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by William H. Benson

November 5, 1998 

    The election is now behind us, and the results are known.  No matter the outcome, Rush Limbaugh, I am sure, is peeved.  The king of day-time radio, Rush hates the liberals and especially Bill Clinton and will not rest until Clinton is booted out of the Oval office.  On any given day some 20 million listeners tune in to Rush’s Excellence in Broadcasting (EIB) Network to hear him bash the President and throw out his opinions.  “Entertaining” it might be; “wise in its approach” is another story.

     “This is just another example of the left’s stereotype of the conservative party in our nation. . . . This is a battle for the very soul of democracy. . . . Prepare your minds to be challenged as they have never been challenged before. . . . Megadittoes, dittoheads! . . . My show works because people are tired of having their intelligence insulted.  They enjoy a show which respects their intelligence. . . . A quick break and then back to the phones.”

     Recently, I read a book, Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, in which the author, Al Franken, pokes fun at this 300-pound opinionated radio personality.  Franken points out some obvious inconsistencies in Rush’s bold statements.

     For example, Rush could not have voted for Ronald Reagen, because he never even bothered to register to vote until in the 1990’s when someone shamed him into doing so.  Rush says the feminist (which he pronounces “feminazi”) movement was designed only to give unattractive women a position in our society.  And yet, Franken reveals that Rush has been married three times.  His last wife he supposedly met through e-mail.  And Rush, who hates all government programs designed to help the downtrodden, once collected unemployment insurance.

     Franken ends up labelling Limbaugh the world’s biggest hypocrite.

     But other Presidents have had their critics.  For example, Franklin Roosevelt had Father Charles Coughlin, a Catholic priest in Detroit, Michigan.  Father Coughlin vented his bitter opposition to Roosevelt’s New Deal programs through a radio show which, like Rush, quickly caught on and was heard by millions.  A self-proclaimed champion of the poor, Coughlin believed that FDR was doing too little for the disadvantaged.

     In the 1936 election, which Roosevelt won by a landslide, Coughlin helped form the Union Party and support its candidate for President, William Lemke, who received about 2% of the popular vote.  Through his radio show and magazine, Social Justice, the radio priest bitterly denounced Roosevelt.  In fact, the accusations went so far that, just prior to the vote, Coughlin received a severe criticism from the Italian newspaper, the “Obsservatore Romano”, which usually reflected the Vatican’s opinion.

     “Father Coughlin had violated proprieties in his harsh attacks on President Roosevelt’s efforts to aid the poor.”

     On November 7, 1936, just days after the election Father Coughlin said good-bye to his radio audience, stating that his Union party was thoroughly discredited by the recent election.  “The Union is not dead; it merely sleeps,” he said.  From now on his Union Party would adopt a “policy of silence”.  But his extremist views continued in his magazine, going so far as to accuse Jews and Communists for the nation’s problems.

     Father Charles Coughlin continued as a priest, retiring in 1966, and passing away on October 27, 1979.  Today, he remains a footnote in history books as one of FDR’s opponents, known and remembered by only a few, which is probably more lasting notoriety than Rush Limbaugh will ever have.

     Who is Rush Limbaugh?  Who is Father Charles Coughlin?  In sixty years the answers will be the same, “I don’t know.  I never heard of them.”