On Wednesday Rush Limbaugh — radio show host and one of the architects of today’s fractured Republican Party — passed away at the age of 70. He was a contentious figure, to put it lightly, beloved by the right, loathed by the left. Neither side held back, with social media filled with equal parts praise and condemnation. Indeed, when an editor at the National Review tried to make the case for him as a hilarious entertainer, he was quickly piled on with people begging to differ.
Liberals who didn’t listen to Rush, and just read the Media Matters accounts, never understood how *funny* he was. What set him off from his many imitators was how wildly entertaining he was, and the absolutely unbreakable bond he formed with his listeners.
— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) February 17, 2021
“Liberals who didn’t listen to Rush, and just read the Media Matters accounts, never understood how *funny* he was,” wrote the conservative publication’s Rich Lowery. “What set him off from his many imitators was how wildly entertaining he was, and the absolutely unbreakable bond he formed with his listeners.”
The “funny” part — in asterisks! — rankled many. Limbaugh regularly insulted every minority under the sun. No one was off limits, which is what made him stand out from the pack and what amassed him a massive clutch of fans.
When the conservative pundit tried to sell him as some comedic genius, people were quick to point out the many targets of his angry humor.
What was funnier — mocking Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's or the "AIDS Update" where he rejoiced in the deaths of people with that disease?
And if you had to pick a classic joke — calling 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton "the White House dog" or playing "Barack the Magic Negro"?
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) February 17, 2021
It's true, if your sense of humor is laughing at gay men for dying of AIDS, mocking Michael J. Fox for having Parkinson's, or calling a young woman a slut because she testified before Congress, then you may have indeed found Rush hilarious. https://t.co/XGyO3jfIl5
— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) February 17, 2021
If you think singing gleefully about AIDS deaths, mocking a 13-yr-old girl (Chelsea Clinton), lying about HeadStart, & spewing crude KKK racism is funny then, yes, @RichLowry you are right for one of the few times in your small-minded, refusal to correct errors, career. https://t.co/4HRwY1PVTM
— David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ) February 17, 2021
Oh yeah it was so funny how he mocked the death of gay people, and compared Chelsea Clinton to a dog, and how he spread racism and xenophobia.
So fucking funny, Rich. Fucking hilarious. https://t.co/sAkBVctDwM
— Santiago Mayer (@santiagomayer_) February 17, 2021
Some singled out Michael J. Fox, whom Limbaugh once mockingly accused of exacerbating his Parkinson’s, on camera.
Ah yes, I’ll never forget his classic Michael J. Fox impression. https://t.co/UnHVnvuP0F
— Will McAvoy (@WillMcAvoyACN) February 17, 2021
And there was Sandra Fluke, the lawyer who, in 2012, became a conservative bête noire after she stood up for reproductive rights. Limbaugh took it further than most, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
Oh, what about calling Sandra Fluke a "slut" for taking birth control? Because that was truly a side-splitter. https://t.co/5Uk1ORfPOO
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) February 17, 2021
There was his habit in the ‘80s of having “AIDS Updates,” in which he gleefully listed all the gay people who had recently died of AIDS-related complications, followed by a Dionne Warwick song.
Liberals didn't think that Rush Limbaugh's radio segment "AIDS Update" where he would read off the names of gay people who died of AIDS and mock their excruciating deaths to the song "I'll Never Love this Way again" was "funny". He's despicable. So is endorsement of his brand.
— Nadine van der Velde 🕊(she/her) (@nadinevdVelde) February 17, 2021
Comedy fan here. Can you explain the joke where he would laugh at gay people who had died of AIDS?
— Jason O. Gilbert (@gilbertjasono) February 17, 2021
Would you put his years of sneering at people dying of and/or living with AIDS under the heading of "wildly entertaining" or merely "*funny*"? Or was contempt for gay people more of a forming-an-unbreakable-bond-with-listeners thing? Help us understand his magical brand of humor.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) February 17, 2021
Or his hatred of homosexuals in general.
His treatment of gay men was never "*funny*" and if you could, for one second, put yourself in someone else's shoes, you might appreciate how hurtful it was.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 17, 2021
And his hatred of the homeless.
He made up ditties to mock the homeless. Real funny. https://t.co/1JVoqkHJf0
— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) February 18, 2021
Some took a more broad approach to his general bigotry.
"He made bigotry funny" is a wild angle to take, but let's see how it goes. https://t.co/5WaGrDtCNQ
— Zito (@_Zeets) February 17, 2021
As a member of a marginalized group that Limbaugh was famous for making jokes about, I find this whole thread repulsively revisionist.
White men love to lionize their most repellent peers. Just remember this is how white male supremacy is maintained.
Limbaugh was a monster. https://t.co/Th2erKHTJn
— Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX) February 17, 2021
"But he was also the *funniest* racist." https://t.co/mKfR58sybI
— Ken Tremendous (@KenTremendous) February 17, 2021
And some pointed out the end purpose of his humor: to appeal to the worst traits in people, and get them to vote against their best interests.
The fact that he was funny was a big part of why he was so successful at it, but it doesn't make him any less harmful or despicable.
The damage that man has caused is immense, and I'm tired of people defending him. He's a very bad man who's caused a lot of harm.
— Khashoggi’s Ghost (@UROCKlive1) February 17, 2021
Limbaugh spat venom on a vast array of people, as the following thread attests.
“Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”
— Rush Limbaugh
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) February 17, 2021
Then again, maybe Rush Limbaugh was funny, just not in the way he intended.