Rush Limbaugh

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Rush Limbaugh

Rush Hudson Limbaugh III (born January 12, 1951 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri) is an American radio talk show host. A conservative, he discusses politics and current events on his show, The Rush Limbaugh Show. As of 2005, Rush Limbaugh is the most listened-to radio talk show host in the United States, and has an audience estimated by Arbitron at 20 million listeners weekly.


Early career

Limbaugh started out 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 power gave him considerable influence in Southeastern Missouri, had once owned the radio station where Limbaugh started his career.

He attended Southeast Missouri State University for one year 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 [1] ( 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].

He went on to Pittsburgh, as a Top 40 music radio disc jockey on station 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". (This claim is now a reality as Limbaugh does use a golden microphone 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.

Talk radio and television career

In 1984, Limbaugh returned to radio as a talk show host at KFBK in Sacramento, California. After achieving some local success, he moved to New York City (and his current flagship station, WABC) in the late 1980s and eventually became syndicated on August 1, 1988 via a company called Premiere Broadcasting. 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.

As the program grew in popularity, it was carried on stations with larger audiences. The Rush Limbaugh Show was largely responsible for the shift in AM broadcasting to a news-talk format after an audience decline in the 1970s. The program has for over 15 years been the most popular talk radio show in the United States. The show is usually split between call-in segments and monologues by Limbaugh; on very rare occasions, Limbaugh will have guests on his show, such as Vice President Dick Cheney or even President George W. Bush.

Limbaugh has a dynamic voice and dramatic presentation; even many of his critics admit that he is an excellent broadcaster. He attracted widespread support and attention in 1998 when he complained that some radio stations were shortening his programs by cutting out his dramatic pauses to make room for more commercials.

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Rush Limbaugh in the early 1990s.

Rush Limbaugh became as much a political symbol as he was a broadcaster, comedian, and political satirist. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush made an appearance on Limbaugh's show as part of his re-election campaign, in an effort to regain the support of the right wing of his own party (which he had earlier alienated by breaking a pledge not to raise taxes). President George W. Bush "called in" to a live broadcast during the week of the 2004 Republican National Convention to give a preview of his nomination acceptance speech.

Limbaugh's first television exposure came with a 1990 guest host stint on Pat Sajak's late-night program on CBS. This ended badly when on one show Limbaugh got into a confrontation with some ACT-UP hecklers and had to clear the studio audience before continuing.

Limbaugh then hosted a syndicated half-hour television 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.)

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

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 one ear, and his voice and diction improved. Following a later news story of his addiction to painkillers, it was suggested by some that his deafness was possibly due to a known side effect of the class of painkillers he used.

On April 192005, Limbaugh mentioned Wikipedia in the final minutes of his show, calling it "… some kind of left wing Internet encyclopedia," in response to the viewing of Pope Benedict XVI Wikipedia Article ( (most likely dated April 192005 at 2:52 PM EST). During his radio program on April 222005, Rush retracted the assertion, stating that he had received incorrect information from one of his staff members.

On May 32005, Rush said that he would enter the words afristocracy and ghettocracy into Wikipedia. As a result the words were preemptively introduced by wikipedians familiar with the occurrence, but other wikipedians later voted to delete them.

On June 212005, Rush claimed Wikipedia was inaccurate about details of his life and career and compared it to the Los Angeles Times attempt to create Wiki-based editorials on their website.


Many liberal critics decry the lack of a balance between liberal and conservative viewpoints on talk radio. Limbaugh's response to this accusation is to assert that most news reporting is liberally biased (in particular, television and newspaper news); as he says, "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 an entertainer, not a reporter.

Limbaugh's satire is very sharp, though it has been criticized for what his detractors claim to be a juvenile and mean-spirited nature often bordering on hate speech. For example, news about the homeless is often preceded with the Clarence "Frogman" Henry song "Ain't Got No Home". The song "I Know I'll Never Love This Way Again" preceded reports about people dying of AIDS. His references to Ted Kennedy invariably discuss Kennedy's alcohol use and Chappaquiddick (he has nicknamed Kennedy "the swimmer"). He refers to Robert Byrd as "Sheets" in reference to Byrd's former membership in the KKK, and he calls Harry Reid "Dingy Harry." Sometimes Limbaugh's opponents unwittingly provide fodder for comment, such as Ted Kennedy's ironic praise of presidential candidate John Kerry's wartime rescue of a fellow soldier from drowning.

The liberal comedian and political satirist Al Franken released a book and CD titled Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations (ISBN 0440508649) which, among other political humor from a liberal perspective, included harsh criticism of Limbaugh and his allegedly meager fact-finding efforts. The mean-spirited title of the book came from the fact that during the time in which it was first published, Rush Limbaugh's weight was pushing the 400-pound mark; sometime afterwards, Limbaugh began to go on various diets and his weight dropped down to around 270 pounds.

A group called 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 (those of substance); 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 [2] (

FAIR later 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 (ISBN 156584260X), documenting alleged errors and lies by Limbaugh. His defenders have pointed out that Limbaugh talks unscripted for fifteen broadcast hours a week, and that the number of factual errors he makes is, under the circumstances, very small (assuming any accuracy in FAIR's allegations.)

Even Limbaugh's introductory theme music has attracted controversy. Since the 1980s he has used an edited and looped version of the powerful instrumental riff from The Pretenders' "My City Was Gone", a song written by Chrissie Hynde to bemoan the effects of overdevelopment on her native Ohio. Limbaugh loved the riff, hated the message, and thought he could both attract listeners and annoy opponents by playing it. When a landmark copyright case was decided in the 1990s, musical artists gained control over their works when performed thematically, and this impacted Rush and his peers, specifically because rock musicians skew politically liberal. Hynde's lawyers told her about the use; briefly in 1999 Rush was forced to suspend it while negotiating; and Hynde decided to let Limbaugh continue to use it, with Limbaugh donating approximately $500,000/year to the Hynde-supported animal rights organization PETA. Hynde explained that she doesn't agree with Rush but her parents are big fans. [3] (

As expected in a competitive environment, Limbaugh has also received criticism from some competitors such as Michael Savage and The New American magazine.

Limbaugh's influence can be seen in the recent launch of the Air America Radio network and by author and commentator Ed Schultz's program [4] ( whose style and delivery are quite similar to Limbaugh's, though his perspective is opposite to Limbaugh (and a fraction of the audience).

ESPN controversy

In September of 2003, Limbaugh ignited a controversy [5] ( when, speaking as a football commentator on ESPN, he criticized the media for its support of Donovan McNabb, the African-American quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. The controversy centered on his comment:

"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."

McNabb was the highest paid NFL player in history at the time [6] (,,c1gb4043-4730,00.html), 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 the American Broadcasting Company, 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 the media, and not at McNabb or African Americans. It has been suggested that Limbaugh's fellow commentators on the program, both of whom were themselves former African-American football players, may have played a role behind the scenes in ending Limbaugh's career as a football commentator. In any event, they made no public response to the comment, on the air or off.

Drug use and investigation

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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 opiate painkillers such as OxyContin, Lorcet (a combination of Tylenol and hydrocodone), 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 morphine, heroin, or a stronger form of codeine.

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."

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 to which type of pain medication he was addicted. 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."

An article in the January 12, 2004 issue of Human Events (The National Conservative Weekly) presents 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 June 2005, brought no criminal charges.

It had since become known, that Limbaugh's addiction to painkillers came as a result of long-term back pain he had been suffering for several years.


On Friday, June 11 2004, Limbaugh announced that he was separating from his third wife Marta after ten years of marriage. Limbaugh indicated that he initiated the divorce.

AFRTS controversy

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On May 26, 2004, the article "Rush's Forced Conscripts (" appeared on the online news and opinion magazine 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."

Critics have pointed out that other programs, such as the Howard Stern show, which draws eight million listeners a week is absent from AFRTS. Other claims - for example, that there is no political counterbalance to Limbaugh on AFRTS - have been rebutted by Byron York, a columnist for the 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."

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 April 2005, the first hour of Limbaugh's show is still on AFRTS. Rush Limbaugh visited US forces in Afghanistan in 2005.


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