Friday, March 16, 2012

Republican Racism Example #38: Rush Limbaugh - Equal Opportunity Bigot


O.K., advertisers: why did it take you so long to realize that Rush Limbaugh is a lying, irresponsible idiot?  For years, Limbaugh has been the man who put the “Gee!” in misogyny and the “rrrrr” in racism.  Why now, after years of funding three hours of hate five days a week, are you condemning him and shunning him?

 O.K., so-called liberal media: why, after decades of inviting this uniformed college dropout on your programs as an “expert” on complex scientific topics like global warming, are you suddenly treating Limbaugh like the offensive buffoon he’s always been?



Rush Limbaugh: a demeaning, racist broadcast bully for four decades.  Why all the outrage now?  (Photo from http://www.inquisitr.com/200801/rush-limbaugh-apologizes-to-sarah-fluke-for-calling-her-a-slut/)


Rush finally crossed a line no one knew existed when he verbally assaulted a private citizen, Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, the women who tried to defend the notion that health insurance provided by employers ought to cover birth control pills.  Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” during three consecutive days of broadcasts.  Limbaugh has spewed slurs and bullied other people as viciously for more than two decades as a rightwing Republican radio host.  For some reason, this month the pompous bully finally got the reaction he deserved.

A question remains unanswered, though.  How is what Rush said about Fluke any more offensive than what he has long said about blacks, Latinos and gays?  Would advertisers have dropped their sponsorship of Limbaugh’s show, and would news commentators have so strongly called him out on his excesses, if Fluke had been an African American? Or poor?  Or uneducated?  Or obese?  Or a lesbian?  Or an undocumented worker?  Sadly, the answer is no.  Advertisers were happy to sponsor Rush and the media was happy to treat Rush as an “expert” when his attacks were directed at people of color, those in poverty, and those of different sexual orientation.

More than140 sponsors have pulled advertisements from his show since the Fluke controversy erupted earlier this month.  Limbaugh’s program has included dead air – extended periods of silence -- because there weren’t enough ads to fill his three-hour time slot.   For the March 8 broadcast, Media Matters for America reported:

“A total of 86 ads aired during WABC's broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show [WABC is the home base for the program] . . .

77 of those ads were public service announcements donated free of charge by the Ad Council.

Of the nine paid spots that ran, seven were from companies that have said they have taken steps to ensure their ads no longer air during the program

WABC's online feed included about 5:33 of dead air when ads would normally have run.”  (For more, see http://mediamatters.org/blog/201203080010.  You can actually hear a spot with more than two minutes of dead air at this link.)  


Limbaugh claims he was attempting to be "humorous" when he called Sandra Fluke a "slut." (Photo from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/rush-limbaugh-apology-poll-study-rasmussen-reports_n_1341771.html).

Sponsors have continued to flee the program even after Rush issued a standard non-apology apology.  “My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices," Limbaugh said on his website. (For more, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/03/rush-limbaugh-apologizes-to-sandra-fluke_n_1318718.html .  By the way, what exactly is the “best” way to call a woman a “slut,” Rush?  When has calling a woman a “prostitute” ever been “humorous”?)

Even after the phony act of contrition, advertisers continued to abandon the show. Think Progress.com’s most recent list of sponsors who have dropped Limbaugh’s show  totaled 141 companies, including:

“21st Century Insurance • Hotels.com • Rite Aid • Ace Hardware • Honda • Robitussin • Acura • IBM • Sam Adams • Advance Auto Parts • Icy Hot • Sam’s Club • Advil (All products) • Intuit/Small Business • Schiff – Digestive Advantage • Alacer/Emergen-C • Schiff – Mega Red • Allegra (all products) • Johnson & Johnson (All Brands) • Schiff – Move Free • Kohl’s • Schiff – Sustenex • Ally Bank • La Quinta • Scotts Miracle-Gro (all products) • American Express • Lifetime • Autozone • Little Caesars • Sony • Lowe’s • State Farm • British Petroleum • Luxottica • Staples • Bullfrog Sunblock • Macy’s • Sterling/Kay Jared Jewelers • Caltrate • MasterCard • Subway • Centrum • McDonalds • Takeda Uloric • Chapstick • Midas • The Home Depot • Clorox (Pinesol/Homecare) • Napa Auto Parts • ThermaCare • Cortizone • National Realtor • Toyota • DeVry • NBC-TV • Discover Card • Office Depot • Twinings of London • Domino’s Pizza • Office Max • Tyson/Wright Brand Bacon • Exxon/Exxon Mobil • One Main Financial • Unisom • Farmers Insurance • United Healthcare • Ford • Orkin • U.S. Army • Outback • U. S. Postal Service • General Motors (All products -GM Certified Service • Chevy • Onstar • Cadillac • etc) • Preparation H • Visa • Gold Bond (all products • ProNutrients (all products) • Walgreens • Grainger • Progressive Insurance • Wal-Mart • Green Mountain Coffee • Prudential • Wells Fargo • Hallmark • Radio Shack • Wrigley • H&R Block • Rent-A-Center • Yahoo!”  (For more, see http://thinkprogress.org/media/2012/03/12/442673/141-companies-advertisng-rush-limbaugh/)

For the first time, corporate America was willing to denounce Limbaugh.  David Friend. the CEO online computer backup service Carbonite (a longtime Limbaugh sponsor), issued the following statement:

“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.” (See http://www.carbonite.com/en/blog/A-Message-from-Carbonite-CEO-David-Friend-Regarding-Ads-on-Limbaugh.)

Other companies issued similar statements.  ProFlowers announced to its customers, “We do not base our advertising decisions to align with any particular political view or opinion as our employees and customers are as diverse as the USA. Mr. Limbaugh’s recent comments went beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our values as a company.” 

Quicken Loans said, in an official statement,  “Due to continued inflammatory comments– along w/valuable feedback from clients & team members– QL has suspended ads on Rush Limbaugh program.”  

Sleep Number, the adjustable bed company, proclaimed in a tweet, “Recent comments by Rush Limbaugh do not align w/our values, so we made decision to immediately suspend all advertising on that program." (See this and other statements from former Limbaugh sponsors at http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2012/03/all-ads-pulled-rush-limbaughs-show/49552/).

The situation for Rush has gotten so bad that Premiere Radio Networks, the distributors of Limbaugh show, reportedly considered carrying ads for Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas congregation of lunatics who used to protest at the funerals of AIDS victims, but now target the services for American soldiers killed in action, carrying signs that say, “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God For IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices.]”  (This rumor was reported by the London Daily Mail at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2114741/Rush-Limbaugh-considering-taking-adverts-Westboro-Baptist-Church.html.)   On Friday, Premiere Radio Networks issued a statement declaring that any ads from Westboro Baptist Church “would be rejected.” (See http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/2012/03/16/premiere-networks-re-rush-limbaugh-show-any-ads-from-westboro-baptist-church-would-be-rejected/).

A Rush ripple effect threatens to engulf the entire right-wing talk radio format that has dominated the AM dial in the United States since the early 1990s.  Other big corporations now consider right-wing talkers dangerous and unpredictable and want to avoid association with controversial hosts like Sean Hannity and Michael Savage.   Premiere Networks distributed a memo warning its affiliates that 98 major advertisers had indicated that they wanted to avoid “environments likely to stir negative sentiments.”  According to radio-info.com, the list of advertisers now wary of rightwing talk “includes carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm) and restaurants (McDonald’s, Subway).  The Premiere memo told affiliates:

“More than 350 different advertisers sponsor the programs and services provided to your station on a barter basis. Like advertisers that purchase commercials on your radio station from your sales staff, our sponsors communicate specific rotations, daypart preferences and advertising environments they prefer… They’ve specifically asked that you schedule their commercials in dayparts or programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity). Those are defined as environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public.”  (http://www.radio-info.com/news/when-it-comes-to-advertisers-avoiding-controversial-shows-its-not-just-rush). 


Glenn Beck: collateral damage from the Sandra Fluke controversy? (Photo from http://www.therightperspective.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Glenn_Beck_Crying.jpg).

All of these sudden pangs of corporate conscience are well and good, but I have to ask a rude question: when exactly did Limbaugh’s commentary align with the values of these companies?  Since his earliest days as a disc jockey, Limbaugh has been divisive, insulting to women and patronizing and worse to people of color. Over the years, Rush has used the anti-Native American slur “Injun” during his broadcasts.  He once told an African American caller to his program to “take the bone out of your nose.”  He compared undocumented workers to invading germs. He used to make fun of AIDS victims in a daily feature of his program introduced by the song “I Know I’m Never Going to Love This Way Again.”


An AIDS victim in South Africa.  Rush Limbaugh thought AIDS was funny and did a regular segment on his radio program in the 1990s ridiculing those suffering from the disease. (Photo from the National Geographic at http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/photos/aids/#/aids-patient_801_600x450.jpg).

During his short-lived TV program during the early and mid—1990s, he commented on coverage of the Clinton family’s cat Socks and said to his studio audience, “But did you know there is also a White House dog?” before showing a picture of the then-awkward 13-year-old presidential daughter Chelsea Clinton.  He then lied and claimed a member of his staff had put up the wrong photo.  He made this claim even though the taped show still contained the “mistake” when it later aired.  

Of course, the phrase “corporate ethics” is an oxymoron.  Industries use what is essentially slave labor, often exploiting children, to produce everything from iPhones to chocolate.  American corporations will embrace what is repulsive and amoral provided it is sufficiently popular.

Rush advanced a message corporate advertisers deeply loved – that taxes for the rich should be slashed, that the pursuit of economic justice for the poor and middle class is foolish and Communistic, that government regulations strangle job growth, and that the political and economic dominance of the 1 percent is a sure ticket to future prosperity.  Corporations, including some of the sponsors who have recently bailed on him, looked the other way when he ridiculed black dialect (such as when he pronounces “ask” as “axe” when imitating the Rev. Jesse Jackson) or when he said that, “feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.” (See http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,976829,00.html).  


Sandra Fluke: Would anyone have cared if she weren't white?  (Photo from http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-03-13/politics/31158758_1_contraception-debate-smears-rush-limbaugh).

Rush’s former sponsors loved him enough that Premiere Radio Networks and its parent company, Clear Channel Communications, in 2008 signed him to an eight-eight contract that pays him $38 million annually plus a $100 million signing bonus.  (See http://articles.businessinsider.com/2008-07-02/tech/30068553_1_radio-host-premiere-radio-networks-new-contract).

Journalists, however, are supposed to aim at a higher purpose than just making money – at a minimum acting as a guardian of the truth.  What did some of the leading lights of the so-called fourth estate have to say about Limbaugh during the height of his popularity in the Clinton era?   Ted Koppel, the longtime host of Nightline, praised Limbaugh for his supposedly painstaking research in a quote that ended up on the dust cover of the radio host’s1993 book, See, I Told You So:

“What [Limbaugh] clearly has become over the last two or three years is something of an icon to millions of conservative listeners around the country. I think it would be too easy to dismiss him as being irrelevant to the shaping of opinion in this country today. He's very smart. He does his homework. He is well-informed. And you ignore him at your peril.”

Tim Russert the longtime host of NBC’s Meet the Press had Rush on as a frequent guest and often breathlessly asked Limbaugh to “tell us what your 20 million listeners think” about X, Y, or Z.  “You have to give him credit — he works hard at getting his facts right,” Russert is quoted as saying in D. Howard King and Geoffrey Morris’s 1994 Limbaugh hagiography Rush to Us: Americans Hail Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh did no homework.  Throughout his career, he simply regurgitated the talking points faxed him by rightwing senators like Phil Gramm of Texas, or corporate “fact sheets” provided by the oil and health insurance industries.  Limbaugh denied global warming and the theory of evolution in spite of overwhelming scientific proof.  As the activist group Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR) documents, Limbaugh even echoed the laughably false claims of the now defunct “Tobacco Institute” (a group funded by cigarette companies that produced phony research dismissing the scientific evidence of tobacco’s dangers.)  Limbaugh insisted on air that cigarettes did not cause cancer.  "It has not been proven that nicotine is addictive, the same with cigarettes causing emphysema [and other diseases],"  Limbaugh bellowed on his radio program,  April 29, 1994.

However, as FAIR reports, “Nicotine's addictiveness has been reported in medical literature since the turn of the century. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's 1988 report on nicotine addiction left no doubts on the subject; ‘Today the scientific base linking smoking to a number of chronic diseases is overwhelming, with a total of 50,000 studies from dozens of countries,’ states Encyclopedia Britannica's 1987 ‘Medical and Health Annual.’”  (For more, see FAIR’s report, “The Way Things Aren’t” at  http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1895). 

To media hacks like the late Russert and Koppel, quoting press releases constituted research.    Limbaugh benefited richly from the deterioration of journalism in the late twentieth century in which “reporters” like Russert approached every story as a “he said/she said” saga.  All facts are relative and a matter of opinion to such shallow journalists.  “Balanced coverage” consists of getting quotes from two sides (Republicans and Democrats) and treating both versions of reality equally, even if one side perpetually lies and distorts.  To call one side out for lying is verboten in Russert and Koppel-style journalism, because that would be evidence the journalist was guilty of bias, considered a worse sin than allowing falsehoods to go unchallenged.



Ted Koppel, above, and Tim Russert, below, were two of Limbaugh's media enablers, praising a racist and liar for being "well-informed" and "doing his homework."  (Photos from http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/ted-koppel-named-special-correspondent-for-nbcs-rock-center-with-brian-williams_b92569 and http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/13/russert-dies-of-apparent-heart-attack/).

This is how Limbaugh continued to be invited as an “expert” to discuss public policy on shows such as Nightline, Meet The Press and Charlie Rose with no more qualifications than he hosted a radio show.  This is also how he got away from being a crude racist, sexist and homophobe for so long.  Under the morally bankrupt concept of he said/she said journalism, the media must be non-judgmental in the face of the worst hate speech, as long one doesn’t actually wear a Klan robe or use the “n-word.”

Not that Rush hasn’t repeatedly shouted “nigger” from the top of his lungs by implication.  Before he was a right-wing talker, Limbaugh worked a a disc jockey at WIXZ and KQV in Pittsburgh under the name “Jeff Christie.”   Once he received a phone call from a black listener and, annoyed he couldn’t understand what the man was saying, Limbaugh exclaimed, “Take that bone out of your nose and call back.”   During the same phase of his career, Limbaugh once uttered, “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”   In a 1990 interview with Newsday, Limbaugh admitted making the statements reducing one black man to a “savage African” stereotype, and another that implied that all black men look alike. He also didn’t apologize for lumping a prominent African American minister and politician with criminals. (See http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/limbaugh.asp).

The racial rhetoric didn’t tone down when Rush stepped onto a much larger stage as a nationally syndicated talk show host in 1988.  After the Rodney King uprising in Los Angeles in 1992, in which African Americans and Latinos rioted following the acquittal for police brutality of white Los Angeles police officers in the severe beating of an African American man, Limbaugh told his listeners, “The NAACP [a black civil rights organization] should have riot rehearsal.  They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”  (This quote was reported in the January 1993 issue of The Flush Rush Quarterly, a self-published periodical produced by a college student, Brian Keliher.  Keliher recorded episodes of Limbaugh’s shows and reported on his most outrageous comments.  The myth-busting site Snopes.com will not verify this quote because they have no independent documentation.  At the time Limbaugh made this broadcast. I lived in Southern California in the so-called “High Desert” where the mountains blocked transmission of all stations but one right-wing talk haven, KFI-FM.  I heard a lot of Limbaugh shows then and I also subscribed to the FRQ.  I can verify that Keliher’s reporting was accurate and also that Limbaugh at the time frequently ridiculed the NAACP as the “National Association for the Advancement of You People.”)

Limbaugh didn’t limit himself to anti-black racism, but was an all-purpose bigot.  When a Mexican citizen won the New York Marathon in 1991, Limbaugh said, “An immigration agent chased him for the last 10 miles.”  (Reported in the USA Weekend January 26, 1992.)

On another occasion, Limbaugh called illegal immigrants an “invasive species” – meaning, of course, that they are not human.  As Media Matters for America reported in 2005:

“Referencing an April 1 federal court ruling that prohibited shipping boats from dumping of ballast water containing ‘invasive species,’ including some types of mollusks, into U.S. waters, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh described illegal immigrants as an ‘invasive species’ that U.S. courts willingly permit to enter the country.
From the April 1 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: So invasive species like mollusks and spermatozoa are not good, and we've got a federal judge say, ‘You can't bring it in here,’ but invasive species in the form of illegal immigration is fine and dandy -- bring 'em on, as many as possible, legalize them wherever we can, wherever they go, no matter what they clog up. So we're going to break the bank; we're going to bend over backwards. The federal judiciary is going to do everything it can to stop spermatozoa and mollusks from coming in, but other invasive species? We're supposed to bend over and grab the ankles and say, ‘Deal with it.’ Well, the mollusks may be brought in against their will. My point is they don't know where they are, and they, frankly, don't care. So if you ship them out -- but we can't ship 'em out. It's not that we can't ship 'em out. We're not going to be able to bring 'em in now, but invasive species that, say, on their own power and of their own desire and volition cross the border and come here, we can't say diddly-squat about it.”  (To hear a portion of this broadcast, visit http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200504040001). 

Limbaugh likes ridiculing Native Americans and has downplayed the brutality of the Anglo conquest of North America.  In his 1993 book, Limbaugh made the following false claim:  "There are more American Indians alive today than there were when Columbus arrived or at any other time in history. Does this sound like a record of genocide?"

Actually, 95 percent of the Native American population in the Western Hemisphere died as a result of European-borne diseases, slavery, wars of conquest, and murder of unarmed civilians.  As FAIR notes, “According to Carl Shaw of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, estimates of the pre-Columbus population of what later became the United States range from 5 million to 15 million. Native populations in the late 19th century fell to 250,000, due in part to genocidal policies. Today the U.S.'s Native American population is about 2 million.”  (Rush is a lousy historian.  For a more realistic treatment of the U.S. government’s genocidal treatment of Native Americans, see my post, “They Will Never Let Us Rest” at the “Red State Blues” blog at http://jmichaelphillips.blogspot.com/2010/02/they-will-never-let-us-rest.html). 


Big Foot, a Native American victim of the Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota December 29, 1890.  "Does this sound like genocide," Rush Limbaugh asks.  (Photo from http://www.fold3.com/page/1296_lakotathe_massacre_at_wounded_knee/).

On at least four occasions, Limbaugh has used the slur ‘Injuns” to refer to Indians.  On one such occasion, November 24, 2004, Limbaugh continued on his theme that Native Americans had been treated much better than supposedly “politically correct” history books suggest.  Limbaugh told his listeners:
“When I went to school, when I was going to grade school and it was time to teach us about Thanksgiving, the basic synopsis of what I was told was the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, a bunch of destitute white people. When they arrived, they had no clue what to do. They didn't know how to grow corn, didn't know how to hunt, didn't -- basically had -- didn't know how to do anything. And if it weren't for the injuns, who befriended them, and gave them coats and skins and taught them how to fish, and share their food and corn with them, the Pilgrims wouldn't have survived.
And the Pilgrims thanked them by killing them and taking over the country and bringing with them syphilis, environmental destruction, racism, sexism, bigotry, and homophobia. That's basically the Thanksgiving story we were all raised with, with the -- the latter part of that has been recently added as part of the politically correct multicultural curriculum.”  (For more on Rush’s repeated use of the racist term “Injun,” see the Media Matters for America website at http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200508180006.)


Sometimes, Limbaugh insults several groups at the same time, such as in September 2006 when the reality TV show Survivor segregated teams into racial groups.  Limbaugh suggested that the CBS show scrapped the format because the white tribe would clearly be superior.  Limbaugh then uttered a series of crude stereotypes about blacks being unable to swim and Mexicans having experience at swiftly escaping law enforcement. According to Media Matters:

“On the September 29 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that ‘[t]here can only be one reason’ the producers of the CBS reality TV program Survivor decided to dissolve the show's competing teams, which had been divided into four ‘tribes’ comprised of African-American, white, Asian-American, and Latino members, into two mixed-race groups after only two episodes – ‘the white tribe had to be winning.’ As Media Matters for America noted, Limbaugh originally asserted that saying ‘blacks can't swim’ ‘is not a racial or racist comment at all’ while ‘handicap[ping]’ the new season of Survivor. He also stated that Hispanics have ‘probably shown the most survival tactics,’ that they ‘have shown a remarkable ability to cross borders,’ and that they can ‘do it without water for a long time. They don't get apprehended, and they will do things other people won't do.’
From the September 29 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: Well, it didn't take long for this. After only two episodes, producers at CBS -- the TV show Survivor, you know they -- they segregated all those tribes by race and by ethnicity -- but after only two episodes, the segregation has ended. They have merged the black, white, Asian, and Latino tribes into two mixed-race gangs. There can only be one reason for this, ladies and gentlemen -- that is the white tribe had to be winning. Were -- were it not for that, there would be none of this mixed-gang business going on after only two episodes.”  (Hear the recording at, see http://mediamatters.org/research/200609300001). 

Limbaugh has mounted a non-stop attack on Barack Obama since the Democrat joined the United States Senate.  While denying he’s a racist, Limbaugh has continually brought up the president’s race, calling him in January 2007 – in reference to his mixed-race heritage – a “Halfrican American.”  (Hear the recording at http://mediamatters.org/research/200701240010).  On March 28, 2007 Rush engaged in mind reading and declared that the then-Senator had “disowned his white half ... he's decided he's got to go all in on the black side." (Hear this at http://mediamatters.org/research/200803210012 /

The same month Limbaugh ridiculed Obama, singing the phrase “Barack the Magic Negro” to the tune of the Peter, Paul and Mary hit, “Puff the Magic Dragon” repeatedly on his show. (Hear Limbaugh sing this at http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200703200012).   Filmmaker Spike Lee first coined the term “Magic Negro” to describe a type of black movie character, who often appears as a supernatural force and who lacks a life outside the circle of white people. Such movie “Magic Negroes” have no personal agenda but only exist to teach and advance the dreams of white characters. Social critic David Ehrenstein suggested in a Los Angeles Times column that the term could be applied to Obama.  Whites might support Barack Obama for the presidency, in spite of his youth and inexperience, Ehrenstein suggested, because they hoped to be absolved of the guilt of racism through his political success.  

Limbaugh’s limited intellect immediately fixated on the phrase “Magic Negro” and he repeated it over and over until a song parody called “Barack the Magic Negro” had been recorded by right-wing “political satirist” Paul Shanklin.  Shanklin and Limbaugh exploited Ehrenstein’s column as an opportunity to refer to Obama by a patronizing, dated racial term.  Shanklin imitated political activist and former presidential candidate Al Sharpton as he belted out:

“Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C./
The L.A. Times, they called him that/
'Cause he's not authentic like me./
Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper/
Said he makes guilty whites feel good/
They'll vote for him, and not for me/
'Cause he's not from the hood./
See, real black men, like Snoop Dog,/
Or me, or Farrakhan/
Have talked the talk, and walked the walk./
Not come in late and won!/

Oh, Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C./
The L.A. Times, they called him that/
'Cause he's black, but not authentically./
Oh, Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C./
The L.A. Times, they called him that/
'Cause he's black, but not authentically./
Some say Barack's ‘articulate’/
And bright and new and ‘clean.’
The media sure loves this guy,/”

It’s hard to discern a satirical point to the recording, which Limbaugh constantly played on his show, other than Shanklin and Limbaugh liked saying “Negro” and enjoyed the fantasy that black people like Obama, Sharpton and the rapper Snoop Dog would divide and tear themselves apart over petty jealousies.


On March 3, 2008, Limbaugh laughed when a caller said that Obama reminded her daughter of Curious George, the monkey hero of children's books, a movie and a TV series.  As ABC News reported, "Right before the show went into a commercial break, a caller named Tammy told Limbaugh, ' . . . my 12 year old daughter . . . she . . . her statement last week was ‘who cares what the guy’s middle name is, he looks like Curious George.’"  Limbaugh later claimed to have not known that the Curious George character is a monkey, although portraying Obama as this character has been a recurring Republican motif, such as in t-shorts and posters sees at Tea Party rallies.  (See http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2008/03/limbaugh-caller/).  


Limbaugh laughed when a caller compared the president to the monkey cartoon character "Curious George."  Above, a t-shirt worn at a Tea Party Rally. (Photo from http://brotherpeacemaker.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/signs-of-racism-in-the-tea-party/).

After Obama became president in January 2009, Limbaugh’s racial attacks multiplied.  On June 26, he said that the president was “more African in his roots than American” and “is behaving like an African colonial despot.”  (Hear this at http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200906260019.  By the way, Rush, during the colonial period of African history, white Europeans were the despots.  Africans didn’t govern themselves.)   He characterized Obama’s economic stimulus plan as “reparations” for slavery (see http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907220040) and castigated him as an “angry black man” (because that’s really the vibe you get off Mr. “No Drama Obama.”  Listen to http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200907270023.)

Since no right-wing idea is too fact-free or extreme to be rejected by Rush, Limbaugh also jumped on the Birther bandwagon.  Birthers believe, in spite of the mountain of evidence to the contrary, that Obama was secretly born in Africa and is therefore ineligible for the presidency.  On June 10, 2009, Rush “joked” that Obama and God have something in common.  “God does not have a birth certificate,” Limbaugh said.  “Neither does Obama.”  Limbaugh would also claim that Obama had not yet “proved he’s a citizen of the United States.  (Actually, he did.  He provided a legal birth certificate from the state of Hawaii in the summer of 2008 when he first ran for president.  That’s not enough for people who insist on denying reality.  Birthers are the American equivalent of Holocaust Deniers.  No evidence can sway them and they are motivated by their rage over a black man being president of “their” country.  For more on why Birtherism is racist, see my previous post, “Republican Racism Example #20: That Whole Stupid “Birther” Thing at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-29-that-whole_28.html.  To hear Limbaugh’s plunge into Birtherism, listen at http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200906100019). 

In spite of all that has happened this month, Rush has remained a volcano of vulgarity.  Even as his show was forced to run free ad spots for the United Negro College Fund in place of paid sponsors, Limbaugh referred to Obama by the paternalistic, white supremacist term “boy.”  (See here: http://www.politicususa.com/limbaugh-obama-boy/).  Regardless of all that has happened, Rush is still on the air coast to coast and he even still has 10 paying sponsors, including Lifelock and the New York Times.  (See here: http://thinkprogress.org/media/2012/03/16/446186/10-companies-still-advertising-on-rush-limbaugh/).  The state of Missouri this year is even going to erect a statue of Limbaugh at the capitol’s “Hall of Famous Missourians,” along with Dred Scott (a slave who filed a unsuccessful suit petitioning for his freedom that reached the United States Supreme Court in 1857) and baseball great Buck O’Neil.  (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/16/missouri-democrats-respond-rush-limbaugh_n_1354072.html?ref=politics). 

As conservative commentator George Will observed, Republican officeholders continue to be afraid of Rush and incurring his wrath and that of his “dittohead” army.  After Limbaugh’s anti-Fluke tirade, GOP House Speaker John Boehner could muster no stronger words than to say that the radio host’s comments were “inappropriate.”   Mitt Romney, who wants to be president of the most powerful nation on Earth, would say nothing more forceful than that Rush’s words were “not what he would have used,” Will sarcastically noted that using a salad fork for your entrée was “inappropriate.”  As Will said on ABC, the weakness of these responses to Limbaugh are “depressing because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh.  They want to bomb Iran, but they're afraid of Rush Limbaugh."  (For more, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/04/abc-news-george-will-rush-limbaugh-sandra-fluke_n_1319696.html).


George Will thinks it's "depressing [that] . . . Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh."  (Photo from http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0809/26628.html).

Rush is a malevolent force in American culture, but even after the Fluke fiasco, he still has many enablers. There were plenty of reasons why those 141 or so sponsors who have dropped Rush should have never sponsored his show.  There were plenty of reasons why Limbaugh should have never been invited to be a guest on putative news shows.  None of the racist, sexist, or homophobic comments above had any more place in decent public discourse than Limbaugh’s mean-spirited and stupid remarks about Sandra Fluke.  Fluke undoubtedly deserved better from Limbaugh.  And millions of black brown, Native American and gay Americans deserved better from the American business executives and journalists who made Limbaugh’s evil media empire possible.



Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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