Rush Limbaugh, the gasbag of fascism, is dead. This often drug-addled hypocrite dedicated his entire life to destroying American democracy, to promoting the power of the rich and the racist, to dividing Americans against each other, to ginning up hate and violence. Limbaugh is truly one of the worst Americans to ever pollute this nation.
Born in 1951, Limbaugh came from an elite Missouri Republican family, one replete with leading state-level legal figures and multiple federal judges. Rush was….much less bright than the rest of his family. He was a horrible student, briefly attending Southeast Missouri State University before dropping out well before graduation. Instead, he went on the radio. This he liked. He had a good voice for it and was a DJ on a top 40 station in Pennsylvania in the early 70s. He was fired after a few years and moved back home to Missouri. He eventually ended up in Kansas City and got back on the radio as a DJ, but this didn’t work out either. He was basically a failure as he neared 30. He got a sales job with the Kansas City Royals and that led him into a higher ranking sales job with the team. He did this for awhile and then floated back to the radio, working in relative obscurity.
What made Rush Limbaugh the era-changing blowhard he became was Ronald Reagan’s Federal Communications Commission repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. See, it used to be that if networks had on political commentary, they had to give equal time to other political viewpoints. This did not serve the desire of the rich to flood the airwaves with right-wing propaganda. So once those oligarchs and wannabe fascists got their president in the White House, they went after it. The country has never recovered from this horrible event since, as we’ve been flooded with ever more extreme right-wing propaganda that has moved us increasingly down the road toward fascism, culminating with the election on Donald Trump.
Limbaugh was perhaps the first major beneficiary of the Fairness Doctrine’s repeal and he holds more responsibility than anyone else except perhaps Rupert Murdoch in what the hellscape this nation has become. He was doing a show in Sacramento at this time, but soon after was picked up by WABC in New York. It got a huge boost when he became a huge proponent of the 1991 Gulf War, particularly with his hatred of anti-war protestors. It was about this time that I became aware of his existence, largely through the right-wing father of a friend at the time when I was finishing high school. Limbaugh briefly had a truly horrible television show that had six episodes in 1993 and 1994. I actually saw some of that when it was first aired. It is almost unbelievably awful, but the only way to really describe this is for you to see it for yourself.
The television show may not have lasted long, but his radio show sure did. Because white men are basically terrible, Limbaugh’s garbage show became the most popular radio show in the nation, feeding two generations of white people lies and propaganda about race, about women, about liberals, about the Democratic Party, about immigrants, about guns, and about basically every other issue in the nation. And whites ate this up, as it fed their insatiable desire for resentment against the loss of their status, real or perceived. The hatred that sprung out of this man had no boundaries. He was a disgusting slug of a man who despised anyone and everyone who did not share his racism and misogyny.
It goes without saying that Limbaugh hated women, possibly more than any other group in the country. He popularized the term “feminazi,” coined by Tom Hazlett, a professor who was long in that center of true intellectual fertility—the Koch bought economics department at George Mason University. He thought feminism was only about abortion, which reminds me that I wish it had been more readily available in Missouri in 1951. Limbaugh not surprisingly also did not believe in sexual consent. In 2014, he gave a speech at Ohio State University, long a bastion of right-wing higher education, that no really means yes. And let us not forget his atrocious behavior toward Sandra Fluke. After Fluke testified before Congress that religious employers should be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception, Limbaugh repeatedly called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” on his show. He said she was “a woman who is happily presenting herself as an immoral, baseless, no-purpose-to-her-life woman.” I guess what this is supposed to mean is that a woman with real purpose in life is serving the needs of a man like Rush Limbaugh whenever he feels like it. Fluke went from a rising young policy expert and women’s health activist to the bête noire of the right, which let me tell you is not a fun place to be. It was a life changing experience for her. For Limbaugh, attacking a woman was a Tuesday.
To me, the funniest part of Limbaugh’s life was his love of people dying of drug overdoses and demand to imprison drug addicts while actually being an addict himself. Of course he was racist in all of this, playing up the violence of African-Americans because of crack in the 1980s, which to be fair plenty of Democrats were doing too, and defending mandatory minimum sentencing laws. When confronted with racial disparities in drug crimes, he argued that whites should be charged with greater crimes for their drug use but certainly wasn’t ever going to say that Blacks should be charged with lower crimes or just let go to live their lives. A habitual smoker, Limbaugh was furious that his drug of choice moved toward criminalization while marijuana moved toward legalization. In fact, he continued to deny that tobacco even had negative health consequences, once saying, “There is no conclusive proof that nicotine’s addictive… And the same thing with cigarettes causing emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease.” Oh OK. How’d that one work out for you dude?
But of course tobacco was not Limbaugh’s only favorite drug. Here is a quote from Limbaugh’s show on October 5, 1995:
“There’s nothing good about drug use. We know it. It destroys individuals. It destroys families. Drug use destroys societies. Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.”
And when Kurt Cobain committed suicide, Limbaugh said, “Kurt Cobain was, ladies and gentlemen, a worthless shred of human debris.”
In October 2003, it came out that Limbaugh was under federal investigation for illegally obtaining prescription drugs. He was engaging in the common act of the addict—going to many different doctors to get as many prescriptions as possible so he could get high as a kite. He was charged for the crime. In Florida, where Limbaugh lived (of course he lived in Florida), doctor shopping is a crime that can lead to five years in prison. Do you think Rush lived up to his words and decided to be sent up? Ha ha ha, of course not. He claimed he was an addict, agreed to treatment, and the charges were dropped. Now, you’d like to think that someone like Limbaugh would learn a lesson from his rank hypocrisy. But you know he did not and came back as big a scumbag as ever.
Speaking of 2003, it wasn’t the drugs that made Limbaugh a blowhorn to invade and kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and a few thousand Americans based on the lies of the Bush administration. He just loved seeing people die, so long as they were brown and he didn’t have to be anywhere near the danger. When the horrific torture scenes at Abu Ghraib came out, Rush had a ball with it. It’s just kids being kids! “This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation. And we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it, and we’re going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I’m talking about people having a good time, these people—you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?” I mean, if we want to use this to eliminate Skulls and Bones, I guess that’s a side benefit, but obviously the inhuman behavior of the military and the government in the War on Terror and in Iraq was something that Limbaugh openly facilitated through his enormous audience. These people didn’t care if some Iraqis were tortured to the death? They were BROWN AND MUSLIMS after all. Hardly even people. It’s a real wonder that just over a decade later, these same people—Limbaugh and his increasingly deranged listeners—would see Donald Trump into the White House.
Limbaugh was at the forefront of the corporate-funded attempt to dispute the reality of climate change. Let’s just look at one example, from 2019. When Mo Brooks, possibly the dumbest member of Congress, lit into climate scientists at a congressional hearing (imagine being a scientist and being lectured by Mo Brooks or any number of other lunatics), Limbaugh blabbered, “This is not a spoof, this is not a joke, it’s brilliant. It is one of the best attempts at knocking sense into people I have ever heard. It is one of the best attempts at persuasion I have seen.”
Limbaugh went on to a standard trick of the anti-science crowd, which is to sound sciency without having a shred of an idea what he is talking about or just outright lying for ideological purposes. In this case, it was both. Lots of talk about rising sea levels and changing nature just for the purpose of telling his audience that they had nothing to apologize for and that these scientists were anti-American subversives seeking to destroy our way of life, just like Democrats.
That anyone would listen to this scumbag was bad enough. But like the rest of the rise of fascism in American, the mainstream media always gave Limbaugh a level of respectability. Perhaps the worst incident here is when in 2003 ESPN decided it would be a great idea to bring Limbaugh in to comment on the NFL. Who would guess that when you allow a racist to speak, he immediately starts saying racist things, in this case his infamous Donovan McNabb comment:
“I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go. I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve. The defense carried this team.”
Well, nothing against the Eagles defense, but this openly racist statement led to Limbaugh’s stint at ESPN ending almost immediately. However, it really didn’t have any long term effect on his career because this is exactly what whites wanted to hear about McNabb or any black quarterback. It’s not as if Limbaugh, who of course loved to watch Black men play sports but had little other interest in them, never changed in discussing them. Take Colin Kaepernick. You can imagine how much Limbaugh hated a Black man who stood up for himself and his people against police violence. When some caller suggested that Kaepernick might be involved in shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte and that Black Lives Matter was destroying America before being cut off for using racial epithets, Limbaugh exploded:
“Exactly right! You know, they do. They look the other way. They tell us we need to understand the rage and understand this or that and the other thing. It’s a good point. Since you bring that up, I got a sound bite from Obama here that may illustrate what you’re talking about. Grab sound bite number one. [a sound segment plays of President Obama calling for peace]. Look, we need to be careful with this Kaepernick situation and accusations. But you have a point. Liberalism is trying to rot America from the inside out. And I gotta tell you, I don’t know where he was during the Tulsa and Charlotte shootings and neither does anyone else. We deserve to know the truth. But the thing that concerns me is, where was he during the riots? No one can answer that.”
What one can answer is whether there is a circle of Hell too intensely painful and tortuous for Rush Limbaugh.
We thought briefly in 2001 that we might be saved more of Limbaugh’s blather when he started losing his hearing, but a cochlear implant allowed him to continue. While deafness is not something I really wish on anyone, I do wish that Limbaugh’s body had silenced that voice twenty years ago. Unfortunately, cochlear implant surgery was successful on him and two additional decades of fascist radio followed.
Limbaugh continued to be a far greater cancer on American society than the cancer that eventually killed him in the end. In order to protect his beloved Herr Trump, the kind of Republican he had fought for decades to elect, he ended by doing things such as lying about coronavirus, calling it “the common cold” and saying that it is “being weaponized” against Trump. This is ironic of course because Limbaugh was at the forefront of cynically using Ebola in the run-up to the 2014 midterms as a way to demonize Obama and Africa, creating it is a simulacrum of the greater fears of white people about blacks taking over their country. For example, Limbaugh claimed that Obama wanted whites to get Ebola as payback over slavery. If you want to read an entire transcript of how Limbaugh ranted and raved about Ebola through October 2014, here’s a good example, with the mixture of conspiracy theories, lying, fearmongering, and cynicism on display for all to see. All of this proved quite effective in ratcheting up white turnout for the midterms and costing the Democrats control over the Senate, which itself led to Mitch McConnell not allowing Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and the theft of the seat as part of the broader program to steal democracy away from the American people.
And then of course Limbaugh just loved Trump. This was Limbaugh’s life mission come to fruition. Rush got behind Trump real early. In January 2016, as Jeb Bush floundered and the business elite of the party worried, Limbaugh stated that Republican elites were only committed to win if real conservatives were not in control of the party. And for Limbaugh, that real conservative was Donald Trump. The fact that the Bushes and Romneys of the world said Trump was not a conservative was in Limbaugh’s mind a plus because they were far too moderate for his tastes, even as he has been a big supporter of George W. Bush back in the day. Limbaugh openly identified with Trump on a personal level that he could not with the old guard elites. Like Trump, Limbaugh was a stupid gasbag whose personal behavior never rose above the reprehensible, who was utterly unable to show empathy at any point, who laughed at people’s suffering, and who was constitutionally incapable of telling the truth. What could unite these men more than this? So of course it made sense that Trump would be sure to “honor” Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the State of the Union address in 2020. Scumbag recognizes scumbag. To quote Jackson Katz:
Consider the many similarities between the two men. They’re both aging heterosexuals of German-American descent born five years apart. They both grew up as the sons of authoritarian, deeply patriarchal and professionally successful fathers. They both have reaped rich rewards in life despite — or is it because of? — levels of narcissistic toxicity that are notable even in the puffed-up precincts of real estate and conservative media. They are both frequent supporters of aggressive military action, including torture, but each deftly avoided military service during the Vietnam War era: Trump avoided serving through a series of deferments common to members of his social class, Limbaugh through a draft eligibility reclassification stemming either from an anal cyst or an old knee injury.
They are also both members of the one percent who inhabit worlds of almost unimaginable wealth and privilege, living in luxury dwellings in New York City and mansions in south Florida and flying around the world on private jets. They both love to golf. They both repeatedly make misogynistic comments and refuse to apologize for them. They both have had multiple wives. And they are both fake populists who have used aggressive rhetoric and bullying to claw their way to cultural and political influence.
But Trump’s climb was made easier, arguably, by the path already blazed by the pioneering Limbaugh. For almost three decades, Limbaugh fashioned himself a champion of the people, a man with the guts to defend average (white) folks from an ongoing assault waged by liberal politicians and cultural elites. Many progressives see Limbaugh as a pompous and bigoted blowhard, but Limbaugh is revered on the right as a protector of the little white guy (and gal) who have been persecuted for a generation by multiculturalism, feminism, the LGBTQ movement and myriad other cultural transformations. Where progressives see a bloated bully who routinely targets individuals and groups with less power, his fans see a man armed only with a very large microphone and the confidence and courage to shovel sand against the rising tides of social change.
But it’s not as if it was only Trump that loved Limbaugh. As early as 1982, Ronald Reagan wrote him thanking him “for all you’re doing to promote Republican and conservative principles … [and] you have become the Number One voice for conservatism in our Country.” In 1994, House Republicans made Limbaugh an honorary member of their rising fascist caucus. CPAC gave him their “Defender of the Constitution Award” in 2009, a misnamed award if ever there was one. The Bushes loved him. Barbara visited Rush at home on at least one occasion. Rush was welcome in the White House pretty much any time he wanted to be under either Bush. Trump and Limbaugh may be peas in a racist, misogynist pod, but Limbaugh is also a mainstream Republican and has been for decades. Maybe he helped change what a mainstream Republican meant, but he gave Republicans—both elite and base—exactly what they wanted. And if there is a Hell below, Rush is certainly going to go.
To conclude a post about what an utter scumbag Rush was, somehow, Limbaugh managed to use COVID-19 as a way to discuss how millennials are a bunch of irresponsible wimps as compared to….the Donner Party.
“One of the stories in this book that is a favorite of mine is a diary account of a little girl from the Donner party. Remember the Donner party going west, crossing the Sierra Nevada? People die on this wagon train trip. There’s a story about cannibalism, possibly there was on the trip. People died in the snow—husbands died, wives died, mothers died, children were separated. She writes in her diary, little Lizzie Donner, and says it was a hard winter. That’s her comment. I mean, tough, resilient. Could we withstand that a hundred years later?”
Even for Rushbo, this is insane. The Donner Party? Yes, the Donner Party. These kids today, they won’t even eat each other so that Rush can travel to the Caribbean for drugs and women and cigars.
I wish he could die a thousand deaths, each more painful than the last.