Catherine Yaskira ‘24
Rush Limbaugh died on Feb. 17. Some people, like Donald Trump, have mourned him: he gave a touching tribute to Fox News in honor of Rush in which he said, “Well, Rush thought we won, and so do I, by the way” and then continued to complain about the “stolen election” for about 10 minutes with few mentions of his dear friend. Others have shown little remorse for his death and have received criticism for it. In the wake of his death, I listened to video clips, read news articles, and excerpts of books to understand who Rush Limbaugh was. After celebrities die, it is important to take their careers into account, look at their lives, and learn from them. The criticisms of Rush Limbaugh are real and should be discussed. Just because a person has died does not mean that they are free from accountability for the harm they caused in their life. Rather than let my criticism of Rush Limbaugh come off as celebrating his death, I will let Rush do most of the talking. I have compiled some quotes that I feel illustrate the harm he has caused in the most objective way possible: by using his own words. This is by no means an extensive list. I did not feel comfortable including some of his quotes; for example, I excluded slurs, which eliminated many of his worst quotes. As a warning, there is discussion of sexual assault, racism, and homophobia.
● Sandra Fluke, a third-year Georgetown Law Student, had been prevented from testifying by a Republican congressman at a congressional hearing. This debate was about whether employers should be required to fully cover contraception even if they have religious objections. Only men testified. She then was allowed to speak at an unofficial hearing held by Democrats, and afterward, Limbaugh had the following to say: “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan [sic] Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.” “She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. If we’re going to have to pay for this, then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke, and that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we are getting for our money.”
● “How many of you guys, in your own experience with women, have learned that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ if you know how to spot it?”
● Limbaugh once played a video from a rape trial, laughing and saying, “I’m trying not to laugh,” as a woman detailed her rape.
● “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society.”
● “When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult; it’s an invitation.”
● Limbaugh had an “AIDS update” in which he mocked gay people dying from AIDS and played Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” or “Back in the Saddle Again” by Gene Autry.
● “Look, 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.”
● “I think it’s time to get rid of this whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call ‘em gangs… They’re going in to watch the Crips and the Bloods out there wherever the neighborhood is where the arena happens to be.”
● He once chanted racist gibberish while pretending to “translate” Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2011. (I won’t type that out.)
Rush Limbaugh was a proponent of conspiracy theories: for example, that the Clintons had former deputy White House counsel Vince Foster murdered, that Obama was not born in the U.S., that the 2020 election was fraudulent—all of which have been proven false. He dedicated his career to attacking people of color, constantly referring to black people as thugs, making light of slavery, calling BLM a terrorist organization, making a blatantly racist parody song about Barack Obama, etc. He unrelentingly attacked women: slut-shaming them, engaging in gratuitous talk of women’s bodies, comparing 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton to a dog, coining the term “feminazi,” etc. He attacked members of the LGBTQ community to such an extent that I could only include one quote that exemplified this because the rest included slurs. This was the man who Donald Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Trump said that Rush was awarded the medal “in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire.” Rush Limbaugh paved the way for Donald Trump and the current conservative party; he used his platform to spread hate, divisiveness, and conspiracy theories. Rush Limbaugh is dead, but what he stood for is still very much alive. Hopefully, his supporters can look back on what he has said and take this time to reevaluate the media they consume and the people they align themselves with. Joe Walsh, a conservative journalist for Time Magazine and former fan of Rush Limbaugh, said it well: “[Rush Limbaugh] leaves behind a conservative movement shaped by his voice and his politics. He also leaves behind a conservative movement no longer interested in truth. He helped make our nation more divided and polarized than it has been in years. This is Rush Limbaugh’s legacy.”