In defending Rush Limbaugh, conservatives keep pointing to comedian Bill Maher. Maher has said a lot of nasty things over the years. It’s what he’s famous for – being a foul-mouthed man with very strong opinions. But is he the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh? Not bloody hardly.
Maher has a show on the pay-cable channel HBO called Real Time with Bill Maher. He ended up on HBO because he was too politically incorrect for network and basic cable where he had shows before HBO. Real Time is an hour long and HBO runs a half-dozen repeats during a week. The show celebrated its ninth anniversary on February 21. In nine years and one month, there have been 242 episodes of Real Time. That’s an average of 27 episodes a year.
The Rush Limbaugh Show runs Monday through Friday for three hours each day on FM radio. I’ll be nice and assume he doesn’t broadcast on the ten national holidays. When he is on vacation or another honeymoon, he has a substitute host. The Rush Limbaugh Showwent national in August, 1988. He has broadcast approximately 5,900 times since then, at three hours each time.
That’s 17,700 hours of Rush Limbaugh compared to 243 hours of Bill Maher. Nice equivalent, isn’t it? It’s a 73:1 ratio.
Then, there’s the venue itself. The last time I asked, when managing a laundromat, pay cable cannot be piped into commercial spaces. You will not see an HBO movie in the laundromat any more than you will see a DVD. In order to see Bill Maher, one must first subscribe to HBO and then choose to watch the show, which is on late in the evening. Limbaugh is on FM radio, which is not restricted from commercial spaces. It is broadcast from noon to three. I have heard it in offices, both businesses and doctors’, in laundromats, in the waiting area of auto repair shops, in restaurants and even on a public bus. Rush Limbaugh is not restricted to the privacy of the listeners’ homes. His fans think nothing of imposing their choice of venom on innocent bystanders. Maher averages 300,000 viewers for the first run of his show. He may double that with the repeats. Limbaugh claims to have 15 million listeners daily, though that number is disputed because of the way radio ratings are done. That does not include the number of people who are stuck listening to him against their will. Another nice equivalent, a 25:1 ratio if we are very, very generous to Maher.
But, the right is having the vapors over Bill Maher. They keep quoting his shows to prove that the left is just as vile as Limbaugh. That may be true, but there is no way that Maher’s impact is equal to Limbaugh’s.
The ever caustic Ann Coulter has decided that because Bill Maher said some nasty things about Sarah Palin’s kids, conservatives should “go after” the Obama girls. She and Sean Hannity alleged that liberals have made fun of Palin’s Down’s Syndrome son and Rick Santorum’s sick daughter. The very worst you can accuse liberals of is being slow on the uptake for political correctness for Down’s Syndrome. People still use the words “retard” and “retarded” without thinking. But the references to Palin’s son and Santorum’s daughter have less to do with the children’s conditions than with what their parents did. Palin used to lug her son around like a sack of potatoes, with him always facing away from her. She passed him off to her youngest daughter constantly. She was never seen to actually interact with him, other than to show off his Halloween costume once. And knowing that he was going to be a Down’s Syndrome child, she decided to fly from Texas to Alaska when she went into labor with him, risking having him born in the plane without medical assistance. We criticized her parenting, not the child. The same for Rick and Karen Santorum. We questioned parents who brought a premature baby who was either dying or had just died home to “meet” his siblings and questioned why a man would put his family through a vigorous political campaign knowing that his daughter was already a year past her expected life span and could pass away any time. It is very hard to reconcile the whole “family values” thing in Republicans when these two candidates behave this way. That’s the part the right wing doesn’t get. If the Republicans didn’t claim to be the champions of families and traditional values, we wouldn’t be so derisive of them when they are exposed as sinners and bad parents. It’s not that we have a double standard on morality, attacking Republican but not Democrats. It’s that Democrats never claim to be channeling God or being more moral than the next person.
When you are a voice for a party that claims a monopoly on morality and God, it is never a good idea to let your teenaged daughter attend a biker rally in a skin-tight t-shirt and painted-on jeans.
So, Coulter and Hannity want open season on Malia and Sasha, and Bristol Palin has blogged that President Obama should call her and apologize for Bill Maher. She claims that since Obama called Sandra Fluke, he should call her. Otherwise, he is ignoring the insults Maher flung at the Palin girls because they are Republicans.
President Obama did address the attacks on Bristol, at the time they happened. He asked the press and the nation’s comedians to leave the children of the candidates out of the campaign. But, Bristol Palin was already a public figure. Her mother had dragged her into the public arena and she took root there. Sandra Fluke did not ask to be in the public arena other than as a witness in a Congressional hearing. She did give a handful of interviews when asked, but she didn’t sign a contract for Dancing With the Stars, didn’t get her face on the cover of People Magazine, didn’t get on two reality shows – her mother’s and her own.
I have a couple of questions for Coulter and Hannity. When will Coulter apologize for calling a group of 9-11 widows “money grubbing bitches” for opposing the invasion of Iraq? When will Hannity apologize for telling his television and radio audiences for three solid years that President Obama and Attorney General Holder stopped the investigation into voter intimidation by the Philadelphia New Black Panthers, charging that Obama and Holder supported the intimidation, when it was the Bush administration that decided that no intimidation had taken place? Those are words out of their own mouths, not the words of someone else. So, which Republican politician should apologize for them? While Coulter made her remarks at an event (I think it was a book signing), Hannity has been making it to a combined audience even larger than Limbaugh’s, and being believed by every one of them.
That is the real difference between Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh. Maher’s audience knows that he’s just bloviating. Limbaugh’s audience believes that he is telling them facts.