"America's Anchorman" talks to the New York Times
I've been a big Rush Limbaugh fan for a little over 15 years now, ever since I first started listening to him during my freshman year in college. I had heard about "Rush rooms," and I had seen a few "Rush is Right" bumper stickers here and there, but I'd never gotten a chance to actually hear what all the fuss was about. Then I found his show on a local AM radio station in Tuscaloosa - I can't remember the call letters...just that it was "a little to the right on your AM dial" - and I immediately knew why he was so successful. He was witty, he was smart, he had a great radio voice, and he was the most effective proponent of mainstream conservatism of anyone in the broadcast media at the time, bar none.
Fast forward to 2008, and none of that has changed: Limbaugh is still witty, still smart, and still conservative. And he just signed a brand new $400 million contract that will keep him on the air for another eight years. Apparently, huge numbers of talk radio listeners are still Ditto-Heads. It's no wonder that liberals can't stand him and that the drive-by media tries its best to ignore him. And so it came as a pleasant surprise to find this story by Zev Chafets published in last weekend's New York Times Magazine - one of the nation's leading liberal publications. The article is superb throughout, but this is just precious:
Limbaugh’s audience is often underestimated by critics who don’t listen to the show (only 3 percent of his audience identify themselves as “liberal,” according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press). Recently, Pew reported that, on a series of “news knowledge questions,” Limbaugh’s “Dittoheads” — the defiantly self-mocking term for his faithful, supposedly brainwashed, audience — scored higher than NPR listeners. The study found that “readers of newsmagazines, political magazines and business magazines, listeners of Rush Limbaugh and NPR and viewers of the Daily Show and C-SPAN are also much more likely than the average person to have a college degree.”Then there's Rush's smackdown of Bill O'Reilley, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity:
Limbaugh told me he is no longer concerned about the opinions of his colleagues and rivals, and he makes no effort to disguise his contempt for most of them. Michael Savage, ranked No. 3 among talk-radio hosts by Talkers magazine? “He’s not even in my rearview mirror.” Garrison Keillor? “I don’t even know where to find NPR on the dial.”
At dinner the night before, Bill O’Reilly’s name came up, and Limbaugh expressed his opinion of the Fox cable king. He hadn’t been sure at the time that he wanted it on the record. But on second thought, “somebody’s got to say it,” he told me. “The man is Ted Baxter.” ...
Limbaugh has a deeply conflicted attitude toward Sean Hannity, his one-time stand in and now perpetual No. 2 on the Talkers list. He speaks of the younger man with the same condescending affection that Muhammad Ali once showed Jimmy Ellis, a former sparring partner turned challenger. But he wanted me to remember who is the Greatest. “I have no competitors,” he said. “Hannity isn’t even close to me.”There's no doubt that Rush's detractors - on the right and especially on the left - will read this story and weep. And that's as it should be. El Rushbo - America's "truth detector" - wouldn't have it any other way.