Rush Limbaugh

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Rush Hudson Limbaugh III (born January 12, 1951 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri) is a popular American entertainer and radio talk show host. A commentator with a conservative point of view, he discusses politics and current events on his show, The Rush Limbaugh Show. For over 17 years (and continuing as of 2005), Rush Limbaugh has been the most listened-to radio talk show host in the United States and the world, and has an audience estimated between 13 and 20 million listeners weekly according to the Arbitron ratings surveys. [1][2]

The Rush Limbaugh Show has been largely responsible for the shift in AM broadcasting to a news-talk format after an audience decline in the 1970s. Rush Limbaugh is as much a political symbol as he is a broadcaster, comedian, and political satirist.

Limbaugh is the 1992, 1995, 2000, and 2005 recipient of the Marconi Radio Award for Syndicated Radio Personality of the Year, given by the National Association of Broadcasters. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1993.

Private life

Limbaugh began his career in radio as a teenager in the late 1960s in his hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, using the name Rusty Sharpe. His father, a judge whose wealth and status gave him considerable influence in southeastern Missouri, had once owned the radio station where Limbaugh started his career. Limbaugh always spoke with great warmth and affection for his parents. He dedicated his first book to them writing "your love and kindess made me the terrific guy I am." Limbaugh's father had wanted Rush to be a lawyer, and was initially skeptical about his son's choice of a career. However, he supported his son in his endeavors. During the first Gulf War, Limbaugh's father watched him do a commentary and was impressed by his delivery. He called him and asked "Where did you learn to talk like that?" Rush said simply "I learned it from you, Dad." Young Rush was also very close to his grandfather who was a prominent attorney, practiced law well into his nineties, and lived to the age of 103.

He attended Southeast Missouri State University for one year where, ironically, he flunked two speech courses, then dropped out. This would have normally made him eligible for the draft, but he was classified 1-Y due to an undisclosed medical problem [3]. Limbaugh stated that he was not drafted because a physical found that he had an "inoperable pilonidal cyst" and "a football knee from high school" [Colford, pp 14 – 20], though critics suggest that his influential father pulled strings to arrange his passing-over.

On Friday, June 11 2004, Limbaugh announced that he was separating from his third wife, Marta Fitzgerald Limbaugh, after ten years of marriage. Limbaugh indicated that he initiated the divorce. They had originally met via the online service Compuserve. Limbaugh is presently dating CNN television personality Daryn Kagan.

Public life


After dropping out of Southeast Missouri State University and getting his draft waiver, he moved to Pittsburgh and became a Top 40 music radio disc jockey on station WIXZ.

In October 1972, he moved to KQV, using the name Jeff Christie. It was in Pittsburgh that many of Limbaugh's trademarks developed, such as a claim to use a "golden microphone" (which eventually became true in the 1990s on The Rush Limbaugh Show.)

After several years in music radio, Limbaugh took a break from radio and accepted a position as director of promotions with the Kansas City Royals baseball team.


In 1984, Limbaugh returned to radio as a talk show host at KFBK in Sacramento, California.

In 1987, the Federal Communications Commission repealed the Fairness Doctrine, thus freeing radio stations to air opinion journalism without having to provide air time to opposing points of view. This emboldened many radio stations to modify their line-ups in order to attract those wishing to hear varied points of view.

After achieving success in Sacramento and drawing the attention of Edward F. McLaughlin, a former president of ABC Radio, Limbaugh moved to New York City in 1988, entering the nation's largest radio market on talk-format station WABC-AM. He did a one hour local program on WABC. For a while on WABC he was preceded by commedienne Joy Behar and followed by Lynn Samuels, creating a six-hour block of politically focused radio.

Beginning on August 1, 1988 Limbaugh was syndicated nationally though Premiere Radio Networks, owned by the publicly-traded Clear Channel Communications. (Limbaugh refers on-air to the "Excellence In Broadcasting Network", or "E-I-B"; however, this is merely an on-air signature, as there is no organization with that name.)


The program rapidly grew in popularity and moved to stations with larger audiences.

Rush Limbaugh giving a "thumbs up" in the early 1990s.

Guest host

Limbaugh's first television exposure came with a 1990 guest host stint on Pat Sajak's late-night program on CBS. After a confrontation with ACT UP gay activists in the studio audience, protesting what they perceived as anti-gay hate speech (such as "AIDS updates" that some suggested celebrated the deaths of people with AIDS), the studio audience was removed so that Limbaugh could finish the show.


In 1992, Limbaugh published his first book, The Way Things Ought To Be, followed by See, I Told You So in 1993.

Subject of books

The first book about Limbaugh appears to be the 1993 Rush Limbaugh and the Bible by Daniel J. Evearitt. One reviewer said "Dr. Evearitt is very uncomfortable sharing the label 'conservative' with Limbaugh." and notes that it contains chapters like "No Wife, No Kids -- Is This Man an Expert on Family Values?" [4]

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) released a report on October 17, 1994 listing forty-three errors Limbaugh allegedly made during various shows. Limbaugh responded to about half of the original claims; FAIR then rebutted his rebuttal. And the rebutted rebuttals continued. For the full text of the original, the rebuttal and the rebuttal of the rebuttal, see [5], [6], and [7], respectively. Critics such as L. Brent Bozell's Media Research Center have charged that FAIR is liberal and partisan [8].

In 1995, FAIR published an entire book, The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error: Over 100 Outrageously False and Foolish Statements from America's Most Powerful Radio and TV Commentator, alleging errors by Limbaugh. His defenders claim that because Limbaugh talks unscripted for fifteen broadcast hours a week the number of alleged factual errors is, under the circumstances, very small.

Television show

Limbaugh's second attempt at television was a syndicated half-hour show running from 1992 through 1996, with Roger Ailes as executive producer. The television show discussed many of the same topics as his radio show, and was taped in front of a live audience, which he facetiously claimed had to pass an intelligence test in order to be admitted. Reportedly, Limbaugh ended the show due to disappointment that it was aired too late in the evening in many markets (in many places it was aired at 1:30 AM or even later) and because of the immense amount of time required to prepare for the show.

Al Franken and weight

In 1996, Al Franken released a book and CD titled Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations which, among other political humor from a liberal perspective, included harsh criticism of Limbaugh and his allegedly meager fact-finding efforts. The "Fat" portion of the title of the book was a jibe at Limbaugh's weight and in-kind payback for his alleged rudeness on the radio and TV during the time in which the book was first published. Limbaugh's personal attacks during this period include a reference on his TV show to 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton as "The White House Dog" and his mocking of Clinton-era Labor Secretary Robert Reich because he is short.

Sometime after the publication of "Big Fat Idiot," Limbaugh began to go on various diets. On November 20, 1999, he appeared on CNBC's Tim Russert show describing his weight loss: "I got to 325 at my highest. And ...I lost the weight in two stages, and I'm now at 215. So that's--yeah, 110 pounds." He has said that his secret to weight loss is pasta.



By September 2001, Limbaugh's listeners had noted changes in his voice and diction, changes that Limbaugh initially did not acknowledge. However, on October 8, 2001, Limbaugh admitted that the changes in his voice were due to complete deafness in his left ear and substantial hearing loss in his right ear. He also revealed that his radio staff was aiding him in continuing to accept calls on his show, despite his rapidly progressing hearing loss, by setting up a system where he could appear to hear his callers. The system worked remarkably well, but did not convince all listeners, some of whom noted a long delay between a caller ending his point and Limbaugh responding, and occasionally speaking over a caller.

In December 2001, Limbaugh underwent cochlear implant surgery, which restored a measure of hearing in his left ear, and his voice and enunciation improved.

According to Limbaugh's doctors, Limbaugh's deafness was caused by an autoimmune disease. When Limbaugh revealed [9] in 2003 that he was addicted to pain killers, some doctors drew a link between his deafness and his drug addiction that resulted from the medication Limbaugh was prescribed to alleviate his chronic back-pain. [10][11] Nonetheless, no linkage between hydrocodone and deafness has been scientifically substantiated. The House Ear Clinic, who performed Limbaugh's cochlear implant surgery, issued a public statement warning of the possible correlation between habitual use of pain killers containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and permanent hearing loss.

ESPN commentator

Photo from

On July 14, 2003, ESPN announced that Limbaugh would be joining ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown show as a weekly commentator when it premiered on September 7. Limbaugh would provide the "voice of the fan" and was supposed to spark debate on the show. [12]

Limbaugh certainly succeeded at the latter. On September 28, Limbaugh commented about Donovan McNabb, the Black quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles:

"Sorry to say this, 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. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team." [13]

McNabb was the highest paid NFL player in history at the time, and defenders of Limbaugh's comments point out that McNabb had the worst start of his career in the 2003 season and was the NFL's lowest-rated starting quarterback. McNabb's defenders say that to his credit, McNabb was a runner-up for the year 2000 league Most Valuable Player, a member of three Pro Bowl teams, and led his team to two straight NFC championship games. McNabb had suffered a broken leg during the 2002 season, and had been slow to recover.

The Reverend Al Sharpton, a Democratic Party candidate for President, encouraged Limbaugh's firing from ESPN, threatening a boycott of all Disney companies, including ABC, Disneyland, and Walt Disney World. Presidential candidates Howard Dean and Wesley Clark joined in the criticism, as did the NAACP. Limbaugh responded by saying that he must have been right; otherwise, the comments would not have sparked such outrage.

On October 1, 2003, Limbaugh resigned from ESPN with the statement:

"My comments this past Sunday were directed at the media and were not racially motivated. I offered an opinion. This opinion has caused discomfort to the crew, which I regret. I love NFL Sunday Countdown and do not want to be a distraction to the great work done by all who work on it. Therefore, I have decided to resign. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the show and wish all the best to those who make it happen."

Limbaugh insisted that his comments were aimed at other members of the media, and not at McNabb or African Americans. It has been suggested that Limbaugh's fellow commentators on the program, some of whom were African-American former football players, may have played a role behind the scenes in ending Limbaugh's career as a football commentator. After Limbaugh's resignation, Sunday NFL Countdown co-host Tom Jackson, who is African American, said on the air[14]:

"Let me just say that it was not our decision to have Rush Limbaugh on this show. I've seen replay after replay of Limbaugh's comments with my face attached as well as that of my colleagues, comments which made us very uncomfortable at the time, although the depth and the insensitive nature of which weren't fully felt until it seemed too late to reply. He was brought here to talk football, and he broke that trust. Rush told us the social commentary for which he is so well known would not cross over to our show, and instead, he would represent the viewpoint of the intelligent, passionate fan. Rush Limbaugh was not a fit for NFL Countdown."

Painkiller addiction

In early October 2003 and in the same week as the McNabb controversy, the National Enquirer reported that Limbaugh was being investigated for illegally buying prescription drugs. Limbaugh's former housekeeper, under investigation for drug dealing, alleged that Limbaugh was addicted to prescription opioid painkillers such as OxyContin and Lorcet (a combination of Paracetamol (acetaminophen) and hydrocodone) and that he went through detox twice. Other news outlets quickly confirmed the beginnings of an investigation. The highly addictive painkillers function similarly to and belong to the same drug group as morphine and heroin, or a stronger form of codeine.

On October 10, 2003, Limbaugh admitted to listeners on his radio show that he was addicted to prescription painkillers and stated that he would enter inpatient treatment for 30 days, immediately following the broadcast. He did not specifically mention which pain medications he was addicted to. Speaking about his behavior, Limbaugh went on to say:

"I am not making any excuses. You know, over the years, athletes and celebrities have emerged from treatment centers to great fanfare and praise for conquering great demons. They are said to be great role models and examples for others. Well, I am no role model. I refuse to let anyone think I am doing something great here, when there are people you never hear about, who face long odds and never resort to such escapes."
"They are the role models. I am no victim and do not portray myself as such. I take full responsibility for my problem. At the present time the authorities are conducting an investigation, and I have been asked to limit my public comments until this investigation is complete." [15]

Following Limbaugh's admission of drug addiction, his detractors reviewed prior statements by him about drug addicts as examples of hypocrisy. Several statements from the 1990s were found, in particular, 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 in 1998:

"What is missing in the drug fight is legalization. If we want to go after drugs with the same fervor and intensity with which we go after cigarettes, let's legalize drugs. Legalize the manufacture of drugs. License the Cali cartel. Make them taxpayers, and then sue them. Sue them left and right, and then get control of the price, and generate tax revenue from it. Raise the price sky high, and fund all sorts of other wonderful social programs."

An article in the January 12, 2004 issue of Human Events (The National Conservative Weekly) presented its reaction to the media attention of Limbaugh's addiction, calling it a 'Network War' against Limbaugh. It charged network anchors with engaging in exaggerated and inflammatory rhetoric by implying Limbaugh was involved in "drug sales" or "drug gangs." Timeline

An investigation into alleged "doctor shopping" is ongoing in the state of Florida. Limbaugh's attorney Roy Black alleges that the chief county prosecutor investigating Limbaugh, an elected Democrat, is politically motivated. The ACLU, an organization often lambasted by Limbaugh, has come to his defense, claiming that the district attorney violated Limbaugh's constitutional rights by "fishing" through his private medical records. This investigation has, as of 2005, brought no criminal charges.

Limbaugh states his addiction to painkillers came as a result of long-term back pain he had been suffering for several years.

American Forces Network controversy

On May 26, 2004, Eric Boehler wrote in a article that American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) airs The Rush Limbaugh Show, but no corresponding liberal-leaning political 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." Limbaugh himself pointed out that AFRTS aired many hours of National Public Radio, which he asserted was liberal programming. The Howard Stern show, which draws eight million listeners a week, was absent from AFRTS. The Ed Schultz show, a liberal talk radio show with over one million listeners a week, originally scheduled to be broadcast on AFRTS was subsequently pulled, with some alleging political motivation, and then debated in Congress.

Anti-war protesters and the media

On August 15, 2005, Limbaugh compared the actions and news coverage of Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war protester and mother of slain soldier Casey Sheehan, to that of alleged document forger Bill Burkett: "The fact is that they are too eager. I mean, Cindy Sheehan is just Bill Burkett. Her story is nothing more than forged documents. There's nothing about it that's a (sic) real, including the mainstream media's glomming onto it. It's not real." [16] Afterwards he said that he was not questioning the authenticity of her claims, but he meant her response was a staged media event. [17]

Internet and technology

Limbaugh was an early adopter and fan of the internet and allowed and invited listeners to send email to his Compuserve account. On his website, Limbaugh offers a subscription service called "Rush 24/7" that provides additional materials mentioned on the show as well as recordings. In 2005, Limbaugh began podcasting his program to subscribers. Limbaugh also claims to prefer and use Apple computers extensively, and sometimes fires shots at Windows users.


Defining the conservative movement

Limbaugh made the following comments in an op-ed piece in 2005:

I love being a conservative. We conservatives are proud of our philosophy. Unlike our liberal friends, who are constantly looking for new words to conceal their true beliefs and are in a perpetual state of reinvention, we conservatives are unapologetic about our ideals.

  • We are confident in our principles and energetic about openly advancing them. We believe in individual liberty, limited government, capitalism, the rule of law, faith, a color-blind society and national security.
  • We support school choice, enterprise zones, tax cuts, welfare reform, faith-based initiatives, political speech, homeowner rights and the war on terrorism.
  • And at our core we embrace and celebrate the most magnificent governing document ever ratified by any nation -- the U.S. Constitution.
  • Along with the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes our God-given natural right to be free, it is the foundation on which our government is built and has enabled us to flourish as a people.
  • We conservatives are never stronger than when we are advancing our principles.

From American Conservatism: A Crackdown, Not a 'Crackup' Wall Street Journal op-ed October 17, 2005[18]

Conservatism and libertarianism

Rush Limbaugh claims to be a conservative, but his show has sometimes advocated a more libertarian viewpoint. On May 18, 1999, he identified himself as "a conservative/libertarian" in his criticism of a caller who argued that the government should break Microsoft up into smaller companies [19]. Libertarian economist and columnist Walter Williams has been a frequent substitute on his show. Terry Mattingly remarked, "Limbaugh is kind of an in-the-closet Libertarian, trapped with a Bible-believing audience." [20]. Yet, he does not seem to share the libertarian perspective on social issues such as gay rights. Unlike most libertarians, Limbaugh supports the War in Iraq, the War on Drugs and many other policies of the current Bush administration.

Views on homosexuality

In 2003 Limbaugh suggested that the pro-choice movement could theoretically promote an anti-gay rights policy:

Imagine we identify the gene — assuming that there is one, this is hypothetical — that will tell us prior to birth that a baby is going to be gay…. How many parents, if they knew before the kid was gonna be born, [that he] was gonna be gay, they would take the pregnancy to term? Well, you don't know but let's say half of them said, "Oh, no, I don't wanna do that to a kid." [Then the] gay community finds out about this. The gay community would do the fastest 180 and become pro-life faster than anybody you've ever seen. … They'd be so against abortion if it was discovered that you could abort what you knew were gonna be gay babies. [21]

Limbaugh opposed teaching grade school students about homosexuality in 1993 and wrote of gay rights as being special rights. He has made similar statements about transsexuals.

Balance and point of view

Critics decry what they assert is the lack of a balance between liberal and conservative viewpoints on talk radio. Limbaugh's response to this accusation is to claim that most news reporting is liberally biased[22][23]; a common saying of his is "I am equal time." He also does not claim to be a neutral reporter and contrasts his stance with the major news media's claims of objectivity (in the United States). He also has explained himself on occasion as being a commentator and entertainer, not a reporter.

Limbaugh's satire, especially that of his early years, has been criticized by his detractors with some even calling it hate speech. News about the homeless is often preceded with the Clarence "Frogman" Henry song "Ain't Got No Home". For a time, the song "I Know I'll Never Love This Way Again" preceded reports about people with AIDS. For two weeks in 1989, Limbaugh performed "caller abortions" where he would end a call suddenly to the sounds of a vacuum cleaner and a child's scream, after which he would deny there was ever a caller explaining that the call had been "aborted." In his references to Ted Kennedy, he often cites Kennedy's alcohol abuse that led to the death of Kennedy's girlfriend at Chappaquiddick, and has nicknamed him "the swimmer". He refers to Robert Byrd as "Sheets Byrd" in reference to Byrd's former membership in the KKK. (An extensive list of Limbaugh's nicknames for various political figures may be found at The Rush Limbaugh Show). Although controversial, his satire has been praised by his supporters and fans.

Demographic appeal

On the topic of what demographic Limbaugh appeals to, Conservative economist Thomas Sowell states:[24]

The liberal vision of Rush Limbaugh is that he is some guy who appeals to ignorant rednecks and Joe Sixpacks. As with so many things that liberals believe, they feel no need to test their notions against reality. Actual research on Rush Limbaugh's audience has shown that they are above average in both education and income.
Anyone who actually listens to Rush's show knows that those listeners who phone in are usually pretty savvy folks, and clearly a cut above those who phone in on other radio or television programs. But many liberals have such a sense of superiority that it would never occur to them to listen and learn.

Sowell may have been referencing surveys such as those from the Annenberg Public Policy Center[25].

Another stereotype of the Limbaugh listener is encapsulated in the epithet "dittohead". When used as a derogatory term, it implies that the subject is a "mind-numbed robot", who falls into the groupthink of Limbaugh's audience.


  • Books written by Limbaugh
    • Limbaugh, Rush (1992). The Way Things Ought to Be, Pocket Books: New York. ISBN 067175145X.
      • This was the best selling non-fiction hardback book of 1992, and holds the honor of being number one on the New York Times Bestseller list for 54 consecutive weeks. To date, no book has broken this record.
    • Limbaugh, Rush (1993). See, I Told You So, Atria: New York. ISBN 067187120X.
      • This was the best selling non-fiction hardback book of 1993.
  • Biographies and commentary
    • Daniel J. Evearitt (1993). Rush Limbaugh and the Bible, Christian Pubns. ISBN 0889651043.
    • Arkush, Michael (1993). Rush!, Avon Books. ISBN 0380775395.
    • Colford, Paul D. (1994). The Rush Limbaugh Story: Talent on Loan from God an Unauthorized Biography, St. Martins. ISBN 0312952724.
    • Davis, J. Bradford (1994). The Rise of Rush Limbaugh Toward the Presidency, MacArthur Pub. Group. ISBN 0964261901.
    • Evearitt, Daniel J. (1993). Rush Limbaugh and the Bible, Christian Pubications. ISBN 0889651043.
    • Franken, Al (1996). Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, Delacorte Press. ISBN 0385314744.
    • Jacobs, Don Trent (1994). The Bum's Rush: The Selling of Environmental Backlash, Legendary Publishing. ISBN 096250405X.
    • Keliher, Brian, Keliber, Brian, and Laurin, C. (1994). Flush Rush, Ten Speed Press. ISBN 0898156106.
    • Kelly, Charles M. (1994). The Great Limbaugh Con: And Other Right-Wing Assaults on Common Sense, Fithian Press. ISBN 1564741028.
    • King, D. Howard and Morris, Geoffrey (1994). Rush to Us/Americans Hail Rush Limbaugh, Pinnacle Books. ISBN 0786000821.
    • Meyers, Daniel D (2001). Confessions of a Hollywood Publicist: Revelations on How Publicists Create Star Power - and What Happens Behind the Scenes Everywhere...Stanley Kubrick, George Burns, and Rush Limbaugh, Four-Star Press. ISBN 0971058709.
    • Perkins, Ray, Jr. (1995). Logic and Mr. Limbaugh: A Dittohead's Guide to Fallacious Reasoning, Open Court Publishing Company. ISBN 0812692942.
    • Rahman, Michael (1995). Why Rush Limbaugh is Wrong, or, The Demise of Traditionalism and the Rise of Progressive Sensibility, Mighty Pen Pub. ISBN B0006F58V0.
    • Rendall, Steve, Naureckas, Jim, and Cohen, Jeff (1995). The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error: Over 100 Outrageously False and Foolish Statements from America's Most Powerful Radio and TV, New Press. ISBN 156584260X.
    • Seib, Philip M. (1993). Rush Hour: Talk Radio, Politics, and the Rise of Rush Limbaugh, Summit Publishing Group. ISBN 1565301005.
    • U.S. Government (2003). 2004 Conservatives and Liberals: The Political Spectrum from Al Franken to Rush Limbaugh, Progressive Management. ISBN 1592485545. CD-ROM.
    • Willis, Clint (2004). The I Hate Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity...Reader: The Hideous Truth About America's Ugliest Conservatives, Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1560256141.

See also

External links


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