An update on an earlier Rush Limbaugh post: On her blog at Salon, Joan Walsh reports that the charge from New York magazine's David Edelstein’s suggestion that Rush Limbaugh had threatened Time’s Richard Corliss in 1995 with an old porn piece in the leftyVillage Voice drew a very hostile e-mailed cry of "BS!" from Corliss. Wrote Walsh:
I saw the post Wednesday night and was about to link to it, but I decided to track down Corliss for comment first. He strenuously denies Edelstein's claim. Here's what he e-mailed:
"The David Edelstein column, as it relates to me, is total [B.S.], unfounded and irresponsible. Rush Limbaugh never called me, ever, and never uttered a hostile word in my direction. He certainly never defamed me, which leaves him one up on Edelstein.
"The 1995 cover was the third TIME story I'd written about Limbaugh. For the first, in 1991, I interviewed him; for the second, in 1992, a Time reporter did the reporting. The 1995 piece was not a retread of those articles (or of a 1993 TIME cover by Kurt Andersen on Limbaugh and Howard Stern) but a group portrait of right-wing radio jocks, whom we saw as helping the GOP recapture the House and Senate. We didn't need more Rush quotes for it.
"In each of these articles, my take was that Limbaugh's Neanderthal political views were leavened by his performance gifts. Like some other liberals (Norman Lear and Harry Shearer, for instance, whom we quoted in the 1992 piece), I found Rush a superb radio showman. He may have appreciated this Left-handed compliment, or at least the attention: when the first two TIME stories were published, he promoted both on his program. So he would have been unlikely to try stopping me from writing a third. And he didn't. No threats, no blackmail. Nothing. And if he had called me, I wouldn't have caved -- certainly not over the essay in question, which did no harm to my career in the early 70s, and the exhumation of which would not have made me fearful two decades later.
"Edelstein (with whom, by the way, I've had no previous connection, positive or negative) could have determined all this by emailing me before spinning his ludicrous fantasy."
I e-mailed David Edelstein to tell him Corliss said Limbaugh never threatened him, and he replied: "What I wrote was clearly labelled as informed speculation, based on Rush Limbaugh's assertion that he was talking about the writer of a cover story for a major newsweekly and the seemingly inexplicable reference to Al Goldstein and masturbation. I have the greatest respect for Richard Corliss, and I'm happy to hear that I was mistaken." I tried to e-mail Rush Limbaugh, too, but you have to be a paying member of his Web site to send an e-mail, and, well, I'm the wrong demographic. Meanwhile, we'll keep trying to solve the mystery of the journalist Limbaugh bullied into better coverage!
For his part, Edelstein added he was "deeply sorry" on the New York website, and then regurgitated his offense at "Limbaugh's gangsterism" and the "preposterous fixation" that in primitive circles, some people still hold the view that masturbation is a sin, or a shameful act:
I am deeply sorry if I was off base. What I wrote was clearly labeled speculation — not unlike the endless speculation on the identity of Deep Throat and the source of Valerie Plame leak. Outlandish comparisons? If a politically powerful radio host with an audience of millions intimidates or blackmails a major magazine writer into pulling his punches in a profile, that is a huge story — and one that people should speculate about.
As I made clear in my statement to Salon and (I hoped) this blog, I respect Corliss and admire what he wrote about pornography all those years ago in the Village Voice. It was a fascinating piece, to which he has since alluded in print (cheekily adding that it "will never be anthologized"). I do, however, take issue with his characterization of my theory as a "ludicrous fantasy." There aren’t many major newsweeklies in this country (I count three), and I don’t know how else to explain the meaning of Limbaugh’s threat to expose the writer as no different from Al Goldstein (a famous pornmeister of the seventies and eighties) on account of the fact that they both masturbate. Did Corliss get conflated with someone else in Limbaugh’s mind?
The point of the blog entry was to underscore (a) Limbaugh’s gangsterism ("We know where your kids go to school" is a threat too monstrous even for Tony Soprano) and (b) the preposterous fixation (which originated with Limbaugh, not me) on the shame of masturbation. That’s a snapshot of the wingnut mentality right there: "We’ll go after your kids — and then tell people you masturbate!"