Rush Limbaugh inadvertently set off a media firestorm Monday when he advised a caller to his popular radio program not to get bothered by left-leaning TV commentators on Fox News Channel.
Those remarks were quickly miscontrued by several online publications including Politico, Huffington Post and Mediaite as the conservative radio host recommending that his listeners avoid watching FNC entirely.
"Rush Limbaugh escalated his battle with Fox News on Monday when he told a caller to stop watching the network," the Huffington Post claimed.
"Rush Limbaugh tells caller not to watch Fox," blared Politico.
Trouble is, Limbaugh said nothing of the sort. Here is what he actually said to a caller named "Tony" who claimed he was getting frustrated after listening to liberal commentators on television:
You need to stop watching these people, because they’re not gonna change, Tony. Your blood pressure’s gonna suffer if you keep watching these people. I mean, they’re designed to get you ticked off. They’re designed to make you question your sanity. You’re gonna watch these people and you’re gonna say, ‘How in the world can we have such idiotic people?’ and you’re gonna think, ‘Maybe they’re not and you’re crazy.’ And I assure you, Tony, you’re not. Trust me on that.
On Tuesday, Limbaugh officially clarified that he had not recommended that "Tony" stop watching Fox News entirely:
I simply said, when he mentioned Cavuto and Charlie Payne, "Okay, he's watching Fox." And since it's Payne, it's gotta be the Fox Business Channel. I mean sometimes Payne crosses over, maybe sometimes Payne guests on Cavuto. But I said, "Tony, stop watching these people because they're intended to make you question your sanity. You need to stop watching these people because they're not gonna change." That has become "Limbaugh told listeners to stop watching Fox." I did not tell anybody to stop watching Fox. I said stop listening to these people that make you so mad. What else am I gonna say?
I don't watch these people that make me mad anymore. I gave that up years ago. What is the point? I told Tony they're not gonna change. They're there to tick you off. Don't let it get to you. It's not like I haven't criticized Fox before. [...] But I never said not to watch Fox.
After addressing that bit of misinformation, Limbaugh spoke further about an experience he had had on the cable channel's Fox and Friends morning show where he had wanted to talk about immigration and the future of the Republican Party but was told by producers that the show was not interested in the topic. Despite pushing back against that refusal (for which Limbaugh imputed no motive), he insisted that he was still a fan of the only non-left national television operation in the country.
"Fox and I, we're on the same team. Even Obama has said the only opposition he's got left is me and Fox," Limbaugh argued. "But see, these people in the media, they can't stand it. They can't stand that there's even two voices of opposition to Obama and liberalism, so now they're seeking to drive a wedge here, and they're trying to create these stories that I, El Rushbo, am urging people not to watch Fox."
The full text of Limbaugh's remarks about his attempt to discuss immigration on FNC is below:
The Fox & Friends show called and asked me to come -- H.R. is not here today, he's got a medical day off, but he could back me up on this. They requested for a specific couple of reasons. I don't need to get into 'em, but they requested that I appear and I couldn't do it on the days and the week they wanted, but I did it the next week, which was Tuesday, and they said, "What do you want to talk about?" And I told 'em. And then that morning, like 15 minutes before the show, I get this note what they're gonna lead off with Egypt, and I said, "You guys are gonna be wasting your time if you ask me about Egypt." "Well, what do you want to talk about?" So I told 'em again. And they never brought it up. They actually asked me three or four times. That was interpreted by people as a blanket overall criticism of Fox, and it wasn't.
You know, when I do these things, television is such a pain, folks. I wasn't even on camera but I got e-mail, "Why didn't you say this? Why didn't you talk about that?" I tried. I tried. You don't know, I tried. But they weren't interested in it that day, and that's it, nothing more than that. I will be on Fox again. I will be urging people to watch Fox. Fox is the most-watched news network in the country. Gallup had it yesterday. More people get their news from Fox News than anybody else. Now, if you add up the others they will outnumber Fox, but if you take a side-by-side individual network-by-network comparison, Fox is it, it's numero uno. I mean, Fox and I, we're on the same team. Even Obama has said the only opposition he's got left is me and Fox.
But see, these people in the media, they can't stand it. They can't stand that there's even two voices of opposition to Obama and liberalism, so now they're seeking to drive a wedge here, and they're trying to create these stories that I, El Rushbo, am urging people not to watch Fox because Fox, whatever... And, you know, this is such a big story. This has been picked up by Mediaite, it's been picked up by Salon. When's the last time a caller made news like this on this program? Mediaite, Politico, Salon. It will probably be the lead on the NBC Nightly News tonight. (laughing) Stranger things have happened.