Limbaugh, Rush


Limbaugh, Rush
▪ 1994

      With his 1992 book The Way Things Ought to Be having spent well over a year on the best-seller list and the release of his 1993 follow-up, See, I Told You So, receiving the largest first printing of any book in U.S. history—two million copies—there seemed to be no end in sight to the high visibility of the rotund right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. By 1993 his syndicated three-hour radio program, "The Rush Limbaugh Show," which debuted in 1988, had become the most popular talk show on radio, reaching an estimated 20 million listeners daily. This spawned in the fall of 1992 a syndicated half-hour television show that quickly climbed in the ratings.

      Claiming that he had "talent on loan from God," Limbaugh filled his programs with political commentary as served up from the conservative right, satire, and a heavy dose of Limbaugh himself; he rarely, if ever, had guests, and his screened callers were among his legion of fans known as "dittoheads." Of that audience he has said, "They think I've got the truth. And I'll tell you what—they're right." His daily "truths" often enraged the many special-interest groups he targeted, including feminists, whose movement the twice-married and twice-divorced Limbaugh once said was established "to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream"; the homeless, the vast majority of whom, he insisted, were "demented in one way or another"; and the Democratic Party, which he claimed was "the party that can't wait to fund every abortion in the world."

      Rush Hudson Limbaugh III was born in Cape Girardeau, Mo., in 1951, the elder of two sons. At the age of 16 he began working at the local radio station before and after school. After graduation from high school, he attended Southeast Missouri State University for one year and then dropped out. He left home in 1971 seeking a career in radio, but after being fired from stations in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Kansas City, Mo., he quit radio in 1978 to work in ticket sales for the Kansas City Royals professional baseball team. After five years he was back in radio as a news commentator, but he was fired for being too controversial. However, his controlled ad-lib manner was just what station KFBK in Sacramento, Calif., was looking for in 1984 to replace the outgoing Morton Downey, Jr., who exhibited a wild and often offensive style. Within a year Limbaugh had become the top radio host in Sacramento. Then in 1988 EFM Media Management signed him to a two-year contract and took him to New York City, where his national broadcast debuted on August 1.

      With the popularity of his show growing, many restaurants around the country began opening "Rush Rooms," where the members of Limbaugh's "amen choir" could have their lunch and listen to his piped-in program from what he dubbed his Excellence in Broadcasting Network. Although he was a thorn in the side of many Americans, further evidence of Limbaugh's impact on radio was registered when he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in November.

      (ANTHONY L. GREEN)

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Universalium. 2010.

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