Rush Limbaugh celebrated his 25th year of his game-changing nationally syndicated radio program this past week. As The Right Frequency explains, talk radio did not start with Limbaugh, but he did revolutionize it — creating a commercially successful model that spawned an industry and in turn created an alternative media. Below is an excerpt from The Right Frequency on Limbaugh, the only host to get his own chapter in the book.
Just before the 1992 presidential election, Time magazine asked Rush Limbaugh,
“You’re unabashedly for Bush and against Clinton.
Given 13 million devoted listeners, why is your guy 15 points behind?”
Limbaugh’s answer: “I don’t say that I have influence. I was totally opposed to the 1990 budget deal, and it still happened. I’m not an activist. I do not give out congressional phone numbers. I do not urge behavior. No tea bags. This is entertainment. And in strict marketing terms, does it hurt me to be the only guy not making Dan Quayle jokes?”
Rush Limbaugh has no influence. Tell that to the Democrats in 1994 who lost their seats en masse in the Republican Revolution that was dubbed the Limbaugh Congress. Tell that to the new majority swept in that year that made Limbaugh an honorary member of their freshman class. Tell that to President Bill Clinton who had public fits during his administration over Limbaugh’s commentary.
For that matter, tell it to the Obama White House who made it their strategy in early 2009 to call Limbaugh the leader of the Republican Party, a strategy that did nothing to help Obama against the GOP (which was the intent) but tremendously boosted Limbaugh’s audience and influence.
To be sure, he does not have unlimited political power. His legions of “ditto-heads” are not mind numb robots marching in lockstep. This is evident during the presidential primary season when callers, who insist they agree with Limbaugh 99 percent of the time, wanted to know why he is so down on Pat Buchanan (1996), John McCain (2000 and 2008), Mike Huckabee (2008) and Mitt Romney (2012) and other GOP hopefuls over the years. The “ditto-heads” are
in fact folks who had long sought an advocate who would not mock the views they already held. They found that in Limbaugh.
A month after Republicans faced a beating in the 1992 election, sweeping Bill Clinton into the White House, none other than former President Ronald Reagan wrote a letter to Limbaugh. “Now that I’ve retired from active politics, I don’t mind that you’ve become the number one voice for conservatism.” A remarkable statement from the politician Rush would go on to call Ronaldous Maximus.
Reagan’s December 1992 letter went on to say, “I know the liberals call you ‘the most dangerous man in America,’ but don’t worry about it, they used to say the same about me. Keep up the good work.”
While the left tries to dismiss him, the industry does not, as few people are more decorated than Limbaugh. He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1993, often times a lifetime achievement that comes toward the end of a host’s career. Rush was just getting started then. He won a Marconi Award in 1992, 1995, 2000 and 2005, given by the National Association of Broadcasters to
the top radio personality. Reflecting his role as a leader in the conservative movement, in March 2007 he accept the inaugural William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence, given by the Media Research Center.
Simply put, according to Talkers Magazine, the industry bible, “Rush Limbaugh is the greatest radio talk show host of all time.”
He has not prevented Democrats from ever getting elected again. Nor has he controlled the Republican nomination process—obvious in the 2008 choice of McCain as the GOP standard bearer.
He was no cheerleader for Mitt Romney during the 2012 primary either. But he has become in many ways, if not the leader, the inspiration of the conservative movement.
The left has continually gone after him, seeking advertising boycotts, and accusations of various forms of bigotry. The left, which is often so aghast at casting moral judgment, has repeatedly pounced on Limbaugh for his being divorced three time and married four— paying the gay entertainer Sir Elton John $1 million to perform at his most recent wedding. He was married the first time for 18 months; the second time for five years, the third time for 10 years.
He married Kathryn Rogers in the summer of 2010. Though virtually every bad adjective imaginable has been used to describe him, Limbaugh has contributed millions from his own pocket and raised hundreds of millions for leukemia research. Rush Limbaugh has been a transformative figure in the political, media and entertainment universe.
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