Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Pussy
                       And other brilliant insights from Philadelphia's recent radio convention.
                          by JONATHAN VALANIA, Philadelphia Weekly, orginally published 10.8

                      Last week the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the radio industry's trade group, held its convention in Philadelphia.
                      Here's what we learned there: Rush Limbaugh is a pussy; Sean Hannity, Limbaugh's heir apparent, is a bully; and Clear Channel is an
                      evil empire--or at the very least, a greedy and inconsiderate empire.

                      This was last Thursday, which turned out to be a momentous day for fans of poetic justice.

                      It doesn't take a CPA to figure out that the right wing in this country has been overdrawn at the karma bank since the Clinton
                      impeachment hypocrisy festival, or at least the 2000 presidential election theft. Last Thursday the bill came due, and hoo boy did the
                      right pay through the nose.

                      To recap: Rush Limbaugh went down in flames, a self- immolation ignited by his own inflammatory racial rhetoric. Word then came
                      that he's under investigation for his connection to a black market prescription drug ring.

                      On Capitol Hill it was officially announced: No weapons of mass destruction--the central argument for our involvement in Iraq--have
                      been found after six months of searching.


                      Then Arnold, the right's beloved wolf in social liberal clothing, got hit with two bombshells from his past: dual allegations of pinching
                      women's butts uninvited and singing the praises of Adolf Hitler. Ouch.

                      But wait. It gets better.

                      There's also now a full-blown Justice Department investigation into allegations that the White House outed a CIA employee in
                      retaliation for her husband's criticism of our Iraqi policy--which, in a time of war, even Ann Coulter would have to admit is
                      tantamount to treason.

                      On this one, the big fat finger of blame is being pointed at Karl Rove, the president's Mephistophelian political adviser. When it was
                      revealed that Rove served as campaign adviser to John Ashcroft for a congressional race in Missouri, even Republican Sen. Arlen
                      Specter called for Ashcroft to recuse himself from the proceedings, stopping just short of calling for a special prosecutor. All of this
                      in just one day!

                      Okay, it's impolite to gloat, so let's get back to the three unassailable truths revealed at the NAB convention.

                      1) Rush Limbaugh is a pussy.

                      Before we even get started, I would like to give a "megadittoes" shout-out to Al Franken on behalf of the silent majority in this
                      country. If last week's controversy, and the ensuing firestorm of condemnation (not to mention El Rushbo's hasty retreat), proved
                      anything, it's this: We can all agree that Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot. This is important because the right likes to discredit any
                      opposition by defining it as "outside of the mainstream." It became patently obvious last week that Rush Limbaugh, the right's
                      chrome-plated megaphone, is outside the mainstream.

                      It is fitting that Philadelphia, the cradle of democracy, would serve as ground zero for Limbaugh's comeuppance. A quick recap for
                      anyone in a coma last week: On a Sunday NFL pregame show on ESPN, Limbaugh said that Donovan McNabb was overrated by the
                      media because they want to see a black quarterback succeed. In other words, this was another case of what Limbaugh calls "the
                      compassion fascists" ruining our cigar-smokin', golf-playin' good time. The job of quarterback is, apparently, the white man's burden
                      and his alone.

                      None of Limbaugh's fellow commentators picked up the thread, and the remark drifted into the digital ether until local sportswriters
                      started hammering at it the following Tuesday. Soon the debate moved from the local sports page to the nation's editorial pages. By
                      Wednesday, presidential candidates Howard Dean and Wesley Clark were calling for Limbaugh's head on a stick, backed by a chorus
                      of some two dozen members of Congress. By late Wednesday night, Limbaugh had tendered his resignation, and ESPN had gratefully
                      accepted it.

                      The very next morning Limbaugh was scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the NAB convention in, of all places, Philadelphia,
                      thus violating the cardinal law of the animal kingdom: Don't shit where you eat.

                      Back in the good ol' '90s, the right used the tabloid press to plant the seeds of some of the most outrageous allegations against the
                      Clintons--rape! murder! drug dealing!--knowing full well that the mainstream press would then be obligated to look into these charges.
                      Even though these lurid accusations would be quickly dismissed, they would, at the very least, remain on the national radar for a few
                      days. It was a cheap, thuggish tactic, and Limbaugh would often parrot these groundless allegations on his radio show.

                      So it was with no small measure of schadenfreude that the left watched Limbaugh get a taste of his own medicine. A New York Post
                      story hit the streets just hours after Limbaugh resigned, claiming he's under investigation in an ongoing probe of a Florida
                      prescription drug ring. (Limbaugh has a mansion in Palm Beach.)

                      The article, citing a story the National Enquirer has apparently been sitting on for two years, says Limbaugh's former housekeeper
                      had been selling him black market prescription pills, including OxyContin. The housekeeper allegedly wore a wire and has audiotapes
                      of the drug transactions. Thursday, just prior to his NAB appearance, Limbaugh issued this statement: "I am unaware of any
                      investigation by any authorities involving me. No governmental representative has contacted me directly or indirectly. If my assistance
                      is required in the future, I will, of course, cooperate fully."

                      The meekness of that statement speaks volumes. That's not even a denial. Where's the righteous indignation of somebody wrongly
                      smeared? Where's the vehement declaration of innocence? Last Friday he said the following on his radio program: "I really don't
                      know the full scope of what I am dealing with. And when I get all the facts, when I get all the details of this, rest assured that I will
                      discuss it with you and tell you how it is, tell you everything there is, maybe more than you want to know about this."


                      So Limbaugh came out to address the convention. He's not quite as fat an idiot as he used to be, more of a pleasantly plump idiot than
                      a morbidly obese idiot.

                      In all fairness, he wasn't even that much of an idiot. He mostly used that pompous baritone of his to talk about his rags-to-riches rise
                      to the top of the talk radio heap and the ways the fat cats in attendance could make more money with it ("raise your rates!").

                      A half-hour into his speech, he addressed the controversy. He never quite apologized, although he did say, "I don't mean it to hurt
                      anybody ... to be diminishing of anybody." Even his half-assed apologia came in code words.

                      For the record, "anybody" translates in plainspoken English to "black people." Even though there was a kernel of truth in Limbaugh's
                      sputtering defense, that he was denigrating the media and not black people--yet somehow he managed to denigrate both--he's had this
                      beatdown coming for a long time.

                      He has long made race-baiting a centerpiece of his radio rants. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a media watchdog, has kept a
                      dossier on Limbaugh's on-air comments. In addition to playing the "Movin' on Up" theme from The Jeffersons TV show every time he
                      discusses Carol Moseley Braun, or pointing out to his listeners that most police sketches of criminals look suspiciously like Jesse
                      Jackson, the absolute nadir has to be this beauty: "The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice

                      Reporters were told they could submit questions in writing to Limbaugh beforehand and he would answer them at the conclusion of his
                      comments. Never happened. Just like his radio show--where callers are prescreened to avoid dissent or confrontation or, God forbid,
                      honest and open debate--the dialogue was one-sided: Rush talks, we listen. End of story. The minute anyone calls him on his bullshit,
                      he runs. That's because ... Rush Limbaugh is a big pussy.

                      2) Sean Hannity, Limbaugh's heir apparent, is a bully.

                      Hannity, half of the Hannity and Colmes show on the Fox News channel, was the golden boy at NAB. Hannity, who has a radio show on
                      1210-AM, won the NAB's award for Personality of the Year, further proof of how devoid of personality radio has become.

                      Hannity is the right's new attack dog, baring his teeth and mauling liberals while barking out neo-conservative dogma. He is, like many
                      of his ilk, a pathological Clinton hater with a bizarre fixation on homosexuals. (His best-selling book, Let Freedom Ring, even includes
                      a graphic description of fisting.) He's a master of the I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I style of debate, doling out nuanced political
                      insights, such as, "They tell us that fuel-burning SUVs are bad for America, but flag-burning SOBs aren't."

                      Hannity and Colmes was taped last Thursday before a live audience at the Forrest Theatre. For some reason, the Fox publicist thought
                      I would get a kick out of the show and print nice things. She got that half right. I have seen puppet shows with more intellectual
                      heft--a fair comparison because Hannity and Colmes is a puppet show. It's Fox's version of CNN's Crossfire, except the deck is
                      hopelessly stacked against Colmes, the resident liberal milquetoast.

                      Hannity is virile and ruggedly handsome in a football team captain sort of way. Colmes, meanwhile, exudes impotence. He looks like a
                      weasel and acts like a scared rabbit. And from where I was sitting the second row, he looked like he was wearing, swear to God,

                      Colmes was the first to come out onstage. The announcer introduced him by asking the audience if they had an "Alan Colme-over." The
                      audience booed. Then came Hannity, whose entrance line was "Who's been Hannitized?" Thunderous applause and cheers. The guests
                      were Ed Rendell, who got booed and never got a word in edge-wise, and Bill Bennett, who has turned a failed tenure as drug czar
                      under Bush the elder into a lucrative speaking-circuit career as moralistic scold.

                      However, Bennett was recently exposed as a big fat hypocrite when it was revealed that he has a major gambling addiction--by his
                      own admission, six-figure losses in casinos from Atlantic City to Las Vegas. Bennett's Bible is apparently missing the page where Jesus
                      says, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

                      At one point Hannity stood up for Limbaugh, saying, "We need more debate, not less." But when an audience member seated onstage
                      spoke out during a break, he was quietly escorted off the stage. (I caught up with him later. His name is Kenneth Montgomery Locke, a
                      regular Hannity and Colmes watcher. He drove 800 miles from North Carolina after Colmes sent him tickets. He says he was told that
                      "this is not the forum for you to speak your political ideas" before being shown the door.)

                      The show ended with a few softball questions from the audience, culminating with this exchange with a cute little boy who asked: "Do
                      you think we'll find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?"

                      Colmes: "I hope we do. I want to believe the reasons we were given for going to war."

                      Hannity: "We know they're there. We will find them. Let not your heart be troubled."

                      Crowd went wild. Roll credits.

                      The Fox publicist allowed me five minutes of carefully supervised questions with Hannity at the post-taping party at the Palm. It
                      didn't go well.

                      PW [semi-seriously]: "I have to warn you. My paper is screamingly liberal ... "

                      Hannity [utterly serious]: "That's your problem!"

                      PW: "Good one, Sean. Care to comment on the Al Franken lawsuit?"

                      Hannity: "No."

                      PW: "How about the Limbaugh controversy?"

                      Hannity: "I'm not going to talk about that. Rush is my friend. There should be more debate, not less. He should be on that show next
                      Sunday defending his position."

                      PW: "Why isn't he? It seems like he's running away."

                      Hannity: [If looks could kill ... ]

                      PW: "Do you favor a special prosecutor to look into who leaked the identity of the CIA agent?"

                      Hannity: "No."

                      PW: "You mean that a special prosecutor was warranted to find out if the president got a blow job from an intern but one is not
                      necessary to find out if somebody in the White House revealed the identity of a CIA agent during a time of war, which is tantamount
                      to treason?"

                      Publicist: "Okay, that's enough. Don't you have any questions about Philadelphia?"

                      3) Clear Channel is an evil empire. Or at the very least a greedy and inconsiderate empire.

                      Following Limbaugh's keynote speech, the NAB hosted a "super-session" with the heads of two of the biggest radio chains in the
                      business--John Hogan, president and COO of Clear Channel, and Joel Hollander, president and COO of Infinity Broadcasting--along
                      with bigwigs from a few smaller radio groups.

                      The "super session" was hosted by none other than Sean Hannity, whose radio show supposedly reaches 10 million listeners. The
                      convention's program guide billed this as a "must-attend" event. And so I did.

                      The dialogue was largely self-congratulatory, with the consensus among the executives being that monopolization is a good thing and
                      listeners have more variety on the airwaves than ever. The only criticism the executives had for each other was that they have not
                      done a good enough job explaining to the public all the good and charitable things they do.

                      After an hour of patting each other on the back--and Hannity's unctuous mugging and shameless ass-kissing--they took audience
                      questions. There were several hundred in attendance--mostly anyone who's anyone in radio management. The litany of complaints
                      about Clear Channel's monopolistic practices is no doubt well-known to anyone who has bothered to read this far.

                      Clear Channel haters aren't just the listeners and musicians who blame the radio group for the fact that radio sucks. There's also a lot
                      of anger within the industry, from competitors bushwhacked by what they consider unfair trade practices, from people who lost their
                      jobs as a result of the recent flurry of mergers and acquisitions, and from the many who chafe under the media giant's oppressive
                      corporate yoke. But nobody in the room would dare stand up and say as much. Certainly not anyone banking on a future in radio.

                      Nobody, that is, except one man who had nothing left to lose, who was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, who had the
                      courage to stand up and say the emperor has no clothes. His name is Pat Clawson, a 30-year broadcast veteran who worked for NBC
                      and CNN, and spent seven years as Washington bureau chief for the industry bible, Radio and Records. In short, he knows the

                      Despite Hannity's repeated attempts to silence him, Clawson dressed down Clear Channel's Hogan something fierce for shirking
                      radio's obligation to serve the public interest, concluding with, "I'm going to tell you straight to your face, sir: You people are utterly

                      Hogan refused to address Clawson's remarks in front of the audience, saying he'd be happy to discuss it in person, which he did, sort
                      of. After the "super session," Hogan came out with couple of his PR flacks, and he and Clawson went off and had a brief private
                      conversation. I tried to eavesdrop, but all I could hear was one of the Clear Channel flacks say to the other: "We should be on
                      standby in case he wants to pass this off. John's attention span is 40 seconds."

                      After a few minutes of what looked like a heated exchange, Hogan started to walk away. Clawson tried to shake his hand. Hogan

                      Asked if Hogan addressed his grievances, Clawson said, "No. He just told me I shouldn't have challenged him in front of all these
                      people." He shrugged. "Look, I've been in broadcasting for 30 years, and I know bullshit when I smell it, and all I was hearing here
                      and smelling was bullshit coming off the stage."

                      Having covered the economics of radio for three decades, Clawson said he has a pretty good understanding of how things got to this
                      point. When Congress passed the Telecommunications Act in 1996, for all practical purposes it lifted the limits on the number of
                      stations that a single company could own. Clear Channel was quick to take advantage.

                      "They had the capital, and frankly they did what any smart businessman would do--aggressively expand," Clawson said. "There's
                      nothing wrong with that--it's the American way. But it's disingenuous for Clear Channel or Infinity to say that there are still 3,000
                      owners in the radio market. In the top 50 markets, which is what national advertisers look at, it's been consolidated down to two or
                      three major players. What Clear Channel has done--and this is not any evil plan--is buy up oceanfront property in the top 50 markets,
                      giving them a hammerlock position for revenue."

                      Clawson said the consequences for the public have been dramatic because of the drastic reduction in locally originated broadcasting
                      coming out of these communities. It caused news departments to shut down and local talk radio to disappear, replaced by a syndicated
                      product that has little to do with local issues.

                      "Clear Channel has been at the forefront of that," Clawson said. "That doesn't make Clear Channel an evil company. They're simply
                      taking advantage of the regulatory opportunities afforded them. But I believe broadcasters have an obligation to serve the public
                      interest. The airwaves belong to the people. [Clear Channel and Infinity] simply rent them for a period of time."

                      Clawson then mentioned a meeting he attended the day before for three hours--one filled with the major radio group owners, the
                      major bankers and the major investors. "All I heard," he says, "was discussion about cash flow, station-trading multiples [the price of
                      a station divided by its annual cash flow] and financing terms. Never once in three hours was the phrase 'public interest' mentioned."

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