Thursday, October 15, 2009


This Rush Limbaugh thing is delightful, but it would have been unrelievedly delightful if it weren't for the (alas, somewhat justified) self-righteousness-gasm he and his supporters are jointly experiencing right now because some media coverage of his attempt to become a co-owner of the St. Louis Rams has featured racist quotes he never uttered.

Really, it's not as if there needed to be much more than his notorious Donovan McNabb remark: "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well." That offended not just fans but players -- the indispensable guys who do the actual work. But there's more -- Media Matters has a good list of verifiable racially charged Limbaugh quotes, including bon mots I'm sure you missed. A sample:

Limbaugh suggests Obama would not have acted on Somali pirates if he'd known they were "actually young, black Muslim teenagers." On April 14, Limbaugh suggested the "correct" way to look at a situation in which Obama sent the military to retrieve American hostages from Somali pirates was that "if only President Obama had known that the three Somali community organizers were actually young, black Muslim teenagers, I'm sure he wouldn't have given the order to shoot."

* Limbaugh suggests Democrats, media believe "you can't criticize the little black man-child." Referring to GOP ads comparing Obama to Britney Spears during the presidential campaign, on August 20, 2008, Limbaugh said: "It's -- you know, it's just -- it's just we can't hit the girl. I don't care how far feminism's saying, you can't hit the girl, and you can't -- you can't criticize the little black man-child...."

The problem is, for years Limbaugh didn't emphasize race as much as, I think, some non-conservatives would have liked. Racial resentment has been more prominent in Limbaugh's diatribes since the rise of Obama, and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson regularly get up his nose, but he usually has other ways to offend. And even his most racially charged comments tend to approach race from an odd angle; they're somewhat meta, usually accusing other people of having a racial angle. (The "Magic Negro" stuff, for instance, was Limbaugh taking advantage of an African-American film critic's use of that term to describe Obama.)

So it wasn't as easy as some on our side would have liked to put Limbaugh in a nice neat box with blatant racists such as Michael Savage. Therefore, over the years, some Limbaugh-loathers have taken to the Intertubes and ascribed racist quotes to Limbaugh that he never uttered -- and wouldn't have uttered, at least in his "mature" years (he made his notorious "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back" remark nearly forty years ago) -- because they don't have that weird bank-shot, blame-the-liberals style Limbaugh prefers when he's race-baiting.

Alas, a number of news outlets ran with some of the ersatz Limbaugh remarks -- for instance, "You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honour? James Earl Ray. We miss you, James. Godspeed." This is lousy fact-checking -- paging Jon Stewart -- and now mainstream journalists have handed Limbaugh a big fat moment of martyrdom.

Thanks a lot.

And, really, this could have been avoided with a little skepticism, a familiarity with Limbaugh's "mature style" -- and a recognition that most successful right-wing racists are very, very good at building a defense against charges of racism into their remarks. It's a job skill. Limbaugh has it. NBC, CNN, et al. should have known that.

No comments: