Friday, August 29, 2014
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Rush Limbaugh's red herring

Rush Limbaugh's red herring

As you might expect, there's a lot of fallout from Rush Limbaugh's failed involvement in a group seeking to buy the St. Louis Rams. The party -- as in Republican Party, I guess -- line is that it's all because people are making up horrible things that the de facto king of the GOP never said. As one of Limbaugh's defenders across the pond (apparently distance makes the heart grow fonder) writes:

What’s the term for those who are setting about “racist” Rush Limbaugh right now? Ironically, it seems to be “lynch mob”. And they’ve succeeded – word is that Limbaugh’s been dropped from the consortium seeking to buy the St Louis Rams.

Toby Harden of the Telegraph certainly has a point -- several commentators on CNN and elsewhere did cite a bogus Limbaugh-attributed quote, and there is clearly no excuse for that. It's yet another example of the atrocious fact-checking at places like CNN, coincidentally the subject of a great lampoon/investigation by Jon Stewart the other night. But Limbaugh's defenders have hooked a giant red herring; the apparently bogus quote had nothing to do with the growing realization that star NFL players would choose not to play for him and other team owners did not want their sport to be associated with him.

Rush was hanged by his own very real words. There's too many example to quote here, but here are three examples of the many, many episodes over the years.

Limbaugh says "NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips." On January 19, 2007, Limbaugh stated: "Look it, let me put it to you this way. The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There I said it."

Limbaugh on Survivor series: "African-American tribe" worst swimmers, Hispanics "will do things other people won't do." On August 23, 2006, Limbaugh suggested that the competition in a season of CBS' Survivor, in which contestants were reportedly divided into competing "tribes" by ethnicity, "is not going to be fair if there's a lot of water events." In support of this assertion, he cited a March 2, 2006, HealthDay article reporting that "young blacks -- especially males -- are much more likely to drown in pools than whites." He later added that Hispanics have "probably shown the most survival tactics," that they "have shown a remarkable ability to cross borders," and that they can "do it without water for a long time, they don't get apprehended, and they will do things other people won't do." On his September 29, 2006, show, Limbaugh claimed "[t]here can only be one reason" Survivor scrapped "segregated" competition after two episodes -- "the white tribe had to be winning."

Then there's this, from Newsday in 1990:

 Recalling a stint as an "insult-radio" DJ in Pittsburgh, he admits feeling guilty about, for example, telling a black listener he could not understand to "take that bone out of your nose and call me back."

You see, it's "insult radio," so that makes it OK! And it one sense, it is. We've argued here a lot this year about free speech in America, and what it means. Rush Limbaugh is free in America to say what he wishes -- and I go even farther, in that I have no problem with him hosting a radio show for whatever Americans choose to listen to his dreck. But words have consequences. If the Eagles had the right as a private employer to fire the "Dam Eagles R retarted" Facebook guy, then the NFL -- also a private entity -- has the right to choose who they want to "hire," and they are choosing to reject Rush Limbaugh because for all of his Dittohead radio listeners, there are millions more who find his speech -- these real quotes, well documented -- to be offensive.

Because words are free but they also have consequences, even for a politically influential multi-millionaire like Rush Limbaugh.

There, I've said it.

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