazon.com's sales charts. Limbaugh recently discussed the process involved in selection of the "bumper music" (music clips at the beginning and end of segments transitioning to and from the show and paid advertisements) when a listener commented that artists like "The Pretenders" would not approve of the use of songs such as "My City Was Gone" as the band is decidedly liberal. Limbaugh mentioned that he selects music with some sarcasm taken into consideration. He also said that some bands had complained about his use of their music but since the "bumper music" clips he uses are less than 8 seconds the use of the music is legally considered "fair use".
Sometimes The Rush Limbaugh Show will air political parodies from voice humorist Paul Shanklin, in conjunction with a variety of political news examined on the show. These satires range from parodies of well known songs to audio skits in which the voices of politicians are imitated by Shanklin. Such contributions from Paul Shanklin have been aired on the show since 1993. Some of these, such as "Barack the Magic Negro (That's What the L.A. Times Called Him)," have gained considerable notoriety. From 1993 through 1997 a series of parodies written and performed by the similarly named Paul Silhan, including take-offs on Bob Dylan tunes referred to by Limbaugh as the "Bob Zimmerman" songs, were also played on his show. (Bob Zimmerman is the birth name of Bob Dylan.) Paul Shanklin created his parodies by writing and then recording all the voices and instruments himself using simul-synch recording techniques. The six albums of Shanklin's Limbaugh parodies are available on the Web.
As with most commercial radio programming, The Rush Limbaugh Show has slots allotted for the local affiliates to fill with news segments, traffic, weather, and local commercials. The “Rush 24/7” live internet broadcast of the show usually fills these time slots with Shanklin's parodies.
Also on the Beavis and Butt-head episode "Right On", they visit a conservative talk show host named Gus Baker, who resembles and talks like Rush, as does the character Birch Barlow in several episodes of The Simpsons.
Environmentalist wacko picks
Limbaugh will occasionally perform a comedic bit called “environmentalist wacko picks” on his last show prior to the weekend during the NFL season. He predicts the outcome of upcoming football games based on how an "environmentalist wacko" would assess the teams' mascots. The mascot that is the least offensive to an "environmentalist wacko" is the projected winner. For example, the Philadelphia Eagles would always be favored over the New York Jets, the Denver Broncos would always be favored over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Carolina Panthers would always be favored over the New England Patriots and the Chicago Bears would always be favored over the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Bo Snerdley
- The official "program observer" and call screener. His real name is James Golden. From comments Limbaugh has made on the air, it would seem he assists with research as part of preparation for the show and is in the control booth as the show is being broadcast. He co-hosted a Sunday night talk show, James and Joel, on WABC with Joel Santisteban from 1992 to 1998. Snerdley is a pseudonym Limbaugh invented many years earlier when he was a disc jockey on WIXZ (when Limbaugh went by the name Jeff Christy); he would use the name Snerdley for supposed-listeners who would write or call in, usually professing to be big fans and part of the "Christy Nation". More recently, the name Snerdley has been used for his call screeners, both male and female. During a show in 2004, Limbaugh was not at the microphone for the last segment of the second hour (it was only about ten seconds), and Snerdley came on instead: "This is Bo Snerdley, Rush will be right back on the EIB Network." It was one of the very rare times his voice was heard on the program before 2008. "Bo" Snerdley screens callers at the Palm Beach Florida broadcasting location and in New York City. In February 2008, Snerdley, who is African-American, was appointed by Limbaugh as the show's Official Criticizer of Barack Obama: "certified black enough to criticize" On the July 24th show, "Bo" was put on the air as the "Official Obama Criticizer", and spoke for roughly 5 minutes with Rush about the incident with Cambridge police. On October 16, he requested (and received) air time to air a five-minute rant, that criticized NFL players, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and media commentators who opposed Rush Limbaugh's potential bid on the St. Louis Rams.
- The Rush 24/7 Internet site webmaster. This is a nickname, given by Limbaugh when Koko put a gorilla suit on for a gag on Limbaugh's TV show. His real name is George Prayias, and he is currently the webmaster for www.rushlimbaugh.com.
- EIB network broadcast engineer.
- Transcribes caller comments onto a computer screen to aid Limbaugh, who hears via a cochlear implant and therefore can sometimes have difficulties clearly understanding callers
- Kit Carson
- “Chief of staff”. Also known as “H.R.”. Screens calls when Limbaugh broadcasts from New York City, among other things.
- His duties consisted of call screening and board operations, and serving as backup when the others are out or unavailable. Left the show in spring 2006.
- Johnny Donovan
- Program announcer. He sometimes voices some of Paul Shanklin's parodies.
Stand-ins for Limbaugh
Every so often, Limbaugh is absent from his show, whether for various personal reasons or because of extended trips. For instance, in early 2005, Limbaugh took a week-long trip to Afghanistan to report on postwar conditions; he's also participated in various celebrity pro-am golf events, especially when he represents his parent company, Clear Channel. On those occasions, Limbaugh allows “EIB certified talk show hosts” (sometimes called "Associate Professors from the Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies") to fill in for him. Typically, these hosts are well-known conservatives, and since Clear Channel acquired the network which syndicates the program, they have usually been Clear Channel radio hosts.
Recent substitute hosts
- Mark Davis
- Host of The Mark Davis Show, a talk show on WBAP in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Texas. First substitute hosted on March 4, 2008.
- Mark Belling
- Host of The Mark Belling Late Afternoon Show, a radio show on WISN in Milwaukee.
- Mark Steyn
- A Canadian journalist, columnist, and film and theatre critic. Since the removal of Jason Lewis from the substitute rotation in February 2009, Steyn's hosting has become more frequent.
- Dr. Walter E. Williams
- Economics professor, strong proponent of laissez-faire capitalism, and former chairman of the Economics Department at George Mason University in Virginia. He most often hosts on Fridays and is a fan favorite.
- Karl Rove
- Republican political consultant and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff to George W. Bush. First substituted August 9, 2010.
Former substitute hosts
By general rule, a person who currently has a national radio show on a network other than Premiere is not eligible to substitute host on the program. Premiere hosts are technically exempt from this (e.g. Matt Drudge and Jason Lewis), but are still used very rarely.
- Jed Babbin
- Editor-in-chief of the online version of Human Events. Has so far only sub-hosted one episode (July 17, 2008). He has more recently substituted for other shows, but not Limbaugh's.
- Glenn Beck
- In his first book, The Real America, he stated that "[a]fter doing a total of maybe 40 hours of talk radio, [he] was asked to host a national show." A photo showing him set up at Rush's studio follows the text. He has not hosted since.
- "B1" Bob Dornan
- Dornan was a substitute host several times starting in 1991 and during Bill Clinton's first term as president. He still substitutes for other shows, but not Limbaugh's.
- Matt Drudge
- Editor of the Drudge Report and (at the time) host of his own Sunday night Clear Channel talk program. He hosted only twice during the 2003 drug controversy. His recent retirement from his Sunday night show makes him eligible to guest host the show again, and Drudge has stated that he will do substitute hosting in the future, although he has not specifically cited Limbaugh's show.
- Bill Handel
- Host of The Bill Handel Show and Handel on the Law on KFI in Los Angeles, California. First substituted September 11, 2001. Limbaugh was unavailable, and with the infamous terrorist attacks having taken place just hours before air, Handel, who was already broadcasting on an impromptu syndication network at the moment, continued to host for another three hours in Limbaugh's place nationwide. He would go on to host at least twice more before having a falling-out with Limbaugh.
- Sean Hannity
- Host of Fox News' political debate show Hannity, but Hannity has not subbed since his radio show became nationally syndicated in 2001. The Golden EIB Microphone fell and hit the table at the WABC Radio studio the first time he guest hosted.
- Roger Hedgecock
- Former mayor of San Diego, California, and a talk radio host at Clear Channel talk station KOGO there. He was, as of 2007, the most used stand-in, and was also a fan favorite. The launch of Hedgecock's national show officially brings an end to Hedgecock's guest hosting for Limbaugh's show.
- Jason Lewis
- Host of Radio Free Minnesota, a radio show on KTCN-AM 1130 in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Lewis was a regular substitute host from August 2007 until February 2009, when Premiere gave Lewis his own national show.
- Chris Matthews
- News anchor and political commentator; substituted for Limbaugh on the program once during the late 1990s, and has never substituted again due to negative fan reaction because of his liberal political beliefs.
- Michael Medved
- Medved was a substitute host from 1993–1998, when he got his own nationally syndicated radio show.
- Mike Rosen
- Host of a radio show on KOA in Denver during the University of Colorado at Boulder controversy with former professor Ward Churchill.
- Paul W. Smith
- Talk show host from WJR in Detroit, Michigan. He first substituted as host of the show on December 13, 2005.
- Tony Snow
- Former White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush. He sometimes guest hosted during the 1990s before launching his own show on Fox News Talk in 2002. Snow died from colon cancer in July 2008.
- Tom Sullivan
- Talk show host on KFBK in Sacramento, California, who is also a financial advisor for Wachovia Securities, and the business news editor for KFBK. Limbaugh hosted his talk show locally on KFBK before going to New York City. He has not hosted in several years; the fact that he has taken his KFBK show national with Fox News Radio would prevent him from guest hosting on the show for the foreseeable future.
- Douglas Urbanski
- Theatre and film producer, frequent guest host on other shows, and "paying subscriber to Rush 24/7." Will be moving to his own show on Westwood One in early 2011.
In addition, a portion of the show on the day before each Thanksgiving is always set aside for a reading of the real story of Thanksgiving. During this segment, Limbaugh reads from a section of his book "See, I Told You So" regarding the first few years of the Mayflower crew in Plymouth Colony. Limbaugh asserts, based upon excerpts from the personal journal of William Bradford, that the pilgrims had attempted to set up an early form of communism in the colony but failed, and when the colony went to a free enterprise system the colony began to thrive. Limbaugh claims that the Indians were largely irrelevant to the situation. In addition, Limbaugh also reads from President George Washington's 1789 National Thanksgiving Proclamation.
In the event that Limbaugh cannot broadcast on the day before Thanksgiving (as occurred in 2006), a substitute host will read the excerpt.
Limbaugh uses his own on-air jargon, some of which he invented and some of which he popularized. Notable examples include:
- "Caller abortion" (Limbaugh's term for disconnecting an unwanted caller, accompanied by the sound effects of screams, a vacuum cleaner and a toilet flushing);
- "The Chi-Coms" (The Communist Chinese government);
- "Club Gitmo" (The U.S. prison for terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and a reference to Club Med/Club Fed);
- "Drive-by media" (The mainstream media, analogous to "drive-by shooting");
- "Environmentalist wacko" (A militant environmentalist activist, or group thereof (such as Greenpeace and ELF))
- "Feminazi" (a portmanteau of "feminist" and "Nazi" that Rush uses to describe a specific subset of radical feminists); The term is only applied to those who want to ensure that the maximum number of abortions takes place.
- "The four corners of deceit": (used in the context of discussing global warming: Government, universities, science, and state-media );
- "The Ninth Circus Court of Appeals" (The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, noted for its size and for its controversial decisions that are reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court more often than any other U.S. circuit court.)
- "Operation Chaos" (An effort promoted by Limbaugh to cause chaos in the Democratic Party primaries by encouraging Republican voters to either cross over or change parties in order to vote for whichever candidate is trailing, thus prolonging the primary process);
- "State-run media" (Limbaugh's more recent term for the Mainstream media, particularly since Barack Obama assumed office in January 2009)
Limbaugh also coins his own nicknames for various people in the news. Examples include:
- "Banking Queen" (Limbaugh's term referring to the Chairman of the House Finance and Banking Committee, Barney Frank);
- "Calypso Louie" (Limbaugh's nickname for Louis Farrakhan);
- "David 'Rodham' Gergen" (his nickname for David Gergen, Presidential adviser to Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton and now CNN commentator);
- "Dingy Harry" (nickname for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, analogous to Dirty Harry);
- "The Fruit of Kaboom Bomber" (Umar Mutallab, a Muslim Nigerian citizen who attempted to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear while aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, 2009; a parody of Fruit of the Loom brand clothing);
- "Lindsey Grahamnesty" (Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a portmanteu referencing Graham's support for the "Amnesty Bill");
- "The Loser" (Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis);
Throughout the years on The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh has established several nicknames with which he describes himself on the air. Others also ascribe nicknames or titles and credentials that Limbaugh then uses for entertainment or political satire. Often Limbaugh furthers his schtick of "making (himself) look good" by giving himself accolades with phrases praising his own performance. Examples include:
- "Maha-Rushi" (from Maharishi, a great sage);
- "Defender of Motherhood" (socially conservative stance, including opposition to abortion);
- "Having more fun than a human being should be allowed to have."
- "Serving humanity just by being here, and it doesn't matter where here is."
- "Half my brain tied behind my back, just to make it fair."
- "Talent on loan from God"
- "The views expressed by the host on this program documented to be almost always right 99.6% of the time."
- "On the cutting edge of societal evolution."
- "Titular Head of the Remains of the Republican Party";
- "Doctor of Democracy"
- "Your guiding light"
- "Don't doubt me!"
- "Meeting and surpassing audience expectations on a daily basis."
- "Harmless loveable little fuzzball and all around good/nice guy" (the nickname Limbaugh created for himself in response to the claim that he is the "most dangerous man in America").
This section details only events which were primarily about the show and not about Limbaugh himself; of course, because Limbaugh and his show are so intertwined, it can be difficult to separate the two. Please see Rush Limbaugh for events in Limbaugh's life which may have impacted the show.
In 1984, Limbaugh started as a regular talk show host on AM radio station KFBK in Sacramento, California, after several years of employment with the Kansas City Royals and in the music radio business, which included hosting a program at KMBZ in Kansas City. He succeeded Morton Downey, Jr. in the time slot.
Based on his work in Sacramento, Limbaugh was signed to a contract by EFM Media Management, headed by former ABC Radio executive Edward McLaughlin. Limbaugh became syndicated on August 1, 1988 through EFM and his show was drawing five million listeners after two years of syndication. Lacking a name for the network during the early years, he coined the name "EIB Network," which has remained associated with the show even after joining an actual radio network.
In 1997, EFM was acquired by Jacor Communications, a publicly traded company. Later that year, Jacor merged with Premiere Radio Networks. In 1999, Jacor merged with Clear Channel Communications. Currently, Clear Channel Communications through its Premiere Radio Networks subsidiary is the syndicator for Limbaugh's radio show.
Limbaugh and Clear Channel signed an eight-year, $400,000,000 contract extension in August 2008.
Dan's Bake Sale
The initial idea for Dan's Bake Sale was conceived on the The Rush Limbaugh Show in 1993. One caller, "Dan" from Fort Collins, Colorado, told Rush Limbaugh that he was photocopying a coworker's subscription to the Limbaugh Letter, Rush's monthly magazine that covers current events. The reason was that Dan's wife was not a fan of the show, and would not allocate the funds needed from the family budget to subscribe to the Letter. Limbaugh light-heartedly informed Dan that he disapproves his photocopying printed material, and offhandedly suggested that Dan organize a bake sale to raise funds for a subscription, spoofing then-recent bake sales to raise funds to reduce the national debt.
After Dan's call ended, the next caller to the show noted that he felt Rush was a bit harsh, and that he intended to attend Dan's Bake Sale. Rush again dismissed the topic. The next caller noted that he would like to attend Dan's Bake Sale. Rush repeatedly announced they would take no more "bake sale" calls but the gig was on and everyone calling in for the next week or so put in a plug for Dan's Bake Sale.
Limbaugh never seriously proposed a Bake Sale and neither did "Dan." But the landslide of support for Dan and his bake sale was on. Eventually, some 65,000 people from all over the United States and as far away as Australia showed up in Fort Collins for Dan's Bake Sale. Jay Leno even made jokes about it on The Tonight Show.
Limbaugh did attend, and had a brief presentation, giving Dan his first issue of his subscription.
Dan considered making it an annual event, but agreed with Limbaugh's assessment that the original just could never again be replicated.
Rush to Excellence Tours and Cruises
In the 1990s Limbaugh sponsored several Rush to Excellence Tours, or "concerts" featuring him at venues across the country, including the Masonic Temple in Detroit, Michigan. He also sponsored Rush to Excellence Cruises on ocean liners.
Armed Forces Radio controversy
On May 26, 2004, the article "Rush's Forced Conscripts" appeared on the online news and opinion magazine Salon.com. The article discussed the controversy surrounding the fact that American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS), (which describes itself as "[providing] stateside radio and television programming, 'a touch of home', to U.S. service men and women, DoD civilians, and their families serving outside the continental United States"), carries the first hour of Limbaugh's show. Melvin Russell, director of AFRTS, defended Limbaugh's presence, by pointing to Limbaugh's high ratings in the US: "We look at the most popular shows broadcast here in the United States and try to mirror that. [Limbaugh] is the No. 1 talk show host in the States; there's no question about that. Because of that we provide him on our service." In addition, AFRTS produced a ballot of radio and television shows asking troops worldwide, "Who do you want that we don't at present carry?" The Rush Limbaugh Show was not listed on the ballot, but won the vote as a write-in by the troops. A later poll by Lund Media Research found that a majority of soldiers preferred that talk show programs be replaced by hip hop and rap stations, bringing into question the future of content such as the Rush Limbaugh Show on AFRTS.
Critics have pointed out that other programs, such as the eight-million listener per week Howard Stern Show, are absent from AFRTS. (This statement was made before Stern left for satellite radio in 2006.) Other claims—for example, that there is no political counterbalance to Limbaugh on AFRTS—have been rebutted by Byron York, a columnist for the predominantly conservative National Review: "American military men and women abroad have access, for example, to the talk show of liberal host Diane Rehm ... Jim Hightower and CBS News anchorman Dan Rather." Another possible political counterbalance to Limbaugh is Harry Shearer, who emphasizes his presence on AFRTS at the end of every episode of his satirical Le Show.
On June 14, 2004, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced an amendment to the 2004 Defense Authorization bill that called for AFRTS to fulfill its stated goal of providing political balance in its news and public affairs programming. The amendment passed unanimously in the Senate. Limbaugh responded by calling the move "censorship". On his June 17 radio show, he commented that: "This is a United States senator [Tom Harkin] amending the Defense appropriations bill with the intent being to get this program—only one hour of which is carried on Armed Forces Radio—stripped from that network." The amendment never became law. As of 2005, the first hour of Limbaugh's show is still on AFRTS. Limbaugh visited US forces in Afghanistan in 2005.
This treatment of The Rush Limbaugh Show proved to set a precedent for Congressional debate on AFRTS content. The Ed Schultz show, a liberal talk radio show with over one million listeners a week, was originally scheduled to be broadcast on AFRTS on October 17, 2005. It was subsequently pulled, with some alleging political motivation, which was later debated in Congress. A few weeks after this debate, AFRTS added Schultz to the line-up along with other talk show hosts: Al Franken and Sean Hannity.
Michael J. Fox controversy
On the October 23, 2006, broadcast of his radio show, Limbaugh imitated on the "DittoCam" (the webcam for Web site subscribers to see him on the air) the physical symptoms actor Michael J. Fox showed in a television commercial raising awareness of Parkinson's disease. He said "[Fox] is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act ... This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting." Three days later, on October 26, Limbaugh denied that he was ridiculing Fox, stating that, after seeing Fox without his medication, "I [was] stunned because I [had] never seen Michael J. Fox that way." Limbaugh said that he was "mov[ing] around like [Fox] does, but never once was I making fun of him. I was trying to illustrate for my audience watching on the Dittocam what I had seen."
However, Fox has admitted that he has, at times, deliberately not taken his medication—such as in an appearance the U.S. Senate—in order, he claimed, to demonstrate the effects of Parkinson's disease. During Limbaugh's October 26, 2006 show he said, in a discussion with a caller, "[I]n his own book [Lucky Man: A Memoir], he has written in chapter eight that before Senate committees he goes off the medication so that people can see the ravages of the disease."
"Barack the Magic Negro" parody
On March 19, 2007, Limbaugh referred to a Los Angeles Times editorial by David Ehrenstein which claimed that Barack Obama was filling the role of the "magic negro", and that this explained his appeal to voters. Limbaugh then later played a song by Paul Shanklin entitled "Barack the Magic Negro," sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon".
Phony soldiers controversy
During the September 26, 2007, broadcast of Limbaugh's radio show, Limbaugh used the term "phony soldiers" when speaking to a caller who had brought up soldiers who criticize the war. The caller, saying he was currently serving in the Army for 14 years, said, "They never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media." Limbaugh interrupted, "The phony soldiers." The caller continued, "The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country." Several minutes later, after the caller had hung up, Limbaugh read from the AP story describing the story of Jesse Macbeth. Macbeth joined the Army but did not complete basic training, yet claimed in alternative media interviews that he and his unit routinely committed war crimes in Iraq. On June 7, 2007, Macbeth pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and was sentenced to five months in jail and three years probation. Media Matters noted Limbaugh's use of the term "phony soldiers" in an article on their website. The article suggested that Limbaugh was saying that all soldiers who disagree with the Iraq War were "phony soldiers", and was discussed in speeches by Presidential candidates John Edwards and Chris Dodd. Limbaugh said that, when he had made the comment about "phony soldiers", he had been speaking only of Macbeth and others like him who claim to be soldiers and are not, and that "Media Matters takes things out of context all the time". Media Matters pointed out that Limbaugh did not mention Jesse Macbeth on his September 26 radio show until one minute and 50 seconds after talking about "phony soldiers" with the caller." The unedited transcript of the radio show in question can be found on Rush Limbaugh's website.
Comments on Obama's policies
On January 16, 2009, Limbaugh read a letter on his radio show that he had received a request from a national print outlet: ... "If you could send us 400 words on your hope for the Obama presidency, we need it by Monday night, that would be ideal." He responded, "I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails." He explained that he didn't want "absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work." He continued, "What is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what's gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here."
Limbaugh later said that he wants to see Obama's policies fail, not the man himself. Speaking of Obama, Limbaugh said, "He's my president, he's a human being, and his ideas and policies are what count for me."
"Leader of Republican Party"
Limbaugh was the keynote speaker at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference; his speech attracted widespread attention. On March 1, 2009, CBS's Face the Nation asked White House Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel who he thought represented the Republican Party; Emanuel named Limbaugh as his choice.
In remarks aired by CNN on March 1, 2009, Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele said that Limbaugh is "an entertainer" and his rhetoric at the convention was "incendiary" and "ugly". Steele later telephoned Limbaugh and apologized. Limbaugh stated he would not want to run the RNC in its "sad sack state".
On March 2, 2009, Limbaugh responded to Emanuel, and on March 4, 2009, Limbaugh challenged President Barack Obama to a debate on his radio program. Limbaugh offered to pay all of Obama's expenses including travel, food, lodging, and security. On March 6, Limbaugh told Byron York of the Washington Examiner that his ratings for his radio show had significantly increased since he had begun criticizing the Obama Administration.
In late February 2008, Limbaugh announced "Operation Chaos," a political call to action with the initial plan to have voters of the Republican Party temporarily cross over to vote in the Democratic primary and vote for Hillary Clinton, who at the time was in the midst of losing eleven straight primary contests to Barack Obama. Limbaugh has also cited the open primary process in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, which allowed independent voters to cross over into the Republican primaries to choose John McCain over more conservative candidates (such as Fred Thompson), as an inspiration.
At the point in which Limbaugh announced his gambit, Obama had seemed on the verge of clinching the Democratic nomination. However, Clinton subsequently won the Ohio primary and the Texas primary (while losing the Texas caucus and the overall delegate split) with large pluralities from rural counties; thus reemerging as a competitive opponent in the race. Statistics released by the state of Texas show Hillary Clinton won the primary due to a large number of Republicans crossing over to vote for her. Whether these voters were Operation Chaos Operatives or simply Republicans who preferred Clinton is impossible to tell.
On April 29, 2008 Limbaugh declared an "operational pause" in Operation Chaos, saying that Obama's defeat in the 2008 Pennsylvania primary and fallout from statements from Obama ally Reverend Jeremiah Wright could have damaged his campaign to the extent superdelegates would shift to Clinton's side. Determining Obama had weathered that storm, Limbaugh lifted the pause the next day and renewed his call for his listeners to vote for Clinton in the upcoming Indiana and North Carolina primaries. Obama won the North Carolina primary but was narrowly defeated in Indiana, where Clinton won decisively in rural counties that normally vote Republican in presidential elections.
The overall legality of Operation Chaos in several states, including Ohio and Indiana, is disputed. In Ohio, new party members are required to sign a pledge of loyalty to the party they join for a minimum of one year, making participation in "Operation Chaos" a possible felony (election falsification) in that state. However, the state attorney general there refused to press charges on anyone, saying that it would be nearly impossible to enforce because of difficulties proving voter intent and concerns that a loyalty oath would violate freedom of association.
Limbaugh did not endorse a candidate for most of the 2008 primaries; he spoke highly of Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney, but was vocally against the candidacies of John McCain and Mike Huckabee. After Giuliani and Thompson quit the race, Limbaugh, among many other talk show hosts, put his support behind Romney. It was after Romney's departure from the race on February 5 that Limbaugh began aggressively pushing the Operation Chaos plan.
Limbaugh revived Operation Chaos with a twist in late October 2010 by urging Democratic voters who felt that Hillary Clinton was "screwed out of the nomination" to stay home and not vote. This has been coined by Limbaugh as Operation Reverse Chaos.
In October 2010, a conservative website announced the commencement of an Operation Chaos-inspired plan, "Operation Alaska Chaos," to counter Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign.
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