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RUSH: Let me retrace what the business has become, in my mind, since 1988, and also tell you how I look at the business. Because I look at this as a business. I don’t look at it as a means of electing candidates. I don’t look at it as a means of advancing a political ideology. I look at it as a business. In fact, somebody sent me an e-mail the other day, an attachment. Some business columnist in Delaware, Delaware Online, Delaware whatever — some tiny little newspaper; I would have never seen this otherwise — had written a piece about how talk radio is just the low rung of the show-biz ladder and it’s a bottom feeder. No advertisers like talk radio. Talk radio can’t sell itself, it has to go out and get per inquiries, and the source for this was a guy who used to own a station in West Chester, Pennsylvania back in 1988, one of the original 56 that carried my program, and he told this columnist, “Oh, yeah, you can’t sell advertising on Limbaugh’s show or Hannity or anybody else. All the big networks, big sponsors, are sending out notices to stations saying, ‘I don’t want my sponsor on their shows.'”
Well, you can call me a blowhard. You can call me a racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, and that’s fine, but when you challenge the business that I am in… (Laughter.) So I wrote this guy an e-mail, a long e-mail. I said, “I don’t know who your executive is…” I was very nice. I was not… (Laughter.) I was! I was. I am not a mean guy anyway. But I let this guy know facts and figures. “I don’t know who your executive source is, but you couldn’t be more wrong.” I said, “Let me speak to you personally. The greatest story of my success is not my politics and not any of that. It’s what we had to do to survive business-wise.” So I described all that for him, and he wrote back, “Well, this is all well and good, and I see it’s actually your e-mail address, but how do I really know it’s you?” (Laugher.) There were details in there that… (sigh) He said, “Until I really know it’s you, I can’t deal with this as fact. So here’s my phone number. Call and leave a voice mail.”
I said, “I’ve gotta go. In fact, I’ve gotta go into a meeting because I’m trying to convince a new client to join my show. I’ll call you in two hours.” So I called the guy, and he couldn’t believe that I had called. He thought it was a hoax. I said, “How can you think it was a hoax? Look at the detail in the e-mail!” So, anyway, he ran a correction, and he ran a column correcting it, and he got it, for the most part, right. For a journalist, only taking two stabs, and he got that 80% right. (Laughter.) But here’s how it was. In 1988, when we went out, the whole business — and I’m sure many of you in the room know it, were there and will remember: Local, local, local. We don’t want nationally syndicated programming. It won’t work, especially in the daytime. Who do you think you are? We’re going to give you avails in the daytime for a syndicated show? We’ve got to have local issues, local hosts, local phone numbers.”
Mickey Luckoff said, “I mean, I admire you, but has nobody succeeded at this.” I said, “Well, then I’ll just join another long line of failures and go back to some local market and resume my career that way, but if it works, then I’ll be unique.” Well, we stuck with it. It took a year, maybe 12 months to get one top-ten market. During this time, we couldn’t get — back in those days, the traditional network advertisers, the General Motors, the Kraft Foods, whoever, they weren’t even buying shows; they were buying audience, CPM. They were just buying results — or not buying results, rather. They were buying impressions. They just found blocs of people and found ways to reach them by buying on one network show or combination of stations or whatever.
We couldn’t get those guys because I was immediately tagged as “controversial,” and they didn’t want complaint letters, the advertisers didn’t. They didn’t want to deal with it. They didn’t want to market to an audience that perhaps had some members that didn’t like what the host was saying. I understood that. So we had to go out and get new advertisers. If we hadn’t succeeded at this, I wouldn’t be standing here today. We had to find people that had never been on radio; we had to find entrepreneurs, like we were. We had to find risk takers, and then we had to tell people, “You’re going to get bombarded,” because these organized hate campaigns from people who disagreed with me to advertisers was already starting. We had to educate them on who these people are. They’re phony; they’re not nearly as large in number as they’re going to make themselves out to be, and stick with it — and thank God all that happened.
I wouldn’t be standing here with you today, either, if all I was was a show where advertisers wanted to do CPM and make impressions. The success came from having to go find these people, new advertisers, and they got results. They were able to measure the reaction of their advertising, the result of their advertising on the program immediately. It got so successful that we had people that did not have national distribution come to us and try to get two things: They wanted me to do the spot because that would get the product on the shelf. That would convince grocery store B to buy the product, and then the customer would come along and buy it from the shelf, and my sales staff was trying to get me to do this. I said, “Wait a minute, guys. I’ve got a big enough burden as it is, but to have to accomplish two things with one spot…” We tried it on a couple things. One was Snapple. They were in five states then. Two years later, they were in all 50 states and they sold to Quaker Oats for three billion.
Now, when a guy in Delaware writes and doesn’t understand the importance of how this business operates, I will correct him and anybody else. I think it’s one of the greatest untold stories of our business, and because I happen to think the reason why “local, local, local” has died is not because there’s a bunch of people copycatting conservative radio. I mean, that is happening because it’s, on the surface, what appears to be working. But look at the advertising pie that has been expanded. Look at all the new money that came into radio, and the people that own and operate radio stations see that before they see ideology, because that’s what keeps all of this going. So we’ve expanded the pie. Then from 1988 — I guess from 1988 to ’94, I don’t know when it all started — I was it. There was nobody doing what I was doing, but it wasn’t long before other people started going out. Now the market, rather than “local, local, local,” most stations, “Where can I get a syndicated show to fill these three hours?”
It’s done a 180, and in spite of that, I haven’t lost any audience. People are gaining. We’re continuing to expand the pie in terms of our format, which is all I care about. I don’t care what’s going on with the music guys. I couldn’t tell you. They fired me seven times. (Gestures.) (Laughter.) No, I’m just kidding. I love the music guys, too. (laughter) But it’s interesting now to watch the evolution of having one syndicated show in the daytime — and, by the way, you want to be in the daytime because that’s where the dollars are. That’s where the opportunity to make real money is. That’s my decision. That’s why I wanted to try the daytime. Nighttime back in ’88 was a loss leader. You carried nighttime programming from Mutual or NBC to get their news run or the spots on the news run during the day. Now it’s a whole different entity. Now it’s a whole different business.
My advertising model hasn’t changed. The way I approach the business side of my program hasn’t changed at all, and it won’t. It’s too successful. What has changed is that the last ten to 12 years, some of those advertisers back in 1988 who wouldn’t give us the time of day have begun trickling in to the point that General Motors was our #3 advertiser last year. It would not have happened in 1988. We’ve had to stick with it, and we’ve had to prove ourselves in different ways than other programs and advertisers in the past have. So where’s all this going, and what has it wrought? I think one of the — and I’ve said this to gatherings like that before, and I assure you it’s not sour grapes. I have a desire, like we all do, that the business that we’re in be respected, that it have a good reputation, and in some places it does; in some places it doesn’t. I think the programming of talk radio is such that people who have — some people been hiring never done it before have — no concept of what the skills of broadcasting actually are, who make the mistake of thinking, “You know, conservatism works at this time of the day. Let’s go get the next one. Let’s go get a conservative really piss people off. Let’s go get somebody really make ’em mad.”
Wrong approach. When I tell you that conservatism is not the primary reason my program succeeds, I damn well mean it. It doesn’t hurt, but I have the ability — Why do you think the advertising, the results-oriented advertising works? There’s a bond of connection, of loyalty that has been built up over the years with the audience. They trust. You can’t flaunt that. You can’t flout it. You can’t mess with it. Once they stop trusting you, your business will go south, because that trust is required for them to believe you. That’s why you can’t take spots from penile extension advertisers or some of these low-rep… But it happens, because I understand the pressing need for economics in the business. I’m well aware of it, but it has wrought, I think, some people who have not grown up in the business, who don’t understand the specific craft and the skills of connecting with an audience, of having empathy.
It’s not about being the smartest guy in the room. It’s not about coming up with a point of view that nobody else has heard, because that’s not possible. I go on the air at noon every day. I guarantee you that somebody before noon, some conservative somewhere, has made every point that I’m going to make. In fact, before I came along, there were conservative magazines and people on TV, and I’ve got nothing on them in terms of brains or ideology. But I also know I’m not a writer per se. I’m a broadcaster, and so my experiences have led me to understand empathy and to have empathy with the audience. I know what they’re thinking before they think it, just like I know what liberals are going to do before they do it (laughter) and that is just a result of having a lot of experience, I think, and wanting it to be that way. My total focus is the audience. I’ll illustrate this this way.
One of the reasons I asked Erica, I said, “What do these people want to hear from me? I can’t imagine what they could possibly want to hear from me.”
She said, “It doesn’t matter what you say. They’ll listen.”
“No, I want to know what they want to hear.”
I don’t ever ask this question about the audience. I know what the audience wants every day. I know what they want, but I don’t give it to them just because they want it. What they want is real. What they want is straightforward. What they want is fun. What they want is truth — and I don’t mean ultimate truth. They want me to be honest, and I put their focus in front of me before I do anything else, because they are where it all starts and begins — and ends, if you’re unfortunate. The reason all of this matters is because if you boil it all down, it equals: How do you survive with an ever-differing and changing world, competition going places we don’t know. Content. Content, content, content. I was out in Palm Springs taking time off to play in the Bob Hope tournament. I was signing autographs after a lousy round, so I was not in the best of moods, and this little reporter comes up from the local rag, the newspaper. “Mr. Limbaugh, can I ask you some questions while you’re signing autographs?”
“Yes. I can multitask. Yes, ask me whatever you want.”
“What do you think about satellite radio?”
I said (looks skyward), “It’s up there.”
“Well, no, but why don’t you go there?”
I said, “Let me finish signing here so I can educate you on some things.” (laughter)
So I said, when I finally got a chance to talk to him, I said, “Look, I don’t have anything against it. The more, the better. The more that’s out there, the better it is. We can’t stop him anyway.” His name was Layton Chin. I said, “Layton, we can’t stop it. They might be eclipsed by a new technology before they’re able to pay off their debt. Who knows what’s capable in the future? Technology is moving along so fast, who can possibly know where it’s going? But I can tell you, Layton, what’s going to happen: Whoever has the best content is going to beat anybody else. Now, as to satellite radio specifically,” I said to him, “They’ve asked everybody. They’ve approached everybody and asked them to move their shows or do a show in addition to what they’re doing on satellite.”
I want those of you in this room to know my primary reason why not, and it’s you. I wouldn’t be where I am were it not for you. The 56 that started with absolutely no knowledge of who I was in 1988, and the first three or four years, I mean there was — to this day, as you know, there remain constant attacks, constant efforts to demoralize and to impugn those of us on the right side of talk radio. We’re a bunch of hayseed hicks. Our audiences have gun racks and Bibles in the backs of pickups, and they live in three states in the South. There was actually a piece in the Washington Post — on the MSNBC website by a Washington Post writer — talking about the evolution of the blogs, and he said, “Well, this new blogosphere explosion is sort of reminiscent of the talk radio explosion in the early eighties.”
I said, “It wasn’t the early eighties. It was late 80s.” Typical Washington Post journalist: can’t get anything right. It was 1988, not early, and he said, “It was primarily a success…” As though it’s not a success anymore, as though it’s fad that has ended. “It was primarily a rural success.” Now, you know what that means. Now, these are the DC, inside-the-Beltway, pointy-headed elitists whose primary view of the world is to condescend to people who are not with them, and so talk radio appealed to southern hayseed hicks, people with no brains. They were mind-numbed robots. I was the pied piper, and that’s why I was to be feared, because I was suppressing individual thought! Quite the contrary. All I did was tap into what a whole bunch of people already thought and started celebrating because somebody in the national media finally showed up that agreed with them! It was not the other way around.
They still don’t understand it. That’s to our benefit. The more our competitors and the more our critics don’t understand us, the easier it’s going to be to continue to smoke ’em, surprise ’em, and outrun them. Back to satellite. I owe it — all of this success, the opportunity to be here today — every success I’ve had in this business I owe to the radio stations that have carried my program, stuck with me through some tough times, and admittedly some good times, too. Why would I, with the potential universe of the nation…? When I go on radio every day at noon, the nation is my possible reach. I mean, satellite right now, what is it? I want their max score, combined, what do they have, 12 million? And they’ve got hundreds of stations — or channels — divvying that up. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why would I cannibalize?
Some have said, “Rush, just do another show. In fact, you love football. Do a football show. The NFL during football show. Put that up on satellite.” I don’t, A, want to do it, so it wouldn’t be any good. B, it would still cannibalize my affiliates. If I can be found in long-form format elsewhere, with commercial content, then it’s cannibalizing my stations and people that have made me who I am. All I know of terrestrial radio is not going to go away. It offers unique things. You know, one of the things… Maybe I can finish a thought. (checks watch) Oh, my gosh. I’ve gone 15 minutes long? Are we still cool on time? Okay. (Laughter.) All right. Back in 1988 “local, local, local.” Now, there’s not a whole lot of local. There’s some, but there’s a lot of syndicated out there, too, and as such, when I was growing up, legendary great stations — KMOX in St. Louis, KDKA Pittsburgh.
They’re still there, and they’re still great radio stations, but they’re not constituted the same way they were. When I was growing up, the number one station in your market was the station that people tuned to when it snowed, or when bad weather was coming in. I don’t know that that’s the case anymore. It might be, but with so much local news available elsewhere — you can go to the Internet to find if it’s going to snow. You can go to the Internet. You can go to the school board website to find out if school is closed. You don’t need radio. So all of this “local, local, local” stuff, now versus mostly “where can I import a signal or satellite signal that will give me a great show,” it’s even changing the makeup of our business, of our format. Now it’s slowly but surely finding its way to FM, and who knows where that’s going to go. To me, it’s wide open.
All I’m telling you is that wherever it goes, whoever does the best content — and I don’t mean the best conservatism, or the best liberalism, or the best politics. Whoever does the most compelling, interesting, honest, “I can’t miss this show or I’ll miss something,” whoever does that the best, people will follow. If they have to listen to it on a tin cup and a string, they will, if it’s what they want to listen to. Now, I see some people, “That’s not true.” I’m exaggerating about this tin cup and the string, but the fact is that whatever the entertainment business — and we are certainly in that. However it changes… Look at what’s happening with these iPods. The video aspect of this is particularly interesting to me. You go to the iTunes store — where none of our product is available, by the way — all of these video suppliers: NBC, ABC, Disney, ESPN are providing programming.
I guess it was Bob Rider, might have been Jeff Zucker at MSNBC said, “If there’s a screen anywhere, we want to be on it.” Little one-and-a-half-inch, two-inch screen. They don’t know where things are going, either. But the portability of programming, the ability to listen to it whenever you want — television, radio — it’s expanding all over the place, and nobody can predict where it’s going, and measuring the audiences for all of it is going to become an even bigger challenge. I couldn’t predict where this is going, but I can tell you that we will always know who is leading the pack, and that is who is offering the best content, who has the most respect for their audience, who has the most respect for their business. Who wants to go out and actually develop and find people who know how to do this, who know how to connect, who can do it and love it, to whom it’s not a job. They’re not using it as a steppingstone to something else; it’s not their second job; it’s not a way to change America; it’s not a way to make a difference.
That happens. That’s icing on the cake. When I was 16 years old, I didn’t get into radio because I want to make a difference. I got into radio because I loved music, and I hated school (laughter) and I wanted to just do it. It’s what I loved, so I wanted to do it. In 1988 at the start this program, this guy, in his Delaware column, also said that Roger Ailes was assigned to find me by George Bush 41 and to fill the niche in the media, that there was no conservatism, and so Ailes found me — and this guy could not believe why this radio executive would lie to him about it. I said, “He probably didn’t lie to you. He just doesn’t know. This is a myth that got started way back when, but it has survived.” The truth is, if you had known me at any time in my life prior to 1988 and asked me what my desire was, you would have never heard the words, “I want to be important in politics.” You would have heard the words, “I want to be the most listened to person in radio. I’m not shooting for #5; I’m not shooting for #4. I want to be considered one of the best in radio,” and that’s all that propelled where this is taking us.
Nobody could have predicted the changing of society and culture, politically and so forth, that’s gone on, but if you’re going to stay in front of it, you have to see it, which I have, and I’ve recognized why a certain element of my audience has this indelible trust, why they have this…love, if you will, and this support for the program, and I understand why others do. It’s many different things. It has to be combined into one package. Some of the critics of what we do on talk radio say, “Weeeell, you know, those guys are just entertainers. Just entertainers. They don’t even really believe what they’re saying themselves,” and, again, I love that, because it shows how ignorant and what the lack of understanding of what they’re facing is, in terms of us. I’ve always viewed what I do as a combination: serious discussion of issues, as entertainment.
Now, if you turn on the Leno tonight, and Leno does a serious news monolog, you’re gonna say, “Ehhh, that’s not why I’m watching.” Back when Koppel was hosting Nightline, if he came out and did a ten-minute joke routine before getting serious about the news… “Well, that’s not what I wanted.” But that’s what I do, anyway, and I think a lot of people on talk radio do it. I think the talk radio is so misunderestimated — “misunderestimated,” a George Bush word — (Laughter.) I really do. You know, most television people could not do what we do. I did a television show for four years, a 30-minute show: 22 minutes of commentary. It took an hour and a half of meetings, every day. I had to organize with the camera people, stage manager, had to go get makeup. I do three hours a day, no producers, no guests, and I have yet to have a meeting (laughter) to do my show. It’s not necessary. In fact, there’s no script. I just have my stack of whatever interests me at the moment.
Short of something truly compelling that day that everybody is talking about, it’s all spontaneous. It’s all from here. It’s all because of this accrued knowledge, accrued passion, the understanding of the relationship with the audience and so forth. We are all producers — and not just me; everybody that does this. We’re produces; we’re entertainers; we’re a number of things — and yet, in the big scheme of things, our reputation is down here (motions low), and it’s primarily because there’s no picture. The other guys have pictures. I think that’s even better. You know, one of the reasons this advertising, this results-oriented advertising works is, is because radio, compelling radio requires the listener to paint his own pictures and use every sensory perception he has.
I’m watching people, as I glance around the room watching these screens, and you know what they look like? Half of them, they’re dulled out; they’re just watching. They are totally mesmerized by what they’re seeing. Half the brain goes away, or a percentage of the brain goes away. When you’re listening, you have to be actively engaged. It’s up to the host to make the listener actively engaged, and that results in strict attention being paid, active participation by the audience rather than passive, like elevator music or some other music where you can have it on in the background. But the advantageous nature of talk radio, the skill set that it requires –not just to execute, but to conceive and to succeed at it — is something that I can’t tell you how proud I am of, and our whole business, I think, for the most part features people, try to, who are every bit as desirous of succeeding in this way as possible.
But it’s still always going to come down to the fact that a lot of businesses are always going to be defined by the lowest common denominator. So the screamers, the insincere shouters, the people that don’t even have any idea what they’re doing, but they think they have to be on radio to compete with the other political party, the people who have no concept of the business, they’re going to sound like that. They’re going to portray themselves like this, and they’re not going to win anything, but they’re going to help create a certain impression. It’s not that I care what people think outside; I care what people in our business think about it, because it’s only going to be as good as we think about it. It’s only going to have the reputation we want it to have. It’s only going to have the respect that we give it, and it requires effort to do that, and it’s tempting sometimes to avoid it because dollars can be quickly made by avoiding some of the long-term investments that are necessary to raise and elevate the specter of the product. Before I — now, I know I gotta go now, Erica, because it’s really long. Yes, I do. She told me to be through at 3:45. I’m 25 minutes over. I’ve got diarrhea of the mouth today. Does anybody have any question, because we do have limited time. Are there any questions anybody has? Yes, sir. Speak up, by the way, so I can hear you.
QUESTIONER: Oh, okay. Rush, there’s a tremendous influence of black conservatives today, and I know you’re aware of that. Do you believe that they’re properly represented in talk radio today? And if so, how? And if not, why not?
RUSH: That, I could do another hour answering philosophically the question. At the heart of your question, I know you mean, “Is there ample opportunity being made available to recognize the growth in conservatism, primary of middle class black people?” and I don’t know, since I only hire myself. (laughter) I hope it is, but it’s like anything else: How are they going to know you’re there? Sometimes people that have never been heard of end up getting hired, but I believe in the old prescription — and I’m sorry. When I was younger, “When I grow,” I said, “I’m not going to become an old fuddy-duddy. I’m not going to be one of these guys that says, ‘Yeah, I had to walk ten miles in the snow barefoot to get to school, like my dad did.'” But I do believe… You know, I worked small markets, four years, medium markets, big markets; learned how to do it. You know, I got fired seven times. There’s a reason you get fired, and you learn from it and learn the business in doing this, and I think there’s no substitute for experience in learning it.
They just can’t put you on the air because you’re black or because you’re smart or because you’re a lawyer and expect miracles, but they do. The larger question, though, for me, is… Some people think it’s unrealistic, but it sort of pains me, being very honest with you, it pains me if it really is necessary that we can only attract more blacks to a specific movement with other blacks. I’d hope the ideas would do it. I would hope that the… Because I would like to be able to persuade as many people as possible. I don’t care what their gender, what their gender orientation, what their gender reassignment. (Laughter.) Have you been following this in the news? (Laughter.) What’s with 70-year-olds? They’re having — we used to call them “sex changes” — gender reassignment surgery. The chopadictomy and addadictomy. (Laughter.) So the answer to your question is, I would love for there to be. There’s some, like Larry Elder is tremendous. There are a lot of black conservatives, and they’re taking huge risks because, as you know, you’re an Uncle Tom. You’re off the reservation. They’re going to be attacked. You are a threat; you are showing you can succeed without going through their recipe for success, and for that reason I hope that you have plenty of opportunity. But I also hope that we can spread good ideas without having to… Like, I would hate it if only a woman can represent a woman., and we’re Balkanizing this way, I think. You know, only blacks can represent blacks. Only men can represent…. Well, nobody can represent men because they’re the modern-day predators now. But only women can represent women. Only liberals can represent… We’re Balkanizing. It’s silly. Anybody else with another question? Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: Charlie Wolf. I do a talk show in London, Rush. How do you overcome — even though using content is entertainment, how do you overcome — people using complaints etcetera, say accusing you of being a bigot, etcetera, to management, and thereby constricting you?
RUSH: Well, anybody can call you anything. If they’re right, you have a problem. If they’re wrong, screw ’em. (laughter) I’m not a bigot. I’m not a racist. I’m not a sexist. This is one of the earliest things I had to learn, too. As a conservative — if you don’t mind my getting partisan for one moment, as a conservative — I have learned that there is a stereotype. We are races, sexists, bigots, homophobes. We hate Native Americans. We’re causing global warming and don’t care. All these mindless allegations that get thrown out. High school professors are telling their students this — and we’re hatemongers, too. Well, growing up, nobody — nobody, in my little town when I was growing up, nobody — thought I was a racist or sexist, a bigot, a homophobe. Nobody. There might have had some people didn’t like me, but that true for all of us. Then all of a sudden I start my radio program, and in two or three years, I’ve got all these assaults being made on me: I’m a racist; I’m a sexist; I was being compared to Hitler!
And I struggled. Nobody prepared me for this. How do you defend it? Should you defend it? And I would get advice from all kinds of people. Some people said, “You cannot let those charges stick. You have to defend yourself, especially when they charge racism.” Well, I tried it, and all it did was, “A-ha! We’ve gotten to Limbaugh. We know what upsets him,” and as the show was getting so big, if I started responding to all this stuff, people that hadn’t heard the original charge then heard it, and it just elevated it. My first time in the restaurant <a target=new href=”http://www.21club.com/web/onyc/onyc_a2a_home.jsp”>21</a> in New York was after my first book was out, 1991 I guess it would be, and I had to go to the restroom, and there was a restroom attendant in there who was a minister. We call him “the Rev,” and it was my first time there. I’d never met him. But he’d been told that I was coming. He had my book. I was signing my book over the urinal. (Laughter.) I was leaving and he said, “You know, this is the second biggest day of my life. My first was when Mr. Reagan came in.” He said, “You know what about Mr. Reagan? He just laughed at ’em. He just laughed at ’em.”
Gosh, I’m getting a divine answer to my question here. I haven’t even brought it up. I said, “What do you mean, Rev?”
“Oh, people said the most horrible things about him, and he just a laughed at ’em, because he knew himself. He knew it wasn’t true.”
At that point I evolved a policy. Like I said, this guy in Delaware, I don’t care. Call me any name you want. I’ve got three hours tomorrow to disapprove it. I’ve been doing it for 18 years, and all I’ve done is this (angling his hand upward) and grow. It hasn’t hurt. But you start writing stuff about how I do business that’s all wrong, you’ll hear from me, because I’m not going to let that side of it be impugned, especially the people who are already advertising and being subjected to this kind of criticism as a bunch of hayseeds themselves. Anything else? Yes, sir?
QUESTIONER: What is talk radio for Generation X going sound like?
RUSH: What is talk radio for Generation X going to sound like?
QUESTIONER: Yes. Is it going to change? Is talk radio going to change in the next ten or 15 years?
RUSH: Yeah. It’ll change because Gen X hosts will come up. I hope. You know, I hope that there are young people that are hearing talk radio and want to go into it, and if it’s inspiring… I mean, I am the result of a whole bunch of people I admired growing up, both in and out of broadcasting that inspired me. I would hope that there are people in talk radio that are inspiring young people, and they will do it themselves, and whatever Gen X talk radio is, will be defined by them. But I think something else is going to happen, too. You notice in the last year or so, we’ve had the Ward Churchill controversy. Liberalism on campus is nothing new. It’s been going for 50 years. Ward Churchills have been out there for 50 years. This twerp professor in Aurora, Colorado, was out there telling the geography class that Bush’s State of the Union address was equivalent to a Hitler speech.
This has been going on for a long time. I think the left is more panicked than ever now, and for reasons I won’t go into here, but what’s different is, students are standing up. Students are taking tape-recorders. Students are saying, “We’re not going to put up with this.” Well, where are these students learning this stuff? Hello, talk radio. Their parents. The phenomenon, they’re called “Rush babies.” I didn’t make up the term. Some recent graduate of Columbia or New York University did. They grew up; their parents were listening to talk radio. I think what’s going to happen, in addition to the new Gen X host defining it, is that these young people are already politically attuned, and they’re going to — I think the demographics are going to — remain pretty solid 25-54, even as I, you know, approach 60. The polarization in the country today is pretty big. It’s nothing that rivals anything in the past.
But everybody alive thinks times are worse in their time than they’ve ever been. It’s not true in this case. I’m optimistic about the future of the country and always am, which is another aspect of the relationship I have with the audience I didn’t touch on. But anybody can react to the media. You know, the media is a drive-by shooting bunch these days. The media today, the antique media, this bunch here in Washington, they’re driving around in their convertible, they pop across a news story like Cheney and Harry Whittington, and then this port story, and they fire a volley of bullets, and they stir everything up, and everybody is bleeding and talking and worried about things, and nobody knows anything. The first three days of the port deal, everybody was reacting purely on the basis of gut reaction, for whatever reasons — and then the media gets in the convertible; tthey head on back down the road, and they start on somebody else, like it’s Bush’s poll this week, and it’s going to be Katrina and this video.
It’s never going to stop, and it depresses people who watch it all the time. So why do you think the news ratings are plunging? People don’t want to watch that. I have to. It’s my job. (laughter) I pay some people now to watch some of it because I can’t even stand to watch it. (Laughter.) People crave optimism, and I tell them, “If you want to be happier, turn the television off just a week, and don’t read the newspaper. You’re not going to get blown up. Iran is not going to attack us. Nothing is going to happen. But just check your attitude. Now, make sure you listen to this show every day, but…” (Laughter.) It’s amazing. Optimism is in such short supply. You know, it’s like you can’t go to the library and find a book there, “Great Moderates in American History.” You can’t go to the library and find a book on how to be a pessimist, because it comes naturally, but these people that write positive attitude books make millions because people crave it. It takes work to be happy. It takes work to be optimistic.
The natural tendency is sit around and be affected by all this external stuff, and that’s what happens to peop0le. So if you’re optimistic… One of the problems with our business, and any media, is that they love to work out of fear. Sstir people up. Make them afraid. Looks at the guys that do financial newsletters. They’ll up their subscriptions by sending out a bulletin: “Hot tip. Market to plunge next week! Subscribe now!”
“Oh, my God! It’s all falling apart! Where do I sign up?”
Well, enough people are doing this that there’s plenty of room for optimism and just good cheer. We’re all alive; we’re in the best country on earth; we have more economic prosperity than ever; we’re living longer; we’re living healthier. There are a lot of challenges. Everybody has challenges. Everybody always has. But the opportunities that exist in this country today have never been better, and they’re only going to get better. There’s no reason to get all pessimistic. Concerned, got problems, need to be dealt with and solved, yeah, but don’t do it from a standpoint of fear. Fear changes your illusion. Fear changes the way you approach things. Something I learned when I was discussing things I meant in the first two minutes of the presentation. So the bottom line is: Be happy we’re in the business that we’re in. Be optimistic about it. There’s competition everywhere. I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying terrestrial. It’s what’s made me what I am, why would I abandon it? You have a question sir?
QUESTIONER: Yes, I do, Rush. You said you’re approaching 60?
RUSH: No, no. I said… Well, yeah. (Laughter.) I’m 55. I said, “When I’m approaching 60…”
QUESTIONER: A question then as you move into another age. Do you see yourself in 30 years still being on the radio? And have you in your mind, do you have a criteria when you think you may decide to not do it anymore?
RUSH: Yes. I am not going to retire until every American agrees with me. (Laughter.) That’s my goal. I have no idea if I’m going to be alive 30 years from now. You know, I have never been specific-goal oriented. My goals have always been general, and I take every day. I want to be able to react flexibly with whatever market forces or other forces arise. There are days I get up and don’t want to do it — not very many, but there are — and I say to myself, “Financially I don’t have to,” but what always brings me back is those three hours are when I’m as happy as I ever am, and I know what the audience expectations are, and it’s a thrill and a challenge to try to meet them and hopefully surpass them every day. But when the microphone goes on, even when I’m… One of the things when I was young and listening to all these deejays, I would tell my mom and dad, “Gosh, they never sound like they’re in a bad mood,” and I was in a bad mood every other day as a teenager.
I mean, they never sounded in a bad mood. All right, I understand how now. Unless I tell the audience I’m in a bad mood, they won’t know it. Magic happens when the microphone goes on. It’s just experience. I don’t know what it is. The adrenaline, the responsibility that, “Hey, I got in an average quarter hour 4-1/2 or 5 million people are there, and I can’t just treat them like I don’t know they are there. They deserve the best I could do.” I don’t know what it is that happens, but as soon as the three hours are over, I sometimes go back to, “Gee, I really didn’t want to do this today, but I’m glad I did.” They aren’t very many, but still there’s nothing else I would rather do, and so if I’m still deriving happiness, and if people still care (laughs) and want to listen to what I think, if I can even talk 30 years from now, then I’ll be there. Anything else, if not…? Yes, ma’am.
QUESTIONER: I’ve been in radio for about ten years, two years as a talk show host.
RUSH: Two years?
Questioner: Yes, two years in a talk show host in Milwaukee, a daily talk show host, and I want to be great — and I know there’s not a lot of talk show hosts that look like me — and you mentioned that you know what your listeners want to hear about. When the phones don’t blow up and when the phones don’t ring, does that mean that your topic is a bad topic?
RUSH: No! No! No! (bangs podium) This, this is a brilliant question! This is the kind of thing. In fact, the last thing you should look at to judge whether you have an audience is that phone bank. Don’t pay any attention to it, because if you do, you’re going to start “topicking.” You’re going to start selecting topics. You’re going to get psychics, because psychics will make the phone ring. (Laughter) Nobody listens to them. (laughter) No, no, no. Forget the phones. The best advice I could give somebody like you just starting out — where do you do your show?
RUSH: Milwaukee. Perfect size market for this. Is it two hours a day, three hours?
QUESTIONER: Two hours a day.
RUSH: Two hours. As soon as you can, do two hours without a phone call. Prepare every day to do a program without a phone call. You never know. The phones might break. Become phone dependent, and you’re not going to give all of yourself; you’re not going to prep properly; you’re going to get lazy in prep. You want to be the reason people listen to the radio, not an endless parade of guests who don’t care about your show except that it’s a promo vehicle for them. When I started, I didn’t do guests. “You can’t do talk show without guests!”
“Watch me. I can’t get any better guest than anybody else is getting; and, frankly, I don’t care what the guests have to say. I’m not that interested in the latest author and the latest TV host and politicians. I want people to hear what I say. I want to be the reason people listen to radio!” and the phones? The best statistic I’ve ever seen in this business to demonstrate is that whatever your audience universe is, less than one half of one percent is trying to call you. Figure — if that’s accurate, maybe it’s small, but — 95% of your audience is never even going to try to call, but they’re listening, and that’s who you have to aim to, and I’ll tell you, when you’re worried about you don’t see too many people in the room? The #1 female communicator in this country is Oprah Winfrey. It can be done. This business has ways of bridging all of these different gaps, the skill with the performer and the host to reach out, to be able to connect with the audience. Skin color won’t matter. It really won’t — and I wish you all the best. That is a great question. It ought to be required training. (laughter) Yes, sir?
QUESTIONER: Rush, Michael Savage criticizes you almost on a daily basis.
RUSH: Who? (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: — and —
RUSH: No, no, I didn’t hear who you said.
QUESTIONER: Michael Savage. Michael Savage. He criticizes you almost on a daily basis.
RUSH: I have never heard his show.
RUSH: It doesn’t matter what other people say to me. I don’t care. My three hours… You know, when I start my program at 12 noon, my attitude is, there’s nobody else in radio. There’s nobody that does this but me. The reason for that is, if I think X in my Stack of Stuff has been discussed, I’ll leave it out. My audience wants to hear what I think about it. There is nobody else in this business, as far as I’m concerned. Nobody. I don’t mention them; I don’t listen to them; they don’t exist. I have never heard the guy you’re talking about. I have never heard any of them — on purpose, and this is as much a psychological aid for me as it is my actual mind-set. I am talk radio. Everybody else is pretender. (Laughter.) (Applause.) Yes.
QUESTIONER: Rush, when you say that you warn all the other radio personalities to do their show prep for their show, are you referring to Sean Hannity?
RUSH: You mean my when I say “show prep for the rest of the media”? It originally started, because I would see everything I talked about on cable news that night. I aim nothing specifically at anybody — and Sean is a good friend. It’s like he’s on at three o’clock; he’s got probably a bigger burden than I do. Look at all the stuff that’s been on the air. How can he come up with anything original? Even I at 12 noon can’t come up with anything original, so, no, no. No veiled attack at Sean. Yes, sir?
QUESTIONER: You’ve alluded to people you listen to when you were growing up that were your heroes, and I’ve been in radio for 35 years, and I have mine. I’m curious who yours were when you were the little kid growing up in Missouri and who you listened to and you said, “That’s magic. I want to do that.”
RUSH: <a target=new href=”http://www.radiohof.org/discjockey/larrylujack.html”>Larry Lujak</a> out at LS. Although I wasn’t able to listen to him — I won’t tell you how but I was able to get tapes — <a target=new href=”http://www.robertwmorgan.com”>Robert W. Morgan</a> at KHJ. Those two guys. It was funny, too. I never even thought I would be in their league, and at one time working at WLS would have been the pinnacle for me, just getting there. Now I own it. (Laughter.) Sorry. (Smacking his cheek.) Sorry. Just kidding. But, yeah, Lujak I just thought was… I still don’t think there’s anybody that’s ever been as good as Larry Lujak was, in my mind. Yes, sir. Shout it from the mountaintops back there.
QUESTIONER: I’ll try to make myself heard. Do you have any advice for talk radio hosts on the progressive side?
RUSH: On the what side? One voice tell me what he said.
AUDIENCE: Progressive. Liberals.
RUSH: Oh, you mean the commies. (Laughter.) No. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t. Do I have any advice for the liberals? I give them advice every day. I advise the Democratic Party, if they’d only listen. The model for success is out there. I don’t know how many times, and they still don’t get it. There’s no helping them, because they’re too arrogant. I don’t even think the progressives in this business are in it for the business. I think they’re actually a disguised campaign operation that’s funded by donors. They’re buying time on radio stations. I mean, they ought not even be in business if it’s a business. They should have gone south a long time ago, and then after that they’re being propped up by two or three charities, stealing monies from Boys and Girls Clubs and so forth. Their problems go deep, and then when you get to the programming? I mean, who wants to get up every day and listen to hate, rage, anger, lies, doom and gloom?
Who wants that, except other people who are in that mold — and that’s about 6% of the Democratic Party? I have tried to help them. I’ve tried, just like I’ve advised the Democratic Party on how to get out of their doldrums, but for some reason they don’t trust me (laughter) that I’m trying to help them. Anything else? If not, I want to thank you all again very much. You’ve been a great audience. You’re a great group of people. I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am to be in the same business with you. I do not know how to adequately express my gratitude for your support for me. I do look forward to the day when I can answer questions that everybody has, because in so doing I will hopefully be helping a whole lot of people with the same problem that I had — or, in the right parlance, have. But regardless that, I hope you have a great convention, and I hope to be back soon to be able to talk to you and answer even more questions that you may have. Thanks so much for being here. (Applause.)
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