04/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Don't We Just Pretend Rush Limbaugh Has 50 Million Listeners?

Have Limbaugh's numbers spiked in recent weeks? I'd be shocked if they hadn't given the extraordinary publicity he's received. But doubled, as the Washington Post claimed? There's simply no proof.

The Post's sloppy reporting highlighted the media's perpetual soft spot for Limbaugh's ratings. For years, we've been told 20 million people tune into his program each week. It's a statistic that has become absolutely synonymous with Limbaugh. But where did that ginormous number first come from? From Limbaugh, of course.

Is there any way to confirm that number? Not really, but no matter: The media loves the nice round number, and it has appeared everywhere -- but often without the acknowledgment that the stat comes from Limbaugh's camp. A check of Nexis today finds more than 800 news references to that mythical Limbaugh number throughout the years. Despite the fact nobody knows if it's accurate, the figure has been codified: Limbaugh attracts 20 million listeners each week. Wow.

Read the full Media Matters column here.