Call it Rush Limbaugh’s media revolution.
To explain? Hop in the time travel machine and come with me back to 1963 and 1964.
Arizona’s Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, dubbed “Mr. Conservative” as he was the unofficial standard bearer of the aborning conservative movement, was getting ready to run for president in 1964, and finally did so.
In his memoirs he discusses three separate incidents, all of them involving CBS News.
Number One: CBS -- through its president — came to Goldwater in 1963 telling him they wanted to “produce an hour-long documentary on the conservative revolution in America. They even mentioned a title, The Conservative Revival.”
Goldwater was reluctant because, he said, “CBS News had a liberal bias.” But he thought these were “gentlemen and men of their word” — so he agreed. Correspondent Eric Sevareid came to Goldwater’s Senate office, and the interview lasted two and a half hours.
“The interview went down hill”, Goldwater said, and almost immediately. The questions included asking how he could run for president since he didn’t have a college degree. It was suggested that he was an “accomplice” of the far-right John Birch Society and “similar groups.” On it went in this fashion. Goldwater’s press secretary was so angry at the insulting and hostile questions he wanted the on-camera interview halted. Goldwater, once committed, waved him off and went on with it. Next a CBS camera crew followed Goldwater around for over a month to get footage for the show.
The show finally came out. It had been re-titled Thunder on the Right. Now the focus was on the John Birch Society, the Minutemen and other “far-right activists.” The program had become an attack on those groups and “not a documentary on the conservative revival.” The only part of the very long interview that Eric Sevareid had conducted with Goldwater was a single Goldwater answer to a question on the John Birch Society, in which he said Birchers were not violating the Constitution.
No mention was made that, as Goldwater wrote, he “had long opposed the views of the Birchers and similar groups.” The film was selectively — very selectively — edited to make it appear Goldwater was directly linked to these extremist groups. Goldwater said he never accepted the word of the CBS president or reporter Sevareid again.
Number Two: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated on November 22, 1963. Goldwater and JFK were not just ideological opposites. They were also great friends. In fact, JFK had suggested to Goldwater that if in fact Goldwater was the 1964 GOP nominee that the two of them campaign…together. Kennedy’s idea was that the two would fly around the country on Air Force One and then debate each other, a twentieth century version of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
When Kennedy was killed — on a Friday -- the country was plunged into televised trauma over the space of the weekend and the following Monday. The funeral was on Monday, with a solemn parade from the funeral service at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, featuring a horse drawn caisson bearing the flag-draped casket, and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite went on the air and announced that Goldwater would not attend the funeral because he was “in Indiana giving a political speech.”
There was not a word of truth to that. In fact, Goldwater’s own mother-in-law had died and her son-in-law was busy arranging and attending her funeral. Goldwater was livid. Cronkite said nothing about JFK and Goldwater being friends.
Number Three: As I have noted before, as Goldwater was preparing to accept the 1964 nomination at the Republican convention in San Francisco, out of the blue comes a CBS report from correspondent Daniel Schorr that once the convention is over, Goldwater will fly to Germany to meet with far right German activists and “link up” the far right Germans (aka Neo-Nazis) with conservatives in America.
Now. These are three of countless examples of how the liberal media presented conservatives, with Goldwater being the most prominent in the day. And they could get away with it precisely because there was no conservative media with the media reach to challenge them.
When Rush Limbaugh sat down behind his golden EIB microphone in August of 1988, he would change that media world forever. It is Rush Limbaugh who is, in effect, the founding father of conservative media. Never again could liberal media slander or smear a conservative candidate or conservatives in the rank and file grassroots without being challenged, fact checked, cross examined and more.
To cite but one example? In 1987 when President Reagan nominated Robert Bork for the Supreme Court the liberal media and the left-wing activist groups piled on and succeeded in destroying Bork. So thorough was the destruction of that distinguished jurist that his last name became a verb, as in “borking” a nominee with an unchallenged-in-the-media smear campaign.
In 1991, when the first African-American Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, retired, the cry went up from liberals in and out of the media that President George H.W. Bush must nominate another African-American as this was now the “black seat” on the Court. Bush did just that, and nominated Judge Clarence Thomas.
On a dime the liberal media swiveled, aghast. Why? Thomas was …gasp!…a conservative. And the campaign to bork Clarence Thomas was on. But this time there was a very big difference — Rush Limbaugh.
There was Rush for three hours a day, five days a week, not only making the case for Thomas but going after his liberal media attackers. One by one Rush would go after the liberal smears. And it worked -- big time.
It is frequently forgotten that in 1992, Rush hosted a syndicated late-night television show produced by Roger Ailes. Eventually Rush stopped doing television — too many people required to get a show on the air, he would say later. He loved being the solo radio guy. But for Roger Ailes the success of the show with Rush was an eye opener — and he shortly joined forces with Rupert Murdoch to create Fox News.
In sum, what would become today’s conservative media was on its way to creation. Talk radio took off, and there would be a veritable legion of talk radio hosts at both the national and local level (inspired by Rush) who were carrying the conservative message every day. Inspired by his experience with Rush on television, Roger Ailes built Fox News into a conservative media juggernaut. In today’s world there is Newsmax and One America News. Not to mention that with the creation of the Internet countless conservative websites -- like the one you are now reading -- would blossom and flourish.
When President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court and the usual liberal media borking began, conservative media, expanded by multiples from the day in 1991 when Rush was defending Clarence Thomas, was there to fight back — and carry the day.
Conservative media of today, without question, exists because of Rush Limbaugh’s role as the founding father. There is a long list of others who had a role in its creation, but without doubt it was Rush who started the conservative media revolution.
As life and history move on, sadly without Rush, those of us in the world of conservative media will never forget that we are here because Rush Limbaugh had the vision and the courage to sit down behind that golden EIB microphone and speak his mind.
Thank you Rush. God bless. Your revolution will live on.