Posthumous Limbaugh Book Skirts His Toxic LegacyBreaking News
tags: conservatism, media, radio, Rush Limbaugh
RADIO'S GREATEST OF ALL TIME
By Rush Limbaugh
Radio’s Greatest of All Time is a new book credited to conservative radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, who began compiling it from transcripts of his program before his death from lung cancer in 2021. The final published version, which lists his widow, Kathryn, and his younger brother, David, as coauthors, serves as the definitive collectible tribute to the man described in the book’s publicity material as “a modern-day Founding Father—the George Washington of Radio.”
Those kinds of superlatives appear throughout the book, a 500-page “timeless collection of Rush’s brilliant words” and “authoritative body of Rush’s best work,” interspersed with pictures from various stages of his career and tributes to him by Ron DeSantis, Ronald Reagan, Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Benjamin Netanyahu, Clarence Thomas, and Donald Trump. The illustrations include a full-page photo of three of the crystal-obelisk award trophies that Limbaugh received from the National Association of Broadcasters, several full-page photos of his Presidential Medal of Freedom (given to him by Trump in 2020), a double-page spread showing Limbaugh’s Palm Beach mansion, another showing his private plane, another with screen grabs from his appearances on The Tonight Show and Family Guy, as well as covers from his monthly Limbaugh Letter (including photos of Rush as a boxer, Rush as Captain America, and Rush behind a presidential desk in a mock-up of the Oval Office). We see Rush in a tuxedo, flanked by uniformed Marines; Rush by his signature golden microphone with an American flag behind him; and Rush on the cover of The New York Times Magazine, smoking a big cigar. There is also—because why not?—a full double-page spread devoted to a photograph of Margaret Thatcher sitting next to Ronald Reagan. It must be conceded that the book is a slickly produced homage that will delight Rush’s fans, and that there are many dads “across the fruited plain” (to use a favorite Limbaugh phrase) who will be pleased when they get it as a birthday or Christmas present. Perhaps for this reason, it has already debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times’ nonfiction bestseller list.
For the nonfans among us, all of this might be a bit comical; few of us would consider Limbaugh “the greatest radio broadcaster the world has ever known.” But he was certainly one of the most successful broadcasters of all time. Limbaugh appeared on 650 stations, reached 30 million listeners, and was at one point the highest-paid person in the entire field of journalism. (Although one can dispute whether this is the best description of Limbaugh’s “field.”) He was a pioneer in talk radio, spawning an entire genre and a generation of insufferable conservative chatterboxes. It can be argued that Limbaugh deserves significant credit for both the 1994 “Republican Revolution” and the Trump presidency.
To those who know Limbaugh only as a right-wing blowhard, Radio’s Greatest of All Time helps explain some of what made him appealing to listeners. Many of the transcripts printed in the book are from callers who claim that Limbaugh changed their lives in one way or another, by encouraging them to take control of their destinies and reject “victimology.” Limbaugh haters may be surprised—I certainly was—by how many of the included transcripts are more like self-help or life-coaching sessions than the crass diatribes Limbaugh was better known for. One listener tells Rush: “The message that you’re giving us every day—self-sufficiency, self-reliance, get out there, do what you love, be aggressive, be bold—if we live our lives by the principles that you are espousing, we’ll all be successful.” One of the show’s guest hosts describes Limbaugh as “that voice in our head when perhaps we debuted ourselves, faced a fear in life, or just needed some encouragement and motivation.” Radio’s Greatest of All Time presents Limbaugh as someone who inspired listeners to be their best selves, who offered a positive and uplifting vision of America (as opposed to liberals and leftists, who hate their country), and who believed in beautiful, noble, patriotic things. He loved the Bill of Rights and the spirit of individualism and believed that the American dream was attainable by all. An entire section of the book is devoted to chronicling Limbaugh’s “generosity,” with his philanthropic contributions enumerated in a bullet-point list.
No matter his supposed philanthropy, Limbaugh never really concealed the fact that he was far more interested in making money than in effecting social change.