A lot of Liberals like me would love to see Rush Limbaugh go away. There are several petitions and online movements calling on radio stations to FIRE RUSH! This puts me in an awkward situation, because I am the Program Director of a Rush Limbaugh affiliate. So unlike the rest of you, I’m in a position where I could actually fire Rush… but I won’t do it. Before you start a petition to revoke my lefty liberal status, let me explain why…
It would be easy for me to make an emotional decision and flush Rush. I would take great pride in doing it and I would get about 15 seconds worth of national media attention from it. But dropping his show would shoot myself in the foot and make me a total hypocrite. The Program Director of any given radio station is the one who decides what does and doesn’t go on air. When I took over my talk station years ago, it was all conservative talk and had featured people like Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly, Laura Ingraham, and of course, Rush Limbaugh. All conservative talk may work in some markets, but it was not working in my community. Advertisers rejected the station because they didn’t want to be associated with all right-wing talk.
So I decided to make the station reflect our community with a diversity of opinions. We now have two conservative talk hosts (Rush & Dennis Miller), we have two liberal talkers (myself & Ed Schultz), a libertarian / conspiracy theorist (Alex Jones), a show about aliens and other bizarre things (Coast to Coast) and a financial guy with a ton of opinions but none of them are political (Clark Howard). So you see, I need Rush to represent the conservative side of things to bring balance to the station.
There’s also another reason… freedom of speech. I support the right of Rush to be a total jackass. I support that right for everyone on the radio, including me. I host a very “liberal” talk show (check out the podcast page) and I have a habit of really annoying conservatives. We constantly get calls at the station for me to be fired. Here’s how that call usually goes…
Caller: You should be fired for your crazy liberal views!
Me: So you want me to fire everyone on my station that expresses an opinion, including Rush?
Caller: Well… no, I agree with Rush, so I don’t want him gone… just you.
Me: This isn’t communist China; we don’t banish people for having a dissenting opinion. Do you support freedom of speech?
Caller: Well… yes.
Me: So then you agree that we can’t fire people for exercising their freedom of speech?
Caller: Sigh… I guess you’re right… click
If any of the personalities on my station breaks a FCC rule, I’ll drop them like a brick. But otherwise, I leave it up to the free market. It’s my job to put on shows that the masses will tune in for. That’s how I build an audience to hear our commercials and that’s how I get paid. If the masses want to reject Rush, or anyone else, I’ll give them the boot ASAP. Otherwise, I would just be using my position to punish conservatives by banning someone that I disagree with. That would make me a total hypocrite and I’m not going to do that.
There’s one other reason I keep Rush on that Liberals should love… I’m driving a wedge between right-wingers. Long-time GOP consultant and spin-master, Frank Lutz, was just secretly taped saying that Rush is “problematic” for the GOP rebranding efforts. That’s because they can’t control Rush or his message but he’s got a huge conservative audience. They see him and his divisive comments as hurting the party. I’m all about hurting the GOP, so I’m glad I can help with that.
Plus, letting Rush spew his conservative garbage allows me to spew my liberal wisdom. I think we can all agree that there’s a lack of radio hosts fighting back against the right-wing “hate radio” industry, but I’m doing it and I’m not shy about it. Don’t think for a minute that I go on the air and say Rush is a great guy just because we’re on the same station. Just the opposite, my audience is well aware of the fact that I don’t like Rush as I’ve announced it several times. One of the great ironies of my life was when I had to go on air and defend the right of Rush to say stupid things after his Sandra Fluke “slut” comments. During that time, I got hit with a petition by locals that wanted Rush fired and some of the signatures were from friends of mine! But I stood my ground and supported freedom of speech and the free market.
Defending our rights isn’t always popular, but it’s a slippery slope when you start censoring the airwaves because someone annoyed you. Freedom isn’t free and sometimes the cost is defending something ugly.
Having said all of that… Most Rush Limbaugh affiliates are 100% conservative talk and are making money off of spreading ignorance and misinformation with a one-sided GOP spin machine… so I don’t blame you for wanting to boycott those stations and advertisers. But remember, there’s “no such thing as bad publicity” and you often do the person you’re boycotting a favor by getting them more media attention and firing up their base. That usually results in a ratings bump and an increase in advertiser demand which is the opposite effect you’re trying to have. This has been historically true for everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Howard Stern. So your best course of action is to ignore the problem (trust me, nobody in the media wants to be ignored) and simply support the stations and personalities that you do like. The free market will work the rest out.