Rush Limbaugh is a major fixture in the radio business. For more than fifteen years, Rush has broadcast his views and opinions over the airwaves. Many people love him, others despise him, but all have to agree that Rush’s show has been monumentally popular. Industry people even credit Rush with reviving the AM band in general, and talk radio in particular. But love him or hate him, Rush has hit the front pages twice this week.
The first hit came while Rush was on ESPN commenting on the Philadelphia Eagles vs. Buffalo Bills game. Referring to the Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb, Rush opined, “I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go,” and “The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.” These comments kicked up a firestorm a few days later as more and more people complained they were racist and hateful. Three of the Democratic presidential candidates, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, and Al Sharpton, called for ESPN to fire Rush. Wesley Clark went as far as to call these remarks “hateful and ignorant speech.” Oh, come on! Jesse Jackson calling New York “Hymietown” is racist and hateful. Rush’s comments are not.
Allen Barra of Slate magazine agrees that Rush’s comments were not racist. In an article published Oct. 2, Barra agreed with Rush’s assessment of McNabb. “If Limbaugh were a more astute analyst, he would have been even harsher and said, ‘Donovan McNabb is barely a mediocre quarterback.’ But other than that, Limbaugh pretty much spoke the truth. Limbaugh lost his job for saying in public what many football fans and analysts have been saying privately for the past couple of seasons.” Barra also took time to compare Brad Johnson with Donovan McNabb. In almost every measurable way, Johnson is a better quarterback than McNabb. But people view Johnson as mediocre, while McNabb is often lauded as the best pro quarterback. If McNabb’s performance is worse than Johnson’s, why is he considered the better quarterback? There is only one plausible reason: Rush is right.
I don’t follow football, so I have never watched Rush on ESPN. I do think it’s sad to see Rush forced away from ESPN when he clearly enjoyed it so much. But when it comes to his comments, people have been making a mountain out of a molehill. Many perpetually annoyed liberals have screamed that Rush’s comments were racist, but their claims ring hollow to me. After all, how seriously can I take their complaints about Rush’s comments, when they take no stand against a former Grand Kleagle of the Klu Klux Klan sitting in the Senate? I refer of course to Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, who was an active member of the KKK for many years and who has never renounced his affiliation with that organization. But does this concern the liberal left? Not at all. Yet if a conservative makes one comment about the race of a football player, even if many others share his sentiment, liberals will call for his head. Interesting hypocrisy, no?
The second story to hit the news alleges that Rush has been buying thousands of addictive prescription drugs from a black-market drug ring. According to Wilma Cline, who claims to have been Rush’s housekeeper, Rush has been hooked on various potent prescription painkillers. The National Enquirer sat on this particular story for two years, and the obvious question which no one seems to be asking is: why release it this week? If you have been following Rush’s activities, you would have noticed the drug accusations hit right while he was headed for Philadelphia to be the keynote speaker at the annual National Association of Broadcasters meeting. Thus on the day the story broke, there was a substitute filling in for Rush. The timing of this story placed Rush in a position where he was unable to defend himself against these accusations on his radio show, and the curious who listened in on that day would probably assume Rush had gone into hiding to avoid further hits from the press.
On Friday, Rush returned to his radio show, and most of the day he strongly defended his comments about McNabb, but he barely touched on the drug accusations. Here is part of his official response, posted on his Web site and disseminated by EIB: “I am unaware of any investigation by any authorities involving me. No governmental representative has contacted me directly or indirectly. If my assistance is required in the future, I will, of course, cooperate fully.”
I’m pleased that Rush says he is willing to cooperate with the authorities, but he did not definitively reject the notion that he abused prescription drugs. He has not strongly declared his innocence. During the past administration, Bill Clinton was questioned many times by reporters about his various scandals. His responses were inevitably evasive. Usually he would say that since the issue was under investigation, he could not respond. Instead he preferred to wait until all the facts were known. But Clinton himself would have been privy to these facts, so waiting for the investigation to conclude was an attempt to dodge the questions. Clinton could have proclaimed his own innocence, since he was fully aware of his actions in these matters. But he chose not to do that.
Rush was quick to spot these evasions during Clinton’s administration, but I have yet to hear anyone pointing out these same evasions on Rush’s part. I admit that I like listening to Rush, and I do hope he is innocent of these charges. But conservatives like me have a very low tolerance for corruption and law-breaking, even among our own. When someone on the political right does something wrong, we expect that person to do the honorable thing. You can see this expectation reflected in the way conservative government officials have resigned when their past sins came back to haunt them. But liberals tend not to do this. When a liberal gets in trouble, other liberals tend to close ranks and stand behind him, right or wrong. This was the case during the Clinton years, and it is the case today. This is why I say conservatives have standards, and liberals have alibis.
I hope Rush is found innocent of these drug charges. But I believe if he could honestly defend himself against these accusations, he would–that would fit his brash, outspoken style of comment. This tiptoeing around the issue seems to reveal much more about what’s going on. If Rush is found guilty, as much as I like him, then I expect justice to be served.