Rush Limbaugh Debates Reality
–Al Franken at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (4/23/94)
Rush Limbaugh has gotten a lot of mileage out of his claim that volcanoes do more harm to the ozone layer than human-produced chemicals. He featured it in his best-selling book, The Way Things Ought to Be (paperback edition pp. 155-157): “Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines spewed forth more than a thousand times the amount of ozone-depleting chemicals in one eruption than all the fluorocarbons manufactured by wicked, diabolical and insensitive corporations in history…. Mankind can’t possibly equal the output of even one eruption from Pinatubo, much less 4 billion years’ worth of them, so how can we destroy ozone?”
Limbaugh calls concern about the ozone layer: “balderdash. Poppycock.” The only people who worry about it are “environmental wackos,” “dunderheaded alarmists and prophets of doom.”
Syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell (New York Post, 1/14/94) used the volcano theory as Exhibit A to illustrate Limbaugh’s “very well-informed and savvy understanding of the political issues of our time.” “While far more pretentious people have been joining the chorus of hysteria over ‘global warming,'” Sowell wrote,
The alert reader will notice that Sowell has mixed up global warming and the ozone layer, two different problems. Still, Sowell concluded of Limbaugh, “It is obvious that the man has done his homework–and done it well.”
Ted Koppel must have thought so, too, when he invited Limbaugh to be on Nightline (2/4/92) as an environmental “expert,” opposite then-Sen. Al Gore. “If you listen to what Senator Gore said,” Limbaugh proclaimed,
On his radio show, his syndicated TV show, and in two best-selling books, Limbaugh has advanced the idea that volcanoes are the real ozone culprits. This theory, like so many of Limbaugh’s claims, has only one problem: Limbaugh doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
A Mountain of Distortion
“Chlorine from natural sources is soluble, and so it gets rained out of the lower atmosphere,” the journal Science explained (6/11/93). “CFCs, in contrast, are insoluble and inert and thus make it to the stratosphere to release their chlorine.”
Science also noted that chlorine found in the stratosphere– where it can eat away at Earth’s protective ozone layer–is always found with other byproducts of CFCs, and not with the byproducts of natural chlorine sources.
“Ozone depletion is real, as certain as Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon,” Dr. Sherwood Rowland, an atmospheric chemist at the University of California at Irvine, told Extra!. “Natural causes of ozone depletion are not significant.”
But Limbaugh didn’t rely on atmospheric scientists for his information about the ozone layer–he dismissed them as the “agenda-oriented scientific community.” Instead, he turned to Dixy Lee Ray, a former Washington State governor and Atomic Energy Commission chair, who wrote Trashing the Planet–“the most footnoted, documented book I have ever read,” Limbaugh says.
If you check Ray’s footnotes, you’ll find that the main source for the volcano theory is Rogelio Maduro, the associate editor of 21st Century Science & Technology, a magazine published by the Lyndon LaRouche network. Maduro is evidently not part of the “agenda-oriented scientific community”–even though he does have a bachelor’s degree in geology.
The volcano theorists can’t even keep their stories straight. In his book, Limbaugh claims that the 1991 Pinatubo eruption put 1000 times as much chlorine into the atmosphere as industry has ever produced through CFCs; yet on Nightline, Pinatubo is alleged to have produced 570 times the equivalent of one year’s worth of CFCs. Both can’t be right. It turns out neither are.
The figure 570 apparently derives from Ray’s book–but she said it was Mount Augustine, an Alaskan volcano that erupted in 1976, that put out 570 times as much chlorine as one year’s worth of CFCs. Ray’s source is a 1980 Science magazine article–but that piece was actually talking about the chlorine produced by a gigantic eruption that occurred 700,000 years ago in California (Science, 6/11/93).
This kind of sloppiness, ignorance and/or fabrication is run of the mill in Limbaugh’s commentary, both broadcast and print. From dioxin to Whitewater, from Rodney King to Reaganomics, Rush Limbaugh has a finely honed ability to twist and distort reality.
Limbaugh’s facts are almost never challenged on his programs. A hostile caller hardly ever gets through the screeners on his radio show, and his TV show is just him doing a monologue in front of his cheering audience. No one in the history of national television has had such a political platform. He has almost never corrected anything he’s said–although he did apologize once to the aerosol industry for implying that spray cans still had CFCs in them. (CFCs were removed in 1978.)
Limbaugh’s chronic inaccuracy, and his lack of accountability, wouldn’t be such a problem if Limbaugh were just a cranky entertainer, like Howard Stern. But Limbaugh is taken seriously by “serious” media–in addition to Nightline, he’s been an “expert” on such chat shows as Charlie Rose and Meet the Press. The New York Times (10/15/92) and Newsweek (1/24/94) have published his writings. A U.S. News & World Report piece (8/16/93) by Steven Roberts declared, “The information Mr. Limbaugh provides is generally accurate.”
He’s also taken seriously as a political figure. A National Review cover story (9/6/93) declared him the “Leader of the Opposition.” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who recently officiated at Limbaugh’s wedding, says he tapes Limbaugh’s radio show and listens to it as he works out (USA Today, 5/13/94).
FAIR is publishing a compilation of some of Limbaugh’s more obvious whoppers in order to convince journalists and political leaders alike that when Limbaugh says, “I’m not making this up, folks,” it’s time to duck and cover.
Journalists, in particular, have an obligation to challenge Limbaugh’s brand of hysteria. Someone who has amassed a powerful political following through the regular use of half-truth and distortion is begging for tough media scrutiny. In 1954, Edward R. Murrow confronted another demagogue who had a similar allergy to facts and documentation. Today’s TV networks don’t ask themselves how they can challenge Limbaugh’s reign of error–but how they can profit from him. CBS News, the platform from which Murrow denounced Joe McCarthy, has been seeking to hire Limbaugh as a political commentator.
Real democracy is built on debate. But Limbaugh has little use for debates; he has forged a media empire largely on unchallenged monologues. The following confrontation–Limbaugh vs. Reality–is an attempt at stimulating (or at least simulating) a debate.
The list of fallacies compiled here is not exhaustive. It was assembled from easily available sources–Limbaugh’s books, The Way Things Ought to Be and See, I Told You So; transcripts of several weeks’ worth of his TV show; gleanings from as much of his radio show as we could take; and other published evaluations of Limbaugh’s accuracy. (There’s a publication, the Flush Rush Quarterly (FRQ), largely devoted to chronicling Limbaugh’s falsehoods, and a book, The Bum’s Rush, by Don Trent Jacobs, that debunks his environmental rhetoric.) As Josh Shenk showed in the New Republic (“Limbaugh’s Lies”, 5/23/94), scrutinizing the TV show for a month results in errors too numerous to count.
“There’s a pathology here, folks,” is a phrase Limbaugh likes to use when discussing President Clinton’s alleged inability to tell the truth. A psychiatrist might agree–and label it projection.
Limbaugh vs. Reality
LIMBAUGH: On California contractor C.C. Myers completing repairs 74 days early on the earthquake-damaged Santa Monica Freeway: “There was one key element that made this happen. One key thing: The governor of California declared the [freeway] a disaster area and by so doing eliminated the need for competitive bids…. Government got the hell out of the way.” (TV show, 4/13/94) “They gave this guy [Myers] the job without having to go through the rigmarole…of giving 25 percent of the job to a minority-owned business and 25 percent to a woman.” (TV show, 4/15/94)
REALITY: There was competitive bidding: Myers beat four other contractors for the job. Affirmative action rules applied: At least 40 percent of the subcontracts went to minority or women-owned firms. Far from getting out of the way, dozens of state employees were on the job 24 hours a day. Furthermore, the federal government picked up the tab for the whole job (L.A. Times, 5/1/94).
LIMBAUGH: “Banks take the risks in issuing student loans and they are entitled to the profits.” (Radio show, quoted in FRQ, Summer/93)
REALITY: Banks take no risks in issuing student loans, which are federally insured.
LIMBAUGH: “Don’t let the liberals deceive you into believing that a decade of sustained growth without inflation in America [in the ’80s] resulted in a bigger gap between the haves and the have-nots. Figures compiled by the Congressional Budget Office dispel that myth.” (Ought to Be, p. 70)
REALITY: CBO figures do nothing of the sort. Its numbers for after-tax incomes show that in 1980, the richest fifth of our country had eight times the income of the poorest fifth. By 1989, the ratio was more than 20 to one.
LIMBAUGH: Comparing the 1950s with the present: “And I might point out that poverty and economic disparities between the lower and upper classes were greater during the former period.” (Told You So, p. 84)
REALITY: Income inequality, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau, fell from the 1940s to the late 1960s, and then began rising. Inequality surpassed the 1950 level in 1982 and rose steadily to all-time highs in 1992. (Census Bureau’s “Money Income of Households, Families and Persons in the United States”)
LIMBAUGH: “Oh, how they relished blaming Reagan administration policies, including the mythical reductions in HUD’s budget for public housing, for creating all of the homeless! Budget cuts? There were no budget cuts! The budget figures show that actual construction of public housing increased during the Reagan years.” (Ought to Be, p. 242-243)
REALITY: In 1980, 20,900 low-income public housing units were under construction; in 1988, 9,700, a decline of 54 percent ;Statistical Abstracts of the U.S).In terms of 1993 dollars, the HUD budget for the construction of new public housing was slashed from $6.3 billion in 1980 to $683 million in 1988. “We’re getting out of the housing business. Period,” a Reagan HUD official declared in 1985.
LIMBAUGH: “The poorest people in America are better off than the mainstream families of Europe.” (Radio show, quoted in FRQ, Spring/93)
REALITY: Huh? The average cash income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans is $5,226; the average cash income of four major European nations–Germany, France, United Kingdom and Italy–is $19,708.
LIMBAUGH: “There’s no such thing as an implied contract.” (Radio show, quoted in FRQ, Spring/93)
REALITY: Every first-year law student knows there is.
LIMBAUGH: “Ladies and gentlemen, we now know why there is this institutional opposition to low tax rates in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. It’s because [low tax rates] are biblical in nature and in root. When you can trace the lowering of tax rates on grain from 90 percent to 20 percent giving seven fat years during the days of Pharaoh in Egypt, why then you are tracing the roots of lower taxes and rising prosperity to religion…. You can trace individual prosperity, economic growth back to the Bible, the Old Testament. Isn’t it amazing?” (Radio show, 6/28/93)
REALITY: Amazingly wrong. Genesis 41 is about the wisdom of instituting taxes, not cutting them. After Pharaoh had a dream that prophesied seven fat years to be followed by seven lean years, Joseph advised him to “appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years…and lay up corn under the hands of Pharaoh.” In other words, a 20 percent tax on the grain harvest would put aside food for use during the famine. Pharaoh took Joseph’s advice, and Egypt avoided hunger during the famine.
LIMBAUGH: “It has not been proven that nicotine is addictive, the same with cigarettes causing emphysema [and other diseases].” (Radio show, 4/29/94)
REALITY: 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.”
LIMBAUGH: “We closed down a whole town–Times Beach, Mo.–over the threat of dioxin. We now know there was no reason to do that. Dioxin at those levels isn’t harmful.” (Ought to Be, p. 163)
REALITY: “The hypothesis that low exposures [to dioxin] are entirely safe for humans is distinctly less tenable now than before,” editorialized the New England Journal of Medicine after publishing a study (1/24/91) on cancer mortality and dioxin. In 1993, after Limbaugh’s book was written, a study of residents in Seveso, Italy had increased cancer rates after being exposed to dioxin, The EPA’s director of environmental toxicology said this study removed one of the last remaining doubts about dioxin’s deadly effects (AP, 8/29/93).
LIMBAUGH: “The worst of all of this is the lie that condoms really protect against AIDS. The condom failure rate can be as high as 20 percent. Would you get on a plane — or put your children on a plane — if one of five passengers would be killed on the flight? Well, the statistic holds for condoms, folks.” (Ought to Be, p. 135)
REALITY: A one in five AIDS risk for condom users? Not true, according to Dr. Joseph Kelaghan, who evaluates contraceptives for the National Institutes of Health. “There is substantive evidence that condoms prevent transmission if used consistently and properly,” he said. He pointed to a nearly two-year study of couples in which one partner was HIV-positive. Among the 123 couples who used condoms regularly, there wasn’t a single new infection (AP, 8/29/93).
LIMBAUGH: “Most Canadian physicians who are themselves in need of surgery, for example, scurry across the border to get it done right: the American way. They have found, through experience, that state medical care is too expensive, too slow and inefficient, and, most important, it doesn’t provide adequate care for most people.” (Told You So, p. 153)
REALITY: “Mr. Limbaugh’s claim simply isn’t true,” says Dr. Hugh Scully, chair of the Canadian Medical Association’s Council on Healing and Finance. “The vast majority of Canadians, including physicians, receive their care here in Canada. Those few Canadians who receive health care in the U.S. most often do because they have winter homes in the States–like Arizona and Florida–and have emergent health problems there.” Medical care in Canada is hardly “too expensive”; it’s provided free and covered by taxes.
LIMBAUGH: “If you have any doubts about the status of American health care, just compare it with that in other industrialized nations.” (Told You So, p. 153)
REALITY: The United States ranks 19th in life expectancy and 20th in infant mortality among 23 industrialized nations, according to the CIA’s 1993 World Fact Book. The U.S. also has the lowest health care satisfaction rate (11 percent) of the 10 largest industrialized nations (Health Affairs, vol. 9, no. 2).
LIMBAUGH: Denouncing Jeremy Rifkin of the Beyond Beef campaign as an “ecopest”: “Rifkin is bent out of shape because he says the cattle consume enough grain to feed hundreds of millions of people. The reason the cattle are eating the grain is so they can be fattened and slaughtered, after which they will feed people, who need a high protein diet.” (Ought To Be, p. 110)
REALITY: Sixteen pounds of grain and soy is required to produce one pound of edible food from beef (USDA Economic Research Service). As for needing a “high-protein diet,” the World Health Organization and U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend that from 4.5 percent to 6 percent of daily calories come from protein. The amount of calories from protein in rice is 8 percent; in wheat it’s 17 percent (USDA Handbook No. 456).
LIMBAUGH: “Do you know we have more acreage of forest land in the United States today than we did at the time the constitution was written.” (Radio show, 2/18/94)
REALITY: In what are now the 50 U.S. states, there were 850 million acres of forest land in the late 1700s vs. only 730 million today (The Bum’s Rush, p. 136). Limbaugh’s claim also ignores the fact that much of today’s forests are single-species tree farms, as opposed to natural old-growth forests which support diverse ecosystems.
LIMBAUGH: “The videotape of the Rodney King beating played absolutely no role in the conviction of two of the four officers. It was pure emotion that was responsible for the guilty verdict.” (Radio show, quoted in FRQ, Summer/93)
REALITY: “Jury Foreman Says Video Was Crucial in Convictions”, read an accurate Los Angeles Times headline the day after the federal court verdict (4/20/93).
LIMBAUGH: “Anytime the illegitimacy rate in black America is raised, Rev. Jackson and other black ‘leaders’ immediately change the subject.” (Ought to Be, p. 225)
REALITY: Jesse Jackson has been talking about and against “children having children” in speeches and interviews for decades. So have many other black leaders, especially in the clergy.
LIMBAUGH: Praising Strom Thurmond for calling a gay soldier “not normal”: “He’s not encumbered by being politically correct…. If you want to know what America used to be–and a lot of people wish it still were–then you listen to Strom Thurmond.” (TV show, 9/1/93)
REALITY: In the America that “used to be,” Strom Thurmond was one of the country’s strongest voices for racism, running for president in 1948 on the slogan, “Segregation Forever.”
LIMBAUGH: “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?” (Told You So, p. 68)
REALITY: 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.
LIMBAUGH: “Women were doing quite well in this country before feminism came along.” (Radio show, quoted in FRQ, Summer/93)
REALITY: Before feminism, women couldn’t even vote.
LIMBAUGH: “Anita Hill followed Clarence Thomas everywhere. Wherever he went, she wanted to be right by his side, she wanted to work with him, she wanted to continue to date him…. There were no other accusers who came forth after Anita Hill did and said, ‘Yeah, Clarence Thomas, he harassed me, too.’ There was none of that.” (TV show, 5/4/94)
REALITY: Hill could not have continued to date Thomas, since they never dated. Two other women, Sukari Hardnett and Angela Wright, came forth in the Thomas case with similar charges.
LIMBAUGH: “Now I got something for you that’s true–1972, Tufts University, Boston. This is 24 years ago–or 22 years ago. Three year study of 5000 co-eds, and they used a benchmark of a bra size of 34C. They found that the–now wait. It’s true. The larger the bra-size, the smaller the IQ.” (TV show, 5/13/94)
REALITY: Dr. Burton Hallowell, president of Tufts in the ’60s and ’70s, had “absolutely no recollection” of such a study, according to Tufts’ communications office. “I surely would have remembered that!” he exclaimed. Limbaugh’s staff was unable to produce any such study. A search of the Nexis database–while revealing no evidence of a Tufts study–did produce a number of women theorizing that the presence of large breasts caused a lowering of IQ in some males.
The Clinton Obsession
LIMBAUGH: On Whitewater: “I don’t think the New York Times has run a story on this yet. I mean, we haven’t done a thorough search, but I–there has not been a big one, front-page story, about this one that we can recall. So this has yet to create or get up to its full speed–if it weren’t for us and the Wall Street Journal and the American Spectator, this would be one of the biggest and most well kept secrets going on in American politics today.” (TV show, 2/17/94)
REALITY: The New York Times broke the Whitewater story on March 8, 1992, in a front-page story by Jeff Gerth that included much of the key information known today. The investigative article ran over 1,700 words.
LIMBAUGH: “You know the Clintons send Chelsea to the Sidwell Friends private school…. A recent eighth grade class assignment required students to write a paper on ‘Why I Feel Guilty Being White”. ‘… My source for this story is CBS News. I am not making it up.” (Radio show, quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times, 1/16/94.)
REALITY: When Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called CBS, the network denied running such a story. Ellis Turner, the director of external affairs for Sidwell Friends, told Roeper: “There is no legitimacy to the story that has been circulating…. We’re anxious to let people know that this story is not true.” The essay topic would be particularly difficult for the 28 percent of the school’s student body that is not white.
LIMBAUGH: “You better pay attention to the 1993 budget deal because there is an increase in beer and alcohol taxes.” (Radio show, 7/9/93)
REALITY: There were no increases in beer and alcohol taxes in the 1993 budget.
LIMBAUGH: The lead item on a page of “Stupid Quotes” in the May ’94 Limbaugh Letter–subtitled, “Folks, I don’t make this stuff up”–was a quote attributed to Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group: “Hillary and Bill Clinton cheating on their taxes was a protest against the Reagan era tax breaks for the wealthy…. They knew… the IRS would catch up to them and tack penalties…. If more people had been as far-sighted and altruistic as the Clintons, we could retroactively erase the deficit.” Limbaugh commented, “It’s only May, folks, and we’ve got our Stupid Quote of the year.”
REALITY: Rush Limbaugh, April Fool. The item came from the April Fools Day issue of a right-wing newsletter, Notable Quotables. Each item in the newsletter was dated April 1 and the issue signed off with the words “April Fools.” (The Limbaugh Letter later printed a correction on this and another April Fools quote used as fact.)
LIMBAUGH: Quotes President James Madison: “We have staked the future…upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” (Told You So, p. 73)
REALITY: “We didn’t find anything in our files remotely like the sentiment expressed in the extract you sent to us,” David B. Mattern, the associate editor of The Madison Papers, told the Kansas City Star (1/16/94). “In addition, the idea is entirely inconsistent with everything we know about Madison’s views on religion and government.”
LIMBAUGH: “And it was only 4,000 votes that–had they gone another way in Chicago–Richard Nixon would have been elected in 1960.” (TV show, 4/28/94)
REALITY: Kennedy won the 1960 election with 303 electoral votes to 219 for Nixon. Without Illinois’ 27 electoral votes, Kennedy would still have won, 276-246.
LIMBAUGH: On how to stop riots: “Richard Daley, in 1968, in the Democratic National Convention, issued an order–where there were rumors of riots–he issued a shoot-to-kill order. And there were no riots and there was no civil disobedience and no shots were fired and nobody was hurt. And that’s what ought to happen.” (TV show, 6/10/93)
REALITY: Mayor Daley’s shoot-to-kill order was issued not at the Democratic Convention, but following the April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King assassination. Daley wasn’t reacting to “rumors of riots” since riots had already broken out. The shoot-to-kill order hardly put an end to unrest–since four months after Daley’s order, protesters flocked to Chicago’s Democratic Convention and engaged in riotous civil disobedience. Protesters chanted, “The whole world is watching.” Except for Rush Limbaugh.
LIMBAUGH: In an attack on Spike Lee, director of Malcolm X, for being fast and loose with the facts, Limbaugh introduced a video clip of Malcolm X’s “daughter named Betty Shabazz.” (TV show, 11/17/92)
REALITY: Betty Shabazz is Malcolm X’s widow.
LIMBAUGH: “Those gas lines were a direct result of the foreign oil powers playing tough with us because they didn’t fear Jimmy Carter.” (Told You So, p. 112)
REALITY: The first–and most serious–gas lines occurred in late 1973/early 1974, during the administration of Limbaugh hero Richard Nixon.
LIMBAUGH: On Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh: “This Walsh story basically is, we just spent seven years and $40 million looking for any criminal activity on the part of anybody in the Reagan administration, and guess what? We couldn’t find any. These guys didn’t do anything, but we wish they had so that we could nail them. So instead,we’re just going to say, ‘Gosh, these are rotten guys.’ They have absolutely no evidence. There is not one indictment. There is not one charge.” (TV show, 1/19/94)
REALITY: Walsh won indictments against 14 people in connection with the Iran-Contra scandal including leading Reagan administration officials like former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and former national security advisers Robert McFarlane and John Poindexter. Of the 14, 11 were convicted or pleaded guilty. (Two convictions were later overturned on technicalities–including that of occasional Limbaugh substitute Oliver North.)
LIMBAUGH: Explaining why the Democrats wanted to “sabotage” President Bush with the 1990 budget deal: “Now, here is my point. In 1990, George Bush was president and was enjoying a 90 percent plus approval rating on the strength of our victories in the Persian Gulf War and Cold War.” (Told You So, p. 304)
REALITY: In October 1990, when the budget deal was concluded the Gulf War had not yet been fought.
LIMBAUGH: On the Gulf War: “Everybody in the world was aligned with the United States except who? The United States Congress.” (TV show, 4/18/94)
REALITY: Both houses of Congress voted to authorize the U.S. to use force against Iraq.
LIMBAUGH: On Bosnia:
“For the first time in military history, U.S. military personnel are not under the command of United States generals.” (TV show, 4/18/94)
REALITY: That’s news to the Pentagon. “How far back do you want to go?” asked Commander Joe Gradisher, a Pentagon spokesperson. “Americans served under Lafayette in the Revolutionary war.” Gradisher pointed out several famous foreign commanders of U.S. troops, including France’s Marshall Foch, in overall command of U.S. troops in World War I. In World War II, Britain’s General Montgomery led U.S. troops in Europe and North Africa, while another British General, Lord Mountbatten, commanded the China-Burma-India theater.
LIMBAUGH: Limbaugh constantly tells his audience that he doesn’t make personal or ad hominem attacks. To a caller who had a problem with his personalized attacks, Limbaugh responded with a denial: “Give me a specific example: who, what, when, where, and what exactly did I say?” (Radio show, 2/18/94)
REALITY: One hour before that call, Limbaugh was telling his audience that a 5,000-year-old man found buried in ice–pictured on the cover of Time magazine–was really Sally Jesse Raphael: “This is just what Sally Jesse Raphael looks like without makeup!”
MORE REALITY: Columnist Molly Ivins reported (Arizona Republic 10/17/93) this incident from Limbaugh’s TV show–“Here is a Limbaugh joke: Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat. Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is a White House dog?” And he puts up a picture of Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea Clinton is 13 years old.
LIMBAUGH: Assailing a journalist who had criticized Nixon: “Michael Gartner, portraying himself as a balanced, objective journalist with years and years of experience faking events, and then reporting them as news–and doing so with the express hope of destroying General Motors in one case and destroying businesses that cut down trees, the timber industry, in another.” (TV show, 4/27/94)
REALITY: Gartner, the NBC News president who resigned in the wake of the GM truck explosion episode on NBC‘s Dateline, had no hands-on role in it–nor had he expressed a hope of destroying any company.
LIMBAUGH: Equally accurate when denouncing a fellow conservative, he said of right-wing journalist Cliff Kincaid: “He’s written all kinds of pieces about how I don’t go make speeches for free, for the cause…. He’s just one more of these little gnats out there trying to sink a Boeing 747 that’s leaving him in a cloud of dust.” (Radio show, 11/19/93)
REALITY: Kincaid’s only published piece on whether Limbaugh does speeches “for the cause” was in Human Events (7/27/91): “He does his bit for conservatives when the movement calls. He waived his fees, for instance, when he emceed at roasts for Oliver North and Paul Weyrich and addressed the National Right to Life convention.”
Limbaugh vs. Limbaugh
LIMBAUGH: Limbaugh frequently denies that he uses his show for political activism: “I have yet to encourage you people or urge you to call anybody. I don’t do it. They think I’m the one doing it. That’s fine. You don’t need to be told when to call. They think you are a bunch of lemmings out there.” (Radio show, 6/28/93)
REALITY: Just an hour after making the above claim, he was–as usual–sending his troops to the trenches: “The people in the states where these Democratic senators are up for reelection in ’94 have to let their feelings be known…. These senators, you let them know. I think Wisconsin’s one state. Let’s say Herb Kohl is up in ’94. You people in Wisconsin who don’t like this bill, who don’t like the tax increases, you let Herb Kohl know somehow.”
LIMBAUGH: On the poverty line: “$14,400 for a family of four. That’s not so bad.” (Radio show, 11/9/93, quoted in FRQ, Winter/94)
REALITY: Just a few months earlier, Limbaugh was talking about how tough it was to make 10 times that: “I know families that make $180,000 a year and they don’t consider themselves rich. Why, it costs them $20,000 a year to send their kids to school.” (Radio show, 8/3/93, quoted in FRQ, Winter/94)
LIMBAUGH: On Bill Clinton: “Never trust a draft dodger.” (Radio show, quoted in FRQ, Summer/93)
REALITY: Although a supporter of the Vietnam War, Limbaugh used a minor physical impairment to avoid the draft (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/27/93).
LIMBAUGH: In frequent broadcasts, Limbaugh offers impassioned advocacy for Paula Jones, who charged Bill Clinton with sexual harassment. (TV and radio, April-May/94)
REALITY: Limbaugh boasted that a sign on his office door reads, “Sexual harassment at this work station will not be reported. However…it will be graded!!!” (USA Weekend, 1/26/92).
Rush Limbaugh: Champion of the Overdog
Who says Rush Limbaugh is abusive to minorities? He champions various minority interests: multi-millionaires, bankers, owners of private planes and yachts, drug companies. It’s only those other “minorities”–women, workers, the poor, racial minorities, gays–that he has no use for. Here’s a sampling:
“One of the things I want to do before I die is conduct the Homeless Olympics… [Events would include] the 10-meter Shopping Cart Relay, the Dumpster Dig, and the Hop, Skip and Trip.” (L.A. Times, 1/20/91)
On NAFTA: “If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people–I’m serious, let the unskilled jobs, let the kinds of jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do–let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work.” (Radio show quoted in FRQ, Fall/93)
Speculating on why a Mexican national won the New York marathon: “An immigration agent chased him for the last 10 miles.” (USA Weekend, 1/26/92)
This is asinine! A Caesar Chavez Day in California? Wasn’t he convicted of a crime?” (Quoted in FRQ, Winter/94)
“Kurt Cobain was, ladies and gentleman, I just–he was a worthless shred of human debris…” (TV show, 4/11/94)
“When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult ; it’s an invitation.” (Quoted in FRQ, Summer/94)
“Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.” (Quoted in FRQ, Summer/93)
“Militant feminists are pro-choice because it’s their ultimate avenue of power over men…. It is their attempt to impose their will on the rest of society, particularly on men.” (Ought to Be, p.53)
“Why is it that whenever a corporation fires workers it is never speculated that the workers might have deserved it?” (Ought to Be, p.275)
If you’d like to see what Rush Limbaugh had to say in response to FAIR’s report, read Limbaugh Responds to FAIR (6/28/94).
Then please read FAIR’s Reply to Limbaugh’s Non-Response (10/17/94).
These and many other examples of Rush Limbaugh‘s losing debate with reality can be found in FAIR’s book, The Way Things Aren’t: Rush Limbaugh‘s Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995).