How has Rush Limbaugh, never one to hold back, lasted for 25 years?
‘The Rush Limbaugh Show’ is marking a quarter century. The conservative instigator is heard on 600 stations by a whopping 20 million people a week.
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Maybe we should explore his staying power and outsize influence over national discourse.
First, the numbers themselves tell a tale. To the head-knocking disbelief of some and jubilance of others, “The Rush Limbaugh Show” marks a quarter century this week. The conservative instigator is heard on 600 stations by a whopping 20 million people a week, according to a release issued by Premiere Networks.
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And brace yourselves, Democrats, the Missouri native has spent more than 1,304 weeks – or 9,131 days or 219,144 hours – as “America’s Anchorman,” the statement indicates. Two-term presidents spend only 416 weeks in office.
We’re guessing Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and a host of other on-air personalities –- some from beyond the grave (Walter Cronkite, perhaps) – might quibble with the characterization. But why has Mr. Limbaugh lasted so long, despite the charged tenor of his talk?
Limbaugh is the original modern partisan scold, drawing frenzied devotion among like-minded friends and fear and loathing among foes, even from those in his own party. To supporters who like what he’s peddling, Limbaugh is a truth teller. He rails against progressive causes and figures, and those GOP officials he views as subpar.
He never holds back in the interest of decorum. The more inflammatory, enraging, or quotable, the better. Disgusting to many, a hero to others.
Usually unapologetic, there are some instances when Limbaugh strides so far over any line of propriety that he’s pushed to walk back his remarks. But the act of him copping to his misstatements only reinforces his powerful place in the national conversation. If he didn’t matter, no one would call for his “I’m sorry.”
One example of the power of Limbaugh’s wide-ranging sway came just last year. In the heat of a national conversation of government funding for reproductive health care, Limbaugh’s declaration that Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was a “slut” and a “prostitute” for using birth control catapulted her to a prime-time speaking slot at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. President Obama called the young woman, who had testified before Congress and had urged that insurance cover contraception, to register his support. Limbaugh, facing pressure from advertisers, was forced to issue a reluctant apology.