After brutalizing him in its front-page obituary on Thursday, the New York Times took a Trumpian angle on talk radio legend Rush Limbaugh’s passing with reporter Jeremy Peters’ “Political Memo”: “Rush Limbaugh’s Legacy of Venom: As Trump Rose, ‘It All Sounded Familiar’ -- Weaponizing conspiracy theories and bigotry long before Donald Trump’s ascent, the radio giant helped usher in the political style that came to dominate the Republican Party.”
The headline in Friday’s print edition was relatively sedate in comparison: “The Legacy of Limbaugh: Setting a Path for Trump.”
Peters has developed a beat of conservative media scandal-mongering, with laughably lame results unworthy of the word “news.” That’s when he’s not consoling Democrats “flabbergasted” by Republican criticism.
Peters is reliably shocked by anything conservative, and acted appalled at Limbaugh, the long-reigning, influential conservative voice who spoke for millions. Peters imagined instead a man responsible for “political upheaval," even forwarding President Clinton’s smear of talk radio as igniting the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Rush Limbaugh was a uniquely merciless media voice whose influence frightened and awed presidents for three decades -- often at moments of trauma for the nation and of political upheaval that they could trace back to something uttered through the combative radio host’s microphone.
There was no person or subject that was off-limits for Mr. Limbaugh’s ire. Black people, gay men and lesbians, feminists, people with AIDS, the 12-year-old daughter of a president, an advocate for victims of domestic violence: All found themselves the subject of denigrating put-downs by Mr. Limbaugh over the years.
It’s easy to pull out excerpts from a decades-long radio career and find stories that don’t pan out, and Peters predictably plucked them out to use against Limbaugh upon his death.
Few media stars were as crucial in making disinformation, false rumors and fringe ideas the right’s new reality. And toward the end of the Trump presidency, Mr. Limbaugh’s willingness to indulge the paranoia among Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters was especially powerful in misleading people to believe that bad news about their president -- like his loss in November -- was simply made up by his enemies or the result of a nefarious plot.
In turn, Mr. Limbaugh rarely apologized for his comments and often attacked those who called him out, arguing that they were taking him too seriously or twisting his words out of context. Often, Mr. Limbaugh denied he had said what his critics claimed.
Peters strove to uncover racism in Limbaugh’s old media criticism.
Mr. Limbaugh attacked Black athletes like the quarterback Donovan McNabb, whose success he attributed to a news media that was “very desirous that a Black quarterback do well.”…
Peters made a tight link between Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh, and oddly brought up the always personally gracious Limbaugh’s “behavior” and “indefensible conduct.” What is he talking about?
But it was more than their behavior. The way their fans were similarly eager to defend the most indefensible conduct of both men was a sign that the nation’s political divide was hardening into something more personal and tribal. Mr. Limbaugh’s most loyal listeners developed a capacity to excuse almost anything he did and deflect, saying liberals were merely being hysterical or hateful. And many loved him even more for it.
Again, what did Limbaugh “do” to anyone that so horrifies Peters?
Mr. Limbaugh’s recklessness with the truth and lack of any evident concern for the danger posed by feeding paranoia on the right served him well once Mr. Trump became the Republican nominee in 2016 and later the president….
Peters even injected snobbish liberal credentialism into the mix.
Mr. Limbaugh’s rise as a gatekeeper of conservatism and kingmaker in the Republican Party helped accelerate the trend in G.O.P. politics away from serious and substantive opinion leaders and politicians, and toward figures who were provocative, entertaining and anti-intellectual. Mr. Limbaugh -- like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and other right-wing hosts who broke out later on -- did not graduate from college. He started his career in radio as a disc jockey, not a political commentator.