I wrote last week about two ways Rush Limbaugh had hit the news. The first came from his comments on ESPN that led to him leaving the show. But the second was a more serious issue. Some people had come forward claiming that Rush had been addicted to prescription pain pills.
I wrote how his comments last Friday seemed very evasive, practically Clintonesque, in avoiding the facts of the allegations. This evasion did not sit well with many people, myself included, and we asked that Rush be a little more forthcoming. Today, Rush did have more to say:
“You know I have always tried to be honest with you and open about my life. So I need to tell you today that part of what you have heard and read is correct. I am addicted to prescription pain medication. I first started taking prescription painkillers some years ago when my doctor prescribed them to treat post surgical pain following spinal surgery. Unfortunately the surgery was unsuccessful, and I continued to have severe pain in my lower back and also in my neck due to herniated discs.
I am still experiencing that pain. Rather than opt for additional surgery for these conditions, I chose to treat the pain with prescribed medication. This medication turned out to be highly addictive. Over the past several years I have tried to break my dependence on pain pills and, in fact, twice checked myself into medical facilities in an attempt to do so. I have recently agreed with my physician about the next steps. Immediately following this broadcast, I am checking myself into a treatment center for the next 30 days to once and for all break the hold this highly addictive medication has on me.” [Read the full quote here -- ed]
I have to applaud Rush for coming clean. Too many people dig in their heels and deny any wrongdoing, so publicly confessing to this issue is admirable. I can envision the inner wrestling Rush must have gone through before deciding to announce these uncomfortable facts to his large audience. This could not have been an easy decision to make, even though it was the only right one.
Rush mentioned that while some of the information out there is correct, some of it has “inaccuracies and distortions” that he won’t be able to comment on until he is “free to speak about them.” Some people have criticized Rush for saying that he cannot talk about the particulars, but there are valid reasons for this. Most likely his lawyer has told him not to say anything specific because there is a police investigation going on. Some pundits on both the left and right are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the image of Rush being led handcuffed to a police car. I myself said that I expected justice to be served in this matter, so if that means he has to serve time, that is what should be required.
But in this past week, I have learned a few things about prescription drug abuse and the law—mainly that the law does see a difference between use of illegal narcotics like heroin and cocaine, and the illegal use of prescription drugs. In the case of narcotics, both the dealers and the users are prosecuted fully; but in the case of prescription drug abuse, only the dealers are prosecuted. If Rush is a user and not a reseller of these pills, his prosecution would be unprecedented in the history of federal law. Since the law does not normally prosecute people in Rush’s position, any legal action taken against him regarding this issue must therefore be suspected as a politically or personally motivated attack. There are also some questionable issues about the people who leveled these charges at Rush. One was convicted of identity theft. Wilma Cline claims to have a tape of Rush buying drugs from her, but it’s a 3rd degree felony to tape someone without consent in Florida. So if this does become a court case, the tape—if one exists—is inadmissible evidence.
So what’s next for Rush? He has voluntarily checked into a treatment center for the next month to break his addiction to pain medication for good. This choice has at least three benefits: first, Rush can commit to a month of steady medical care to help break him from this addiction. He might also reconsider additional surgeries to fix his spinal problem and alleviate the pain that started the addiction in the first place. Second, Rush will probably be sequestered from the press during this time. Once the next scandal or big news hits the front page, Rush’s addiction will fade into obscurity. Third, his show will be guest-hosted by a variety of people. Since Rush’s show has such a huge listener base, it’s quite possible that some of these guest hosts could use this national exposure to catapult their radio careers. Sean Hannity currently holds the #2 slot behind Rush; much of his rise to fame in the radio industry can be directly attributed to Rush’s involvement and allowing Sean to guest-host for him on several occasions.
So Rush will be off the radio for the next month, and his audience will have some time to come to grips with his admission. His addiction to drugs is regrettable and may lose him many listeners, but I am very glad that he publicly confessed to his addiction. I hope the coming month will see Rush free from addiction and back doing what he loves to do. I suspect any legal action, if it takes place, will come after Rush leaves the treatment center. Time will tell.