M E M O R A N D U M
To: Interested Parties
Re: Question For Media: Is Rush Limbaugh Conservative Movement’s
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Rush Limbaugh rose to prominence in the early 1990s through a relentless series of smears leveled at President Clinton, his administration, and his family. With a progressive back in the White House, Limbaugh has returned to regular attacks on the president. The Los Angeles Times described him as “the politically wounded party’s unofficial leader” and his keynote speech at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was broadcast live on Fox News and CNN and then rebroadcast on Fox News the next day – a treatment that, according to Fox News’ Greg Jarrett, “not even the president” gets.
Limbaugh started a media firestorm with his comments in January -- just days before President Barack Obama’s inauguration -- that he “hopes” Obama “fails.” Since then Limbaugh has continued his drumbeat repeating this theme, recently asserting that it is not only him but “every Republican in this country” who “wants Obama to fail.”
Among top conservatives, reaction to Limbaugh’s sentiment has been mixed. Former Rep. Tom DeLay and former Sen. Rick Santorum have publicly agreed with Limbaugh’s sentiment while some conservative figures have distanced themselves the conservative commentator. RNC Chairman Michael Steele recently joined Rep. Phil Gingrey in the list of conservative leaders who have bowed down to Limbaugh after publicly criticizing him.
With Republican at a crossroads on whether Limbaugh speaks for the party, it might be best, as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in yesterday’s briefing “to ask individual Republicans whether they agree with what Rush Limbaugh said this weekend.” Media Matters today launched “Rush Watch,” a resource center for all of the latest research on the top-rated radio talk show host:
Below are some of Limbaugh’s attacks on President Obama and his policies since the inauguration as well as conservative commentary on Limbaugh’s rhetoric:
Limbaugh’s “I Hope He Fails” Mantra Against President Obama
During the broadcast of his January 16 show, in response to the invitation of “a major American print publication” to describe his “hope for the Obama administration,” Limbaugh replied “I hope he fails.” Limbaugh has continued to pound this theme on his show, not only saying that he wants “the stimulus package” to fail but that “every Republican in the country wants Obama to fail.”
A Limbaugh Fissure Within Conservative Movement?
Since President Obama’s inauguration, there has been a wide range of reactions from conservative officials and media figures to Limbaugh’s rhetoric.
Conservatives in Congress such as Rep. Eric Cantor and other prominent leaders such as Republican strategist Mike Murphy have distanced themselves from Limbaugh.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford
GOP Strategist Mike Murphy
While other conservative leaders and personalities such as Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum have echoed Limbaugh’s comments.
Former House Minority Leader Tom DeLay
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum
RNC chairman Michael Steele and Rep. Phil Gingrey actually backed down from their respective criticisms of Limbaugh.
RNC chairman Michael Steele
Rep. Phil Gingrey
Limbaugh’s Influence on Conservative Echo Chamber: Health IT falsehoods and Other Attacks on Obama’s Policies
As evidence of Limbaugh’s influence among both conservative and mainstream media, he was the first to unabashedly advance former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey's falsehood that a provision in the House-passed version of the economic recovery bill grants the government authority to “monitor treatments” and “make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate.” This dubious claim was soon being parroted by several conservative media figures. Limbaugh took credit, saying “I found it. I detailed it for you and now it’s all over the mainstream media.”
Media Matters has documented Limbaugh leading the conservative echo chamber in advancing other false and misleading information about President Obama’s economic proposals.