Howie Kurtz is right and wrong about Rush Limbaugh

Howie Kurtz on why Rush’s apology failed.


But while Rush dutifully recited the words, there was no music. He never called Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law student he had assailed as a “slut” and “prostitute” over her advocacy of contraceptive coverage. He kept slamming her for three days before issuing his statement of regret—which came as advertisers were starting to bail on his radio program, giving the exercise an air of damage control. He flunked the contrition test, retracting only his word choice and larding the statement with attacks on the left.


The apology failed for another reason: the mainstream media, much mocked by Limbaugh, has it in for him. There was no uproar in the press when Bill Maher, now a million-dollar donor to Obama’s super PAC, called Sarah Palin the C word as well as a “dumb twat.” Ed Schultz’s sl*t attack was a relative blip. Limbaugh, who is carried on more than 600 stations, has a far bigger megaphone, but he’s cut no slack by the left-leaning media. Sl*tgate was carried on MSNBC every 10 minutes or so (and largely downplayed at Fox News).

Come on, Howie. You’re a good journalist. You know as well as I do that Rush Limbaugh is a bigger and better story than Bill Maher (sorry, Bill).  What’s makes a story “news” is a tough thing to define, but it’s not tough to recognize “news” if you have a gut for news.   A few reasons Limbaugh is bigger news than Maher.

1. Limbaugh has a much bigger audience than Maher.
2. Limbaugh has far more political power than Bill Maher.  As David Frum wrote recently for CNN, Democrats don’t pee their pants when Bill Maher criticizes them.  Rush Limbaugh got an apology from the (other) head of the Republican party.
3. This isn’t Limbaugh’s first time at the dance.  He’s been far more controversial, and offensive, than Bill Maher.  That is to say, Limbaugh’s hands are far less clean than Maher’s; this is hardly his first offense, or his fiftieth.
4. Bill Maher attacked someone who attacks others just as viciously.  Limbaugh attacked an innocent, and a relative unknown.
5. Advertisers started leaving Limbaugh (which is news), while Maher is on HBO and doesn’t have advertisers.

Does this excuse Bill Maher for using the c-word about Sarah Palin?  No way.  I didn’t even realize he’d used it until a CNN reporter mentioned it to me.  That word is off-limits, period.  I don’t care who the target is.  And in fact, Joe and I once censored a video we posted during the 2008 elections of an interview we did with actress Carrie “Princess Leia” Fisher because she used the c-word about Sarah Palin.  So I think we’ve been pretty consistent on our feelings towards that word, regardless of party affiliation.

But, the issue here is why the media is paying far more attention to Rush Limbaugh’s use of the word versus Bill Maher’s.  And I think it’s too easy to explain all this away by saying that the media has it in for Limbaugh.  If that were the case, then why didn’t every other Limbaugh eruption, like the time he played the song “Barack the Magic Negro” cause a similar uproar?  The media has had ample opportunity to take down Limbaugh had they wanted to.  In this case, for whatever reason, the circumstances came together in a way that made it a bigger story, more newsworthy, and the media responded accordingly.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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