More than a year ago, radio host Rush Limbaugh showed off his stubborn defiance. After smearing Sandra Fluke as a “slut” over and over again, Limbaugh faced down a revolt from advertisers that had a “dramatic impact” on advertising sales. One advertiser — Sleep Train — temporarily bailed on the show but later expressed an interest in coming back on board. Limbaugh refused to resume his relationship with the company.
Such headstrong behavior appeared to resurface yesterday on Limbaugh’s program, this time vis-a-vis Fox News. A caller named Tony dialed in and started ranting about various left-leaning commentators. He mentioned Julie Roginsky, a liberal-leaning Fox News contributor. Limbaugh then asked:
Limbaugh: Who is Julie Roginsky?
Tony: She’s a Democrat Obama-Alinskyite. And she’s on that panel and she’s trying to fake it like she’s . . . for the middle class . . .
Limbaugh: What panel?
Tony: The panel with Charlie Payne, Cavuto . . .
Limbaugh: Oh, somewhere on Fox, Fox News.
Tony: That’s right, that’s right.
Limbaugh: You know, you need to stop watching these people. Because they’re not going to change, Tony, and I really care but you’ve got to stop watching these people. All these names you mentioned — they’re not going to change. And you’re exactly right: If all of this were happening with a Republican president . . . they’d be raising holy hell about it.
The advice to “stop watching these people” prompted some media watchers to conclude that Limbaugh was steering his audience away from Fox News. Here’s a headline from Huffington Post: “Rush Limbaugh To Caller: Stop Watching Fox News.” The notion that Limbaugh was blasting Fox News in his chat with Tony came on top of the radio host’s recent complaint that Fox News brushed aside his requests to talk about immigration in a network appearance.
Today Limbaugh answered back, with a segment titled “I Did Not Tell Anyone to Stop Watching Fox!” The message that Limbaugh was trying to send to Tony, he said, was narrower than depicted by the media. Rush:
I did not tell anybody to stop watching Fox. I said stop listening to these people that make you so mad. What else am I gonna say?
I don’t watch these people that make me mad anymore. I gave that up years ago. What is the point? I told Tony they’re not gonna change. They’re there to tick you off. Don’t let it get to you. It’s not like I haven’t criticized Fox before. Have they ever heard me talk about Geraldo? The grim reaper? I mean, it is I, El Rushbo, who has opined that whenever you see Geraldo on TV, somebody’s died.
He then made clear his fondness for Fox News:
I will be on Fox again. I will be urging people to watch Fox. Fox is the most-watched news network in the country. Gallup had it yesterday. More people get their news from Fox News than anybody else. Now, if you add up the others they will outnumber Fox, but if you take a side-by-side individual network-by-network comparison, Fox is it, it’s numero uno. I mean, Fox and I, we’re on the same team. Even Obama has said the only opposition he’s got left is me and Fox.
Though Limbaugh could have measured his language more carefully, the Erik Wemple Blog believes that he didn’t intend to suggest that folks turn away from Fox News. Such a plea, after all, would be blindly self-destructive. Try a search for “Rush Limbaugh” on Nexis in Fox News’s transcripts. One night, Limbaugh’s thoughts on Obamacare are being showcased; the same night, he’s being highlighted for his position on immigration reform; elsewhere, he’s getting a plug on “The Five,” then a reference on “Hannity.” And that’s all from July alone (and Nexis doesn’t even pick up all Fox News transcripts).
The Erik Wemple Blog’s favorite instance of Fox News promotion of Rush Limbaugh dates back one year, when host Megyn Kelly allowed a Limbaugh excerpt to dominate one of her segments. She ran the radio host’s commentary for a full 57 seconds. As Fox News’s massive bottom line attests, companies and causes pay great sums for that kind of exposure.
It all raises a question of cross-platform dependency: Does Fox News need Rush Limbaugh more than Rush Limbaugh needs Fox News? Media nerds could spend an entire conference on that one. The record shows that neither side wants that question to become anything beyond an academic: Limbaugh issued his rebuttal today on the airwaves, and Fox News earlier today wrote a piece originally titled “Rush said what? Limbaugh’s Fox News comments taken out of context.”