On Monday's "MSNBC News Live," the cable network featured yet another critical segment on Rush Limbaugh and his role as a leader of the GOP. The segment, hosted by David Shuster, featured a confrontational graphic which screamed, "Who Elected Rush Limbaugh?" Shuster brought on syndicated talk show host Armstrong Williams to bash Limbaugh over the issue of how much power the radio star has within the GOP.
According to Williams, Limbaugh is "self-anointed." "Let's make sure we're clear on that," the commentator added. Continuing the attack, Williams repeated, "He has not been appointed to anything. He's self-appointed, self-anointed and self-selling." Deriding Limbaugh's import, the usually conservative Williams concluded, "He's an entertainer. He's a self-promoter. He wants to make himself out to be important. That's okay."
Williams has been a somewhat less prominent figure since an incident in 2005 in which it was revealed that he had been paid $240,000 to promote President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" act on his syndicated television show. According to a January 5, 2005 USA Today article, the host said he didn't recall mentioning the agreement on air.
On Monday's show, MSNBC's Shuster seemed largely content to allow his guest do the critiquing of Limbaugh. Speaking of Republican Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia, who attacked the radio host and then quickly backed down, Shuster wondered, "And, yet, when there was a member of the House Republicans last week who criticized Rush Limbaugh, he was essentially- it only took him 24 hours to go on Limbaugh's show to grovel and apologize. I mean, clearly, Rush Limbaugh has a huge influence on Capitol Hill, right?"
A partial transcript of the February 9 segment, which aired at 11:37am, follows:
MSNBC GRAPHIC: Who Elected Rush Limbaugh?
DAVID SHUSTER: Rush Limbaugh says he's the last man standing against President Obama. And he famously said he hopes President Obama's plans fail. But, a new article suggests this high-profile political bickering isn't sitting well with many Republicans, who are taking issue with his self-proclaimed party leadership. Syndicated talk show host Armstrong Williams joins us now live from Washington. And, Armstrong, how strong is Rush Limbaugh's case that he is the unofficial head of the GOP?
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: You mean self-anointed. Let's make sure we're clear on that. He has not been appointed to anything. He's self-appointed, self-anointed and self-selling. And, you know, that's what he does. He's an entertainer. He's a self-promoter. He wants to make himself out to be important. That's okay. You guys choose to promote it, make him bigger than life. But, within the GOP, he's just Rush Limbaugh, who belongs on radio. They have the business to do, which is what is in the best interest of the American people. Certainly, there are things Mr. Limbaugh advocates about the stimulus package and about some of the things that the President is advocating that many in the GOP agree with. But Mr. Limbaugh certainly is not leading the GOP.
SHUSTER: And, yet, when there was a member of the House Republicans last week who criticized Rush Limbaugh, he was essentially- it only took him 24 hours to go on Limbaugh's show to grovel and apologize. I mean, clearly, Rush Limbaugh has a huge influence on Capitol Hill, right?
WILLIAMS: That shows- David, it shows a weak member, whose phone lines- phone lines were flooded with constituency, may have been set up. And they called in. He lost his backbone. He became weak kneed, because leadership does not kowtow to Limbaugh or anyone else. They do what is right. They do what is in the best interest of the people. Sometimes, people don't always understand their vote. And that was the only one you can point to. It gave Mr. Limbaugh some, some media play for a day or so and it showed him embracing that member again to make sure he did not lose all his credibility, whatever that means. But the bottom line is, look, there are some serious issues here. I'm sure there are a lot of people on radio who want to enhance their standing and their power, perceived power with their bully pulpit. But the bottom line is, yes, while Mr. Limbaugh may enjoy the respect and admiration of many members of the GOP, certainly, he is not influencing them in how they vote and how they do what is in the best interest of this country as they move forward on what this stimulus package will look like before it's signed into law.