Sue's Response to Rush Limbaugh

Sue's Response to
Rush Limbaugh:
SacBee Laments Right-Wing Talk Radio as a "Threat to Democracy"

May 12, 2008


RUSH: As you know, ladies and gentlemen, my adopted hometown is Sacramento, California.  I worked out there at KFBK, 50,000 watt blowtorch, 'til this day carries the program, been on the air there since 1984, so 24 years at KFBK Sacramento, number one.  And while there, one of my nemeses was the Sacramento Bee, the local newspaper owned by the McClatchy clan.  It is still owned by the McClatchy clan, and it has still refused to accept what has happened to me, as evidenced by a story that is special to the Bee published yesterday.  Headline:  "Federal Rules Give Corporation-Backed Conservative Radio all the Local Voices."  This is a story, this is a hand-wringing, tear-jerker story of how liberal talk radio couldn't make it out there, and damn it, it's not fair, it's not right, and it's because federal rules give corporation-backed conservative radio all the local voices.  Listen to how this thing starts, by Sue Wilson, who I don't know.  She was probably still in diapers when I was in Sacramento. 

     Hmmnn… I worked under the Fairness Doctrine, which went out in 1987, so my age must be at least …. well, you do the math.

"There's a mournful hush in Sacramento these days, the empty sound of an entire political viewpoint quieted. More than 32,000 weekly listeners who once tuned [to the local lib outlet] to hear partisan Democrats beat up on President George W. Bush, now hear only Christian hip-hop."  Now, if that's not the funniest opening of a news story that I have ever read, I don't know what is.  Thirty-two thousand weekly listeners is nothing!  People don't understand radio ratings.  Thirty-two thousand weekly listeners would add up to about 1,500 every 15 minutes, the average quarter hour would be about 1,500 to 2,000 listeners.  I mean, for crying out loud, it's a 0.1 or 0.2, but it barely shows up as an asterisk in the rating books.

      That 1,000 watt station was getting 20% of KFBK's ratings, the market leader.  So by Rush's math, if KFBK had a 1,000 watt station instead of a 50,000 watt station, KFBK would get a whopping 0.5 or 1.0?   Maybe he has a problem with mathematics.   Math is precise, kind of like facts. 

 Now, Sue Wilson says, "There's nothing wrong with Christian hip-hop; it's a great outlet for artists breaking out of the gansta rap mold. But there are six other commercial radio stations licensed in the Sacramento area programming the Christian message. In the political realm, three local radio stations program 264 hours of partisan Republican radio talkers beating up on Democrats every week. Now, zero stations program any Democratic view whatsoever: 264-0."  So it's 264 hours of partisan Republican bashing to zero hours of partisan liberal bashing. 

     That he got right.

"This follows the national trend revealed in the 2007 Free Press and Center for American Progress study, 'The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio.'"  This is a John Podesta group, this is a far left-wing group.  We remember their report came out, and their report was filled with lies and distortions. 

     Pity, every time the facts contradict his personal beliefs, Rush calls them lies.  What a great way to create an oral history by the man who is famous for telling his audience "I'll do the reading so you won't have to."   If he questioned the study, why didn't he invite Podesta or the study authors onto his show to discuss it?  Think, folks.  There's a good reason he won’t debate.  He can't win when someone stands up to him with actual facts.

The liberal station shared "another characteristic with other liberal radio stations: It had a tiny, 1,000-watt transmitter."  Oooh!  So it was Womper Room.  "Tough for a little station that barely reached Sacramento's suburbs to compete with 50,000 watt giant KFBK, whose signal stretches from Chico to Modesto, from Reno to that little town of San Francisco. Despite KFBK reaching millions more potential listeners, KSAC mustered an audience nearly 20 percent that of KFBK's." (laughing)  At any rate, it wasn't that the lib station didn't have any listeners; it's that it didn't have any advertisers.  I -- (interruption) No, that's what it says here.  Well, not necessarily.  H.R. just said if it had listeners, it would have advertisers.  Not necessarily. 

     Now he agrees with me… that's scary.

I would defy anybody outside of a couple of markets that are probably in the top ten, I would defy anybody to find me a liberal network show, nationally syndicated liberal show that registers any significant ratings anywhere.  They don't. 

     Thom Hartmann beats Rush head to head on KPOJ in Portland…  and Ed Schultz has as many listeners as radio Bill O'Reilly.  Be careful, Rush fans, Rush tells you what he wants you to think, not what the facts actually reveal.  Don’t believe me (or him.) Look it up.

And even those that get some numbers do not have advertisers.  Sue Wilson here swerved into it.  There's a very simple reason why. (interruption) What are you saying?  No, it's very simple.  Mr. Snerdley, it's not that nobody wants to be part of the environment. Well, that's the overall thing, the umbrella, nobody wants to be part of the environment.  But if you are a corporation or a small business, why in the world would you spend any money on a radio station or a show which is demonizing you and the business community as the greatest modern focus of evil in the country outside of the US military?  Why in the world would you do it?  Not to mention advertising on these stations got no results because their audience hears a commercial for corporation, "Screw that corporation, I'm not going there."  If the corporation doesn't do commercials bashing Bush -- I mean this is an insane, lunatic fringe audience these people are trying to reach. 

     Does he mean the insane, lunatic 72% who do not support George W. Bush?

They've gotta start asking themselves, why does liberal programming not work? But they're wringing their hands, "It's just unfair, because corporations won't put liberal talk radio on powerful stations. That's right, Mr. Limbaugh, it's really not fair. You get the big station, and they get the little Podunk stations. No wonder." I got the big station and earned the right to be there, as has everybody else on KFBK, via content, content, content. This is not hard to understand, but these libs and the Drive-By Media want to portray this as some sign of corporate unfairness.

     Rush recently ran a full page ad in Time Magazine, calling himself "America's Anchorman."  But he is not a newsman at all.  Rush is an entertainer, and a good one.  Apparently, if Rush Limbaugh had to answer his falsehoods on the air, if he had to be accountable to the facts, he doesn't think he would be so entertaining.   Entertainment rules, did we forget that?  Long live Britney Spears.

"Why are corporate dollars the sole arbiter of what information we the people get to hear on publicly owned airwaves?" This is the reporter asking the question, which illustrates glittering ignorance of how the market works.

     Yah, right.  He's gotta keep pushing that line.  It's not true, but it's all he's got.

Let me answer your question, Sue. Corporate dollars are not the sole arbiter of what information you the people get to hear on publicly owned airwaves. Your little lib station, your little lib programming has had a couple of opportunities in Sacramento. Nobody wanted to listen to it. Corporations are not required to lose money in order to present a point of view and in such a way that irritates people just so there is so-called fairness.

     Nobody's asking corporations to lose money… don't forget, conflict is drama.  Real debate gets real ratings…. but do the corporations dare to have that debate?  (Why should they when they now control the message?)

Besides, you've always got NPR, Sue. There's an NPR outlet out there and assorted other liberal outlets with no ratings and no advertisers because they don't have to. They're paid for by the government! There is not one conservative radio network in the country paid for with government dollars. You got NPR. NPR is paid for with government dollars -- radio and television. So go there.

     Two things:  First, ask yourself when you have ever heard an NPR station bash Democrats with the vitriol that Rush and his minions bash Republicans?  They don't.  They actually report facts and air both sides.  There is really no comparison.

Second, just fifteen percent of public radio and public TV funding comes from the government.  The rest comes from listener, foundation, and – shudder! – corporate support. 


RUSH:  All right, a couple more little blurbs here.  Sacramento Bee, Sue Wilson: "Considering a 2003 Gallup poll showing that 22 percent of Americans get their information from talk radio, we're not just talking about what is fair play; we are talking about a threat to the democracy we hold dear."  Lib talk radio dying. Lib talk radio "has been taken off the air in Boston; Fresno; San Diego; Madison, Wis.; Eugene, Ore.; Austin, Texas; New Haven, Conn.; Columbus, Ohio and other markets all across the country," because it failed, because it got no listeners. 

     He's just contradicted himself.  Earlier, he agreed there were listeners.  Flip flop, flip flop.

You know what this really says? 

What this really says is that good talk radio, done well, is far more effective than any of those other media, like cable TV, like the broadcast networks.  It's far more influential; it is far more effective; it's far more popular because audiences are far more tied to it in a direct way, in an active way.  The libs want to control everything.  But if they can't do it on radio, they should take solace in the fact they own everything else.

      Rush has been spreading this lie for years: the myth of the liberal media.  Can Rush  name one liberal on free broadcast television or radio (not cable, that's a different animal) who tosses aside the facts in favor of propaganda?  Outside of talk radio, he can't.  What he really doesn’t like are those pesky facts that come out on the nightly news which undermine his agenda.  He doesn't dare argue the facts, so he calls them names instead.

 Here's where we're really headed with Sue Wilson's piece.  "What to do? The FCC (five commissioners, appointed by the president) could bring back the Fairness Doctrine. But Republicans in Congress, such as Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, are fighting tooth and nail to prevent its return. And even groups who favor media reform, like Free Press, believe restoration of the Fairness Doctrine would face First Amendment challenges. But as a producer who actually worked under the Fairness Doctrine, I personally don't see what's wrong with proving to the community that I at least attempted to provide both sides of the story."  This is embarrassingly ignorant of what the Fairness Doctrine is, how it works, and what it would achieve.  Maybe it's not ignorant.  Maybe she knows full well that the Fairness Doctrine would destroy talk radio. 

     Rush knows that actually being fair would destroy his schtick.   He has built an entire career out of mischaracterizing the left, the middle, and the facts.  It is very easy to do when he never has to actually face those he's demonizing.   In the days of the Fairness Doctrine, he would have to give anyone he attacked the opportunity to respond to him.  He knows he can't survive that.  Only if he can attack unanswered can he remain King of the radio hill.

     But let's be clear:  reinstating the Fairness Doctrine is one answer, but it is trickier to achieve than it seems.  That's why many media reformers believe that restoring radio ownership caps to their pre-1996 levels (one owner could have a maximum of 40 stations nationwide, rather than the unlimited numbers they can own today) is a better idea.  More owners would mean more diverse voices, and that's better for democracy.  I think the reform we really need is to make broadcasters once again accountable to their local communities.

She's an out of work liberal producer writing this piece for the Sacramento Bee, pure and simple. 

     Uh huh.  Wait until Broadcast Blues comes out, and he'll find out how out of work I am.


     P.S.  Define "Liberal."


  1. Sue, Rush may be a blowhard, but it is a free country, and there is nobody stopping liberals from starting their own network and taking on the right wing.

    Air America failed once, but so try it again! Rush would be the first to encourage you to do that. NO LAW STOPS YOU.

    And by the way, radio ownership limits were lifted under the Clinton administration. He supported it. It's the most conservative thing he ever did. That's what ruined radio. Not the repeal of the fairness doctrine.

    But let me repeat - it is legal to have your own left wing show and never allow right wing commentary. If you don't have the money and can't find supporters, well, that's too bad. Try, try again. That's the American way.

    Forced fairness is never fair, and besides both sides deal in rhetoric and very few facts.

    Also, you said it yourself (as has Rush), he's an entertainer, not a politician. Maybe spend more time encouraging people to research candidates and vote for the best one? Based on something more than race or looks.

    People don't have time to research candidates, sadly, so they DO go by race or looks or religion. And most have figured out that ALL politicians promise one thing and deliver another.

    That's sadder than Rush being on 365/24/7.

  2. You wrote, "Air America failed once, but so try it again! Rush would be the first to encourage you to do that. NO LAW STOPS YOU."

    What stops us is science. There are only so many radio frequencies in the air. If you have enough money, you can start a newspaper or even a university. But there aren't any frequencies left because the big corporations snapped them up in 1996 and they aren't selling.

    (Their very scarcity is why they are deemed public property, and why broadcasters must legally "serve the public interest" in order to get a broadcast license.

    So fine, if Clear Channel is willing to sell us a 50,000 watt station in Sacramento for a properly appraised price, we will raise the funds.

    Otherwise we will continue to demand our rights to have our voices heard on the microphones on OUR public airwaves.