Rush Continues to Dominate the Dialogue

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    (By Andy Bloom) When Rush Limbaugh died, you didn’t need psychic powers to know what was coming next. Within minutes of the announcement of Limbaugh’s passing, hateful and ruthless creatures slid from under the rocks.

    They began to post the nastiest and vilest invectives they could on the 21st century’s bathroom walls, Twitter, and Facebook. It also didn’t take clairvoyance to reason that radio personalities would be among those taking mean-spirited shots at Rush. Therefore, it came as no shock when Friday morning’s Radio Ink ran a story about WAPL/Appleton, Wisconsin morning personality Len Nelson’s suspension for making vile comments about Limbaugh’s death on his personal social media pages.

    Although WAPL is a Rock station, listeners quickly picked up on Nelson’s comments and reposted his words along with the station’s phone number. Management suspended Nelson immediately. Ironically, Nelson did something that Limbaugh rarely, if ever, did. Nelson apologized.

    The Radio Ink story ended with management pondering Nelson’s future and the publication asking: “Should Len Nelson be fired?”

    I don’t know Len Nelson, and before Friday’s story, I had never heard of him. My first impression is not favorable. I might call him one of the names Howard Eskin (WIP/Philadelphia) frequently labels callers he disagrees with; “dope, nitwit or moron.” Those might be the kindest words I could say about Nelson.

    It’s disquieting to me that people in communications, whether “wacky” morning show DJs, controversial personalities doing Sports and Talk, or journalists, would ever want someone punished for making a regrettable comment or voicing an opinion, even an offensive one.
    I am against punishing thought and censorship in almost every case, with limited exceptions (such as screaming fire in a crowded theater, illegal acts, etc.). Most people likely to read this column should be as well. Free thought and expression are at the root of what makes this a great country.

    Consider: We ask personalities to entertain for 15, 20, to 25 hours per week. Then we ask them to produce enticing content for digital platforms and perhaps additional tasks. From time to time, something unfortunate gets said. It’s become too common and acceptable to use such statements to end a career.

    I have a good deal of experience in such matters. In addition to overseeing WPHT-AM/Philadelphia, as Rush endured the Sandra Fluke controversy, I was part of the crew that helped introduce Howard Stern to Philadelphia in 1986. We performed encore presentations in Washington, D.C. (1988) and Los Angeles (1991). Long before the term “cancel culture” was popular, we understood what it was like to have many calling for the demise of a personality with whom they disliked and the advertiser resistance that came with the territory.

    If I were Len’s boss, he’d get an earful for this incident and the lack of respect for a fellow broadcaster who reached the pinnacle of success and just succumbed to cancer. But I would not fire Len. I’ve never suspended or fired anybody over one statement.

    While I can’t speak for Rush, I’ll venture a guess that nobody would be more emphatic than him about NOT firing a person for negative opinions about his show. Rush wanted to “beat opponents in the arena of ideas,” not by having them removed from public discourse.

    What then, is the price for making offensive statements? The market is the best answer. If a personality regularly says things beyond the pale, the audience will leave, and the problem will take care of itself. If the show maintains a large audience, management should defend its right to take unpopular stances occasionally and focus on sales.

    Allow Len Nelson to go back on the air and continue to say what he believes. Perhaps, he’ll have more common sense in the future? And if I may offer one more piece of advice directly to Len, “It’s time for a new publicity shot. This time leave the accordion at home.”

    Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He is regarded as one of the leading radio programmers in the country. Andy served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio. For more information, his email is [email protected]

     

    11 COMMENTS

    1. “Within minutes of the announcement of Limbaugh’s passing, hateful and ruthless creatures slid from under the rocks.” But the stuff Limbaugh used to say on the air wasn’t hateful and ruthless? Or was it just talk radio shtick to get listeners riled up so they would call his show, which was not meant to be a parlor chat?

      There was no middle ground with Rush Limbaugh. People either loved him or hated him. His status as chief propagandist for Donald Trump, the most divisive president in U.S. history, intensified this. The controversial nature of his program caused many national advertisers to avoid his show. Packets of network and barter spots from companies such as Procter & Gamble, Radio Shack (now defunct), and the Clorox Corporation contained traffic instructions to stations telling them not to air their spots in or adjacent to Limbaugh’s program. Of course, other companies did sponsor his program or stations would never have cleared it.

      Rush Limbaugh’s style of talk radio did not start with him. Over fifty years ago, a host named Tom Livezey, on the same end of the political spectrum as Limbaugh, riled up his listeners and caused protests against the stations that carried his show. But Livezey was not nationally syndicated. He was only heard in the Philadelphia area. The Fairness Doctrine muffled him somewhat and a succession of stations fired him because they did not want to deal with having to give equal time to people whom Livezey attacked on the air. Livezey did have the habit of abruptly hanging up on callers who disagreed with him, rather than using vile epithets in reference to those callers.

    2. Andy sez, “The market is the best answer. If a personality regularly says things beyond the pale, the audience will leave, and the problem will take care of itself.”

      Much of the evidence demonstrates otherwise, Indeed the most outrageous claims and outright lies are scooped up by the gullible, credulous and those already of the same mindset as the personality.

      The tragic irony is that so many of the audience members qualify in those categories. Hate speech and abject manipulations are still the order of the day. Apologists, meanwhile, have a very low-grade hill to climb.

    3. I posted a comment here, and it was deleted- or disallowed by whomever is moderating this page. It was not profane, it was not indecent, and it did not violate any normal standard of reasonable discourse. It merely did not support the right-wing biases of this publication.

      Cancel culture is alive and well. Congratulations.

    4. Andy-

      Despite revealing your right-wing bias, you at least got it right by the end. What the guy in Wisconsin said was not in any way bad. Rush mocked dead people regularly on his show.

      https://brokeassstuart.com/2021/02/17/7-times-rush-limbaugh-made-jokes-about-other-people-dying/

      Every word Len Nelson said was true, was sensibly stated, and in no way demeaned the memory of Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh did all of that by himself. What Len Nelson said wasn’t even close to any of the things Limbaugh said, or how he said them. For those of you who suddenly forgot, here’s a tiny sampling of the hateful, racist, homophobic nonsense that Rush spewed on a daily basis:

      He began airing “Barack, the Magic Negro,” a racist parody song about then-Sen. Barack Obama’s popularity with many white voters, in 2007.
      In John K. Wilson’s book, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh’s Assault on Reason, the host was quoted as saying this homophobic statement: “When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult; it’s an invitation.”
      In his “Undeniable Truths,” written as part of an article for the Sacramento Union in 1988, Limbaugh wrote, “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society.”
      In a later updated version, he wrote:
      “The Earth’s eco-system is not fragile.”
      “Women should not be allowed on juries where the accused is a stud.”
      “The Los Angeles riots were not caused by the Rodney King verdict. The Los Angeles riots were caused by rioters.”
      On The Rush Limbaugh Show in 2004, he said, “I think it’s time to get rid of this whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call ’em gangs.”
      As a young broadcaster in the 1970s, Limbaugh once told a Black caller: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back,” according to Fair.
      During The Rush Limbaugh Show in 2013, he said, “If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it’s Caucasians. The white race has probably had fewer slaves and for a briefer period of time than any other in the history of the world.”
      During The Rush Limbaugh Show in 2017, regarding LGBTQ+ politicians being elected to office, he said, “I guarantee there’d be some people in the Republican establishment who will now think, yeah, we need to do this. We need to provide a home, we need to provide a comforting atmosphere for the tranny community and the gay community. But those people are voting Democrat anyway.”
      ” ‘Ching cha. Ching chang cho chow. Cha Chow. Ching Cho. Chi ba ba ba. Kwo kwa kwa kee. Cha ga ga. Ching chee chay. Ching zha bo ba. Chang cha. Chang cho chi che. Cha dee. Ooooh chee bada ba. Jee jee cho ba.’ Nobody was translating, but that’s the closest I can get,” he said on his radio show while “translating” Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2011.
      Limbaugh called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she publicly advocated for universal contraception coverage, NPR reported in 2012.

      So – compare any of that stuff to what Len Nelson said, then stuff your righteous indignation and moral outrage. Conservatives are all ragey about ‘cancel culture’ and then want to cancel the guy who criticizes what Limbaugh did? You can’t have your First Amendment cake and eat it too. If you want to defend Limbaugh’s right to say the stuff he said, then this shouldn’t even be an issue. Ridiculous.

    5. Nelson was only reticent about being caught; his apology was weak and seemed to be an “I’m sorry that not everyone agrees with me” kind of thing. Last week’s ugly display of leftists dancing on Rush’s grave was a nauseating spectacle. Yet, if conservatives acted that way when a left wing icon dies, they would be branded as being nazis.

      The double standard and hatred need to end. Only those who actually knew Rush could tell us of his character; meanwhile you have people smearing his memory as “racist” when they clearly never listened to one segment of his show.

    6. “Ironically, Nelson did something that Limbaugh rarely, if ever, did. Nelson apologized.”

      Bloom obviously knows nothing about Rush Limbaugh. Typical.

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