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Earl Ofari Hutchinson Headshot

Why Limbaugh's Fluke Apology Was No Apology

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Rush Limbaugh did not apologize to Sandra Fluke. In his ten line "apology" statement to Fluke he devoted all of two lines to a tepid, kind of sort of "I made a mistake" pronouncement in branding her "a slut." In the rest of the statement he railed against alleged sexual promiscuity at taxpayer expense. The only reason that he swallowed hard and even hinted at slight contrition to Fluke was because for the first time in decades of spewing hate and insults against blacks, Latinos, women, and gays, several sponsors bailed and more openly expressed nervous jitters over bankrolling the talk show demagogue. If they have a modicum of decency and bottom line sense they'll cut bait on him too. But Limbaugh, no matter what the pocketbook repercussions for his show and the Clear Channel network that dumps the show on millions of listeners in hundreds of cities, can't and won't stay away from hate.

The reason is simple. It was hate, insults and personal vilification that put Limbaugh on the talk radio map more than three decades ago. Then, as a relatively obscure local yokel right-wing nut gabber and DJ on a Pittsburgh radio station, he shouted at a black caller to take the bone out of your nose. The Fluke flap is not the first time that Limbaugh's been called out on hate and personal battering. The bone in the nose rip was a textbook case in point. He used the same Fluke non-apology playbook and never admitted that he said it. But he didn't deny it either.

In the years since the bone-in-the-nose slur, Limbaugh has piled up a litany of zingers, with a special obsession with race and women. He's managed to tout slavery (it had its merits), praise MLK assassin James Earl Ray (a posthumous medal of honor), brand the predominantly black player dominated NFL a thug league (looks like a game between the Crips and the Bloods), slander Jesse Jackson (pictures of wanted criminals look like him) and ridicule the NAACP (get a liquor store and practice robberies.) The drumbeat slurs and putdowns of women have been relentless. To drive home the point, Limbaugh quickly topped the Fluke slander by declaring "I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want."

Limbaugh's crude radio baiting is not done solely to shock, out of ignorance, to misinform, or because of clinical obsession with minorities, women, and Democrats. And it's certainly not done because he's an unreconstructed bigot or misogynist (although a strong case could be made for both). There is a cunning calculus to Limbaugh's gender and race obsession.
His use of gender and race hate and personal slurs pricks two of the nation's oldest, deepest, and thorniest issues, and is a studied and calculated brick-and-mortar marketing tool.

The object is to cement his political influence, personal prestige, notoriety, and, of course, wealth. Limbaugh has marvelously succeeded on all fronts. While other right wing hate shock jocks come and go, Limbaugh keeps chugging along, and his ratings numbers stay at or near the top of the chart. Sponsors know it, and though some have qualms and even hold their nose when he touts their products, they still pony up the ad dollars, because hate and slander at least out of Limbaugh's mouth sells and sells big. But Limbaugh's appeal to sponsors goes beyond mere dollars. He's an old-fashioned, electronic airwaves influence peddler with the Republicans, and yes Democrats too. He gets every Republican's knees knocking when he blathers about their sins and faults.

Just as predictably, the Democrats have time and again taken the bait. When he calls top Democrats and President Obama everything but a child of God, they play it up big as if his words come from on high, and they somehow can hurt them. They too just can't help themselves. This plays directly into his hands and gives him far more power and backdoor legitimacy than a common garden variety talk show gabber should ever have.

Limbaugh quickly sniffed the vital role race and gender and politics could play in building his political and media empire when word came down a couple decades ago courtesy of then presidential candidate Ronald Reagan that there were a lot of white guys out there who were mad as hell at the feds for dumping a bloated, overblown big government on them.

That's exactly how Limbaugh crafts the reason for the anger and alienation that many white males feel toward government. This, of course, translates into even more fear, rage and distrust of minorities and women.

Limbaugh begins and ends every tirade including the Fluke outburst with his patented disclaimer that none of this is personal or gender or race-baiting and that he believes in total equality. But with him it's neither. It's about ratings and political dominance, namely his. The Fluke non-apology was no fluke. And his sponsors if they have an ounce of decency will see it and him for what he really is and drop this turkey faster than a ship anchor.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.