RUSH: Audio sound bites. I had no idea any of this has happened. I got here and Cookie sends me the roster. “You’re the first nine sound bites.” I said, “What for?” “Well, they’re blaming you for the partisanship, but they get an amazing number of things right.” So we’re gonna start. This was Friday on NPR, program called This American Life, and the producer is Zoe Chace, and it’s a report about me and how I — according to their website — either reinvented politics or broke it. You will hear Zoe Chace in this thing with Newt Gingrich.
Here’s the first bite…
CHACE: The House is stuck with that permanent Republican minority. That’s where the second guy comes into the story, the guy that made Newt Gingrich’s dreams finally come through. No, I don’t mean Democratic President Bill Clinton. Something happened before that, someone.
GINGRICH: This is a man who I think has had an astonishing impact on America. He is in many ways the quintessential American.
CHACE: Here’s Newt Gingrich introducing him in a training event for Republican candidates in 1995…
GINGRICH: We now have a media giant who stands astride the entire society. Join me in welcoming a man who’s creating the twenty-first century, Rush Limbaugh.
RUSH: Yeah. Okay. So they start out here… See where this is going? The Republicans won the House in 1994, which is a very abnormal thing to happen. The Republicans hadn’t won the House in 40 years, and it shouldn’t have happened in 1994, and it wouldn’t have if I hadn’t come along. I mean, they go so far as to say that I made it happen, not Newt. Now, I have thought all these years that this is what these people really thought. I have thought all these years that this is one of the reasons why there is such a contempt or hatred for me. But this is amazingly open and honest about all that.
Here’s the next bite from this show…
CHACE: Rush was outrageous, inciting. He made his listeners feel like they were part of a righteous underground movement, the only people who are still sane in a world gone crazy and stupid.
RUSH ARCHIVE: Thank you. Thank you very much. Nice to be with all of you extremists tonight.
CHACE: Rush’s communications ambitions were just as high as his political ones. He never wanted to be in politics. He just wanted to make the greatest radio show ever.
RUSH ARCHIVE: Half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair. It’s the Rush Limbaugh program from New York and our flagship station WABC.
CHACE: He set the standard for political talk radio, and of course… (shuffling papers) Wait! I have it right here. (shuffling papers) Widely imitated. Rush was funny.
RUSH ARCHIVE: Did you know that the White House drug test is a multiple-choice test?
CHACE: He ends up acting almost as Newt’s de facto interpreter. He zhooshed up his message. Rush doesn’t sound like a nerdy YouTube professor. Gingrich talked about saving America from liberal politicians. But Limbaugh sharpened the us versus them. Democrats were about this. Republicans were about that.
RUSH: I’m wondering why are they doing this now? I’m always curious about this. But this, again, is from an NPR show. And NPR is widely listened to by American Millennials and liberals and so forth, you stop and think of the people hearing this, and I’m trying to figure out, why are they doing this now? Is it that now that they’ve won the House back they don’t think it’s any big deal and they can move forward with it? But it’s amazing because there’s so much of this that’s actually true, buried within what is intended to be apparently mild criticism. Here’s one more bite from the show.
CHACE: When Newt needed to communicate something to voters, he now had a direct line to millions of them, listening to Rush every afternoon. Newt wasn’t just stirring the pot with divisive politics. He did have a policy vision. He got people to unite under it. Going into the 1994 midterm elections, hundreds of Republican candidates signed onto this thing, The Contract with America. For a moment they were all literally on the same page with Newt Gingrich. And with that Newt Gingrich, of course, got his majority, like he’d always dreamed and became Speaker of the House in 1995. Although it was Newt’s dream, many people called it the Limbaugh Congress.
RUSH ARCHIVE: How does it feel to be part of a majority that’s right? (cheers).
RUSH: The Limbaugh Congress. I was made an honorary member of the House, the 1994 House, 1995, that was seated. We got two more bites here. Let’s get to them.
CHACE: From the moment Gingrich becomes speaker, things get pretty red versus blue. One Republican I talked to this week quoted to me from memory, indignant, something ABC News anchor Peter Jennings said on the air. When Republicans finally took the House and installed Gingrich as speaker, Jennings said the voters had a temper tantrum. This Republican’s point was, it wasn’t just Rush Limbaugh who was stoking the fires of partisan warfare. It was the mainstream media.
The politics that follow are personal and vicious. With Timothy McVeigh, who blew up a federal office building in Oklahoma City, Clinton gives a speech blaming, in part, talk radio for spreading hate. It was gridlock politics. People signed up for red or signed up for blue. Politics is team sports. No compromises. In other words, we’ve arrived at today.
RUSH: This is amazing. She actually accurately describes how the media and the Democrats reacted to me and this program by becoming increasingly nasty and divisive. But she’s also putting me right, front and center as the responsible party for today’s partisanship, that if I hadn’t come along, we may not be this divided. If I hadn’t come along, there might not be this divisive conservative media out there. If I hadn’t come along, maybe Newt wouldn’t have won. If I hadn’t come along, maybe there wouldn’t have been this kind of gridlock, and on and on and on.
It shows what these people have been thinking about, and it indicates how they have been just totally distressed over the loss of their monopoly. We’ve got one more bite from this NPR show, This American Life. I don’t know who’s American life it was. Is it Newt’s? Here’s the final bite.
CHACE: Rush Limbaugh was the opener for Trump’s last rally before the midterm vote.
RUSH ARCHIVE: I was just talking to people backstage, and somebody said that the president and all of us have been labeled by some Democrats in the media, divisive. (crowd boos) Divisive? The Democrats haven’t even accepted they lost the election in 2016. (cheers).
RUSH: Now, what could be the reason they’re doing that? Are they afraid that history’s gonna repeat itself? Are they afraid somehow that already the Democrats are gonna lose the House in 2020 and that Trump’s gonna be reelected, and so this is to remind people of what happened way back in 1994-’95 and to be prepared for it.
There’s another show on A&E, and it’s called The Clinton Affair, and in this show — I’m not kidding — I am blamed for the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. I am blamed along with the vast right-wing conspiracy for the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, for the stained blue dress.
RUSH: Cookie tells me that she could have given me 10 bites from this podcast, This American Life, 10 bites. She gave me five. She says there’s twice that much on there, but that’s enough. I mean, I try not to make this program about me, as you well known. Some days it’s impossible.
Here, Sunday night, A&E, The Clinton Affair. This is the Biography Channel. And during a segment on the Whitewater investigation, they played clips of me along with Joe Klein, who was a columnist then for TIME magazine. And this is all about how I was apparently putting pressure on Clinton by calling him a liar. It led to all kinds of bad things that Clinton did. It was my fault.
RUSH ARCHIVE: The reason why that there is a coverage of this that doesn’t go away is that the Clintons are lying.
KLEIN: One should never underestimate the genius of Rush Limbaugh and of the impact that he had.
RUSH ARCHIVE: It raises questions of whether or not we can trust this president. And we can’t investigate it because we got one-party rule in Washington.
KLEIN: And he could say any sort of stuff. In fact, the only consequence was that you’d get more listeners who were fearful and wanted to be entertained.
RUSH: What is this? Just out of the blue this stuff is circling. With all of this newfound respect? Or whatever it is. Anyway, here’s more. Here’s James Carville amidst swallows of gumbo.
CARVILLE: Republicans thought in spite of our evidence to the contrary, we have deemed the Clintons to be corrupt, and no matter what that’s our story and we sticking with it and we don’t care.
RUSH: Again, A&E, The Clinton Affair. The next bite, this is Monica Lewinsky.
LEWINSKY: I realized that the top inch or two of my – (laughing) — my underwear, had showing my thong underwear, and I thought, well, I’ll up the game. Instead of pulling my trousers up like I would have done in any other instance, I didn’t. It was unnoticeable to everybody else in the room, but he noticed. As I passed George Stephanopoulos’s office I kind of looked into the open doorway and Bill happened to be standing there, and he motioned me in. Unbeknownst to me, I was on the precipice of the rabbit hole.
RUSH: What do I have to do with this? Why am I on this show? What do I have to do with her thong and whether or not Clinton noticed or not? And what she would normally have done with it, ultimately a stain ends up on her blue dress, how am I part of this? Well, you see, I put pressure on Clinton. I was out there saying that Clinton couldn’t be trusted and Hillary was making a mess of health care and all this. And this added pressure.
Clinton thought he was gonna be loved and adored by the American people because that’s just how he was reacted to. I came along and put pressure and then Bill needed to release it somehow, some way, and here’s Monica playing with her thong in only a way that Bill Clinton would notice, and somehow, folks, my fingerprints are there.
RUSH: his is the last one about me — the Miami Book Fair was yesterday in Miami. They do it every year. It’s a big convention for authors of books that year, this year, and it’s used as a promotional vehicle for the publishers and so forth. NBC National Political Correspondent Steve Kornacki has a new book which is entitled The Red and The Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism.
So he was speaking at the Miami book fair yesterday, and this is a portion of what he said…
KORNACKI: Rush Limbaugh — in the late eighties and early nineties — was an absolute sensation. And Rush became such a phenomenon that, “Okay, let’s do a TV show,” and the producer of the TV show — this is in the early 1990s — was Roger Ailes. Roger Ailes took this talk radio phenomenon; brought it to television. Ailes put all those things together and said, “You know what? There is a huge market out there of people who are interested in political news, who are interested in political current events, and they’re hostile to CNN, NBC (chuckles), ABC, all of the sort of what you call the mainstream broadcast outlets. So there’s a market there for a cable news channel that serves that audience,” and that was Roger Ailes then in 1996 who created the Fox News Channel.
RUSH: Okay. So let’s review. I’m responsible for the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, I’m responsible for Newt Gingrich and the Republicans winning the House in 1994, and now I’m the responsible for the creation of Fox News, which makes me responsible for everything the left hates today. It makes me responsible for all of this. I’m the one who did it; therefore, I am the reason and the architect for today’s partisan divide, for today’s political divisions, for today’s gridlock. None of it would have happened had I not come along.
Democrats would still own everything. They’d still have their media monopoly. There wouldn’t be any alternative this or that. That’s what they think. It’s amazing! I mean, a lot of the ingredients of every sound bite here have certain elements that are totally right that I’ve never heard them express before, and I’m still asking myself, “Why now?” I mean, no conspiracy, no mystery. I’m just wondering, “Why now?” Just a serious question.