"I have actually been moved by what you have written and the way you have written it," Rush Limbaugh wrote to me. "So, thank you for fairness and accuracy, and for taking the time to try to discover what my program is (and is not) and how it is executed."
First, a confession: The above passage comes from an actual letter I got from "Boss" Limbaugh. But it wasn't written after my much-commented-upon Huff Post blog last week about how Limbaugh's radio talk show was given away for free to local stations in exchange for pre-sold ad time -- and how these barter deals had built his radio empire.
This letter was dated May 9, 1991, not long after Limbaugh moved his dubious radio enterprise from Sacramento to New York City. I'd completely forgotten about the missive until I found it recently amidst some old newspaper clips I'd written as TV-radio columnist at the liberal Oakland Tribune.
I'm not sure which column (or columns) I wrote that prompted the billet-doux from The Uber-Bloviator, but I do recall having heard Limbaugh's show for the first time back then, and finding it different and somewhat entertaining -- initially. I also remember saying back then that I didn't agree with much of what Rush said, but that he said it entertainingly.
But it wasn't long before Limbaugh's radio act became stale and astringent, and I started calling him a heartless bastard (or words to that effect) in my columns. In fact, "heartless," I would submit, is still the modifier that describes him best. (I can almost hear his bellowed response -- and some comments this post will get from Dittoheads: "And liberals are BRAINless!" )
In his sincere-sounding thank-you note to me, Limbaugh mentions another newspaper columnist, in Detroit, who'd also praised Limbaugh in print, but who later had, Rush implied, "caved" after a handful of readers protested. Limbaugh says he thanked the Detroit columnist on his radio show but apparently felt betrayed when the Detroit Free Press writer later called him a bigot.
My initial response to Limbaugh's show had also been positive, obviously. Then the mean-spiritedness of Rush's politics and pronunciamentos became too much to endure. I stopped listening. Still, I'm surprised at how many Obama supporters, in their comments about my piece last week, said they still tune Rush in, either because they find him entertaining or to monitor the "opposition." Sorry, but I just can't do it.
So, what (if anything) does this all prove?
Primarily, that Limbaugh had all but given up on getting any favorable press a long time ago -- after being "burned" by newspaper turncoats. And as we all know, Rush is such a sensitive guy.
In 1991 I was a political oddity -- a registered Republican who was a newspaper columnist in the liberal San Francisco Bay Area, something I got a lot of kidding about. (That was then, this is now). Rush's staff may have even investigated my political affiliation. Imagine the disappointment Rush must have felt when I also "betrayed" him!
Limbaugh obviously relished the thought of a daily newspaper columnist in the Berkeley area actually praising his act, and he closed his letter with this parting shot at the progressive, heavily Democratic city in our prime East Bay circulation area:
"Hang in there on the hit-mail thing. Remember: It's the pioneers who take the arrows. Try that one on the new Dances With Wolves P.C. crowd in Berkeley."
Today, this Prius-driving, Obama-supporting Dem prints columns that include lines like "Limbaugh's first three wives weren't even in love with him. They were drawn by his gravitational field."
I've been such a disappointment to Rush.
Stay Tuned/Coming Soon: I'll report on the ugliest -- and more significant -- reasons for Limbaugh's radio success.