Thursday marked Rush Limbaugh’s 25th anniversary on the air. To label Limbaugh a radio talk show host dramatically underestimates his impact on the political debate, media, and American culture. Limbaugh is truly a transformative figure. When Limbaugh entered the world of talk radio, the AM dial was essentially moribund. He turned it into a weapon for conservatism, and in the process, led the revolution that has ended in the disintegration of the old media monopoly. Limbaugh can rightly be said to be the greatest populist expositor of conservatism in America since Reagan, and the link between the Reagan generation and the so-called Rush Babies.
In his book, Righteous Indignation, Andrew Breitbart wrote about how Limbaugh turned him into a conservative. “One day I asked [Andrew Breitbart’s father-in-law, Orson Bean] why he had Rush Limbaugh’s book, The Way Things Ought to Be, on his shelf. I asked him, ‘Why would you have a book by this guy?’ And Orson said, ‘Have you ever listened to him?’ I said yes, of course, even though I never had. I was convinced to the core of my being that Rush Limbaugh was a Nazi, anti-black, anti-Jewish, and anti-all things decent. Without berating me for disagreeing with him, Orson simply suggested that I listen to him again….This is where my rendezvous with destiny begins. I turned on KFI 640 AM to listen to evil personified from 9 a.m. to noon. Indeed, my goal was to derive pleasure from the degree of evil I found in Rush Limbaugh. I was looking forward to a jovial discussion with Orson to confirm how right I was. One hour turned into three. One listening session turned into a week’s worth. And next thing I knew, I was starting to doubt my preprogrammed self. I was still a Democrat. I was still a liberal. But after listening for months while putting thousands of miles on my car, I couldn’t believe that I once thought this man was a Nazi or anything close…I marveled at how he could take a breaking news story and offer an entertaining and clear analysis that was like nothing I had ever seen on television, especially the Sunday morning shows, which had been my previous one-stop shop for political opinions.”
That’s where Andrew’s transformation began. Soon he had moved from a self-described “default liberal” to a conservative media warrior.
“Please understand that Rush Limbaugh is reviled less for what he says than because he shot the first shot the first shot of the New Media war over twenty years ago when he turned AM into the meeting place for America’s massive conservative underground. Because of Rush there are countless imitators influencing large amounts of people across America in a billion-dollar talk-radio industry that didn’t exist a generation ago,” Breitbart wrote. “Professor Limbaugh provided me an understanding of how politics and media relate.”
Andrew was always a great defender of Limbaugh’s legacy; he famously stood up to Bill Maher when Maher suggested that Limbaugh was a racist. “It’s completely un-American to call him racist,” Andrew told Maher.
When Republicans win, Andrew wrote, it’s “usually because Rush Limbaugh or some other defensive stud picks up a fumble or intercepts a pass at the two-yard line and runs it back ninety-eight yards for a touchdown.” He continued, “I long for the days of Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor, Abbie Hoffman, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, George Carlin, and Lenny Bruce. Today, the only people upholding their free-speech legacies are conservatives like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.”
Andrew wrote an acknowledgement to Limbaugh: “Rush Limbaugh, your astounding success is a beacon for every aspiring voice on the radio and every ‘blogger’ on the Internet. Like Reagan, you led this revolution with good cheer and humor – kryptonite to the left. On a selfish note, becoming friends with one of my heroes has been a highlight of my life.””
Andrew’s gratitude to Limbaugh carries on today at Breitbart News.
“Rush had a transformative impact on Andrew’s life, and as a result, Rush changed the lives of so many with whom Andrew came in contact, including everyone here at Breitbart News. We congratulate him on his well-earned longevity leading the charge against a biased mainstream media and championing the conservative ideals that make this country so great,” explains Larry Solov, President of Breitbart News.
“When Rush Limbaugh started 25 years ago in the closing days of the race for Reagan’s third term, Americans were spoon fed their political news from 3 broadcast networks, one fledging cable channel and 2 eastern newspapers. AM radio provided a ‘dog’s breakfast’ of musical formats and baseball. Limbaugh re-imagined a medium, and with it invented ‘political talk’ out of whole cloth. What drives his haters so crazy is that he is more relevant today than all the years in between,” avers Steve Bannon, Executive Chairman of Breitbart News.
“For the last quarter-century, talk radio has been the way conservative-minded individuals have equipped themselves with facts and philosophy, and no one is more responsible for its success than Rush Limbaugh,” Breitbart News Managing Editor Alex Marlow said. “And Rush has stayed on top despite an enemies list of well-funded, highly trained, professional activists who wake up every morning and set out to make his life miserable.”
“Rush continues to set the news agenda, not just for conservative media but for the millions of Americans who listen to him–even for those who think they oppose him. And if you do, it’s impossible to do so for long,” says Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Joel Pollak.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).