Rush Limbaugh’s Biggest Feuds Ever
Few understood their power over an entire political ideology better than the late Rush Limbaugh. “Psychologically, when I sit down at noon, I’m it. I’m the only thing on. Nobody else does what I do. Nobody else has the opportunity. That’s the psychological mindset. It’s not an ego thing; it’s just the way I’ve always approached it,” he told Sean Hannity in 2005. And he had the ratings to back that up.
Rush Limbaugh was the bombastic voice of America’s right-wing for decades, and he never shied away from giving his opinion regardless of whether anybody actually asked for it. His fans and the politicians he influenced would label that as passionate, while his critics would label his no-hold barred tactics as combative and divisive. A cynic would argue that, to Limbaugh, it didn’t matter much either way.
But with a career and long and provocative as Limbaugh’s, you’re bound to make a few enemies along the way. Here’s just a few of Rush Limbaugh’s biggest feuds.
Rush Limbaugh had no love for Bill O'Reilly
During a 2013 Fox News segment with fellow network host Megyn Kelly, Bill O’Reilly stated that when it came to the debate over same-sex marriage, “the compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals” compared to that of the religious right, who’s only opposition, as he saw it, was to “thump the Bible.” In response, Limbaugh blasted O’Reilly on his radio broadcast. “Well. So how many of you who watch Fox are Bible thumpers? Do you think there are any Bible thumpers, quote/unquote, that watch Fox?” Limbaugh said. “Because last night you were sort of marginalized on The Factor as not having a compelling argument and just being a bunch of Bible thumpers.”
Limbaugh had taken previous swipes, too, comparing O’Reilly in 2010 to Ted Baxter, a fictional character onThe Mary Tyler Moore Show “who was portrayed as a vain, shallow, buffoonish TV newsman” (via The Hill). But it was O’Reilly who drew first blood, according to Fox insider Joe Muto’s book An Atheist in the FOXhole. In it, Muto details how, in 2008, O’Reilly was poised to take a serious Limbaugh diss on the air, but network chief Roger Ailes got him to relent and “reluctantly [agree] to toe the party line,” leaving O’Reilly furious.
At the time of Limbaugh’s death, however, O’Reilly had nothing but praise for his former rival. “The legacy of Rush Limbaugh is clear: the most successful radio broadcaster in history. Mr. Limbaugh provided a conservative balance against the dangerous left wing corporate media machine,” he tweeted.
Marco Rubio and Rush Limbaugh feuded over immigration
During President Barack Obama’s second term, Congress was at work on a bipartisan immigration reform bill that Rush Limbaugh publicly blasted. “We’ve done this before. We’ve done amnesty before,” said Limbaugh (via HUFFPOST). “This immigration bill that everybody’s touting on TV today is essentially the Bush immigration bill that was beat back in 2007.” Limbaugh stated that Reagan only agreed to amnesty immigrants because there would be “no more of this illegal immigration stuff,” and accused Republicans, notably Sen. Marco Rubio, of agreeing to the bill in an effort to pander to Latino voters.
In an unlikely move, Rubio agreed to appear on Limbaugh’s show to discuss the bill. Per Business Insider, Limbaugh told Rubio the GOP would be “committing suicide” by giving a path to citizenship to people who would turn around and vote Democrat. “I don’t understand why we’re doing something that the Democrats are salivating at,” Limbaugh told Rubio, adding, “I’m just having a tough time.” When Rubio explained his reasoning, Limbaugh asked, “Why can’t we just say no?”
Limbaugh eventually became a Rubio fan despite his audience’s reservations. “I also like Marco Rubio, in comparison to other options and choices. People get mad at me for that,” he said during the 2016 Republican Primary (via Politifact). “I can’t come up with a reason to hate Marco Rubio like some people.”
Rush Limbaugh took on Michael Steele and the RNC
During a 2009 appearance on CNN, former head of the Republican National Committee (RNC) Michael Steele pushed back on a fellow panelist, who called Rush Limbaugh the “the de facto leader of the Republican party” (via HUFFPOST). “No he’s not. I’m the de facto leader of the Republican party,” Steele replied, because calling Limbaugh a simply “entertainer” who was “ugly” and “incendiary.”
As expected, Limbaugh struck back hard and fast. After calling the RNC “so-called Republicans,” Limbaugh took aim at Steele. “So I am an entertainer and I have 20 million listeners because of my great song and dance routine,” Limbaugh said. “Michael Steele, you are head of the Republican National Committee. You are not head of the Republican party. Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the Republican National Committee…and when you call them asking for money, they hang up on you.” He then accused Steele of being nothing more than a “talking-head media star.”
As is the case with most Limbaugh feuds, Steele ended up apologizing. “My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele told Politico, adding, “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.” He continued, “I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking.”
Al Franken got no 'sympathy' from Rush Limbaugh
In his 1995 best seller Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, former Democratic Senator Al Franken claimed Rush Limbaugh “started” the right-wing media bubble. “And he was good at it. I mean, he’s awful, obviously, a monster, but very talented. Three hours a day is a long time to do ‘unguested confrontation,’ which is the actual name for his format,” he told Rolling Stone, adding that the controversial broadcaster’s show was nothing but “nuts calling” in and Limbaugh “agree[ing] with the nuts.” He also surmised that over the course of Limbaugh’s long career, “if there [was] some awful right-wing thing happening, chances are that Rush was behind it.”
Although The New York Times reported in 2004 that the pair “never met personally, nor have they spoken,” Limbaugh had a lot to say when Franken was forced to resign in 2017 after lewd photographs and accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced, namely that he didn’t “have any sympathy” for the former SNL star. “Franken became expendable. Franken became a pawn. Franken became a nonentity. Franken became a nobody to [Democrats], Limbaugh said (via iHeartRadio). He further alleged that the Franken’s ouster was somehow a Democrat ploy to “contrast” how Republicans were concurrently handling the party’s then-senatorial candidate, Roy Moore, who faced his own accusations of sexual misconduct, including several by minors. Limbaugh capped his rebuke of Franken by slamming the outgoing senator’s speech of contrition as “a combination [of] pathetic, sorrowful, pitiful.”
Rush Limbaugh accused Michael J. Fox of 'exaggerating the effects' of Parkinson's
Actor Michael J. Fox, who opened up about his Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis in 1998, appeared in a 2006 campaign ad for then-Senate candidate Claire McCaskill to advocate for stem cell research. Rush Limbaugh then went full Limbaugh, calling the Back to the Future actor “shameless,” and accusing him of “exaggerating the effects of the disease.”
“He is moving all around and shaking, and it’s purely an act. This is the only time I have ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has. He can control himself enough to stay in the frame of the picture, and he can control himself enough to keep his eyes right on the lens, the teleprompter,” Limbaugh claimed during a 2006 broadcast, while mocking Fox’s tremors.
Fox addressed Limbaugh’s remarks during a 2012 appearance on Piers Morgan Tonight. He acknowledged that Limbaugh did eventually apologize after significant backlash, and confessed that he withheld his own impulse to hit back at Limbaugh, even jokingly, because he was dismayed that his advocacy for stem cell research was overshadowed by Limbaugh’s comments at all. “To have people have an ethical problem with it is one thing,” Fox said, “but to have it summarily knocked down and marginalized on the basis of personalities … or the way I delivered the message, and his bullying instinct is to shut down and marginalize that voice, that’s another thing altogether.”
Mayor Pete doesn't care about Rush Limbaugh's views on 'family values'
When U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg competed in the 2020 Democratic Primary, he sometimes shared an onstage kiss with his husband, Chasten. For Donald Trump’s longtime buddy Rush Limbaugh, this was somehow ponderous, as he wondered aloud if the then-president would “have fun” with Buttigieg’s sexuality if he were to become the Democratic nominee.
“They’re looking at Mayor Pete, 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage. And they’re saying, OK, how’s this going to look, 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump?” Limbaugh said (via Media Matters). “What’s going to happen there? And they got to be looking at that, and they’ve got to be saying, that despite all the great progress and despite all the great wokeness, and despite all the great ground that’s been covered, America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president.” He added, “Having fun envisioning that.”
Limbaugh received widespread bipartisan criticism over his remarks, but Buttigieg himself fired off the best defense during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union with Dana Bash. “Well, I love my husband. I’m faithful to my husband. Onstage, we usually just go for a hug, but I love him very much,” Buttigieg said, adding, “And I’m not going to take lectures on family values from the likes of Rush Limbaugh.”
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