Like many of Rush Limbaugh’s listeners I felt a personal connection to him, but unlike many, I did not believe that he was practically infallible or always told the truth. I saw great merits in him but also weaknesses. “A Critical Look at Rush Limbaugh,” published by The Occidental Observer in late 2014, is largely a memoir of important occasions when Rush Limbaugh demonstrably had not been honest, and had served the political establishment rather than his own ideals or the people. We loved him, but he had let us down.
There were several purposes in writing this. Obviously it was to educate the public, but this was not necessarily a disfavor to Rush Limbaugh. Suppose that he had made untrue statements only because he felt forced by circumstances: in that case it could be a relief for him, the alleviation of a moral burden, to find out that his audience “gets it.” On the other hand, while I was seeing positive changes in the Rush Limbaugh of 2014, the continuing pretense that he had practically never been wrong about anything was troubling, because it showed a lack of repentance. It was troubling, both that he was saying it and that the audience was accepting it. I wanted to call attention to Rush Limbaugh’s past failings so that returning to them would be difficult. I wanted to burn the bridges behind Rush Limbaugh so that he could not go back.
The critique seemed to attract wide attention. A few days after TOO published my two-part critique, Rush Limbaugh did something unusual. He spent his first hour ruminating over the “blogosphere” and “new media.” Based on the timing and some details in what he said, and the unusually subdued and thoughtful manner in which he spoke (not his usual boisterous persona), I believe that my criticisms were on his mind.
Significantly, he did not have any negative comment. On the contrary, he said that blogs and websites are part of the “alternative media” that he started with his syndicated radio show in 1988. About the creators of “new media,” he says:
Many of them are conservative, many of them are renegade conservative, but the point is, it is causing the Drive-By Media further panic, and the impact that all of this new media is having is clearly the erosion of the monopolistic mainstream media model. That deterioration is continuing. …
The American people — and I’m not being critical. You know me, the more the merrier, and the freer the speech, the better. I can deal with it. You know, I’m in a content content content business. I’m proud of my content, and I don’t make it up, and I don’t lie about it, so I got nothing to worry about. But the people in the Drive-Bys who have been living a lie for all these years are being exposed, and they are in a panic.
I had criticized him precisely for “living a lie.” He also referred to “being exposed,” and I certainly did expose him. He acknowledges that he could be a target of criticism from some “renegade conservatives” in thes“new media” when he says: “I can deal with it. …. I got nothing to worry about.” His subdued tone suggested nonetheless that he had been affected by something.
Rush Limbaugh’s last years turned out to be his best. While he did not become 100% honest all the time, he did become more honest, and more valuable to his people. I was not alone in noticing this change; Don Black on Stormfront Radio also commented on it.
I certainly do not want to appear to claim credit for this, however. The important factor facilitating Rush Limbaugh’s evolution was not a screed that gave him pause on one day: rather, it was a change in practical circumstances, specifically the rise of Donald Trump.