Despite the deluge of self-righteous and angry protests to include campaigns such as "Missourians against Rush Limbaugh," negative editorials, letters to editors, denouncements from pulpits and legislative podia and more than 35,000 petition signatures, the inevitable came to pass — he was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians.
Yes indeed, the bust of controversial talk show host Rush Limbaugh has joined those of Stan Musial, Harry S Truman, Mark Twain, Dred Scott, George Washington Carver and Walt Disney in the state Capitol. Limbaugh was nominated by House Speaker Steven Tilley, a fellow southeast Missourian, and the campaign, pro and con, was as polarizing as the subject himself.
As expected, the "anti-Rush" crusade can be best described as tragicomic opera at its most entertaining. It provided a forum for Democratic Party legislators to wax eloquently and posture mightily in denouncing their least favorite talk radio host.
The bloggers, the syndicated columnists, the talking heads, the party leaders and every organization with an ax to grind took up the cudgel — the epithets "racist," "hatemonger," "misogynist," "bigot" and "homophobe" flowed like water over a spillway. Speaker Tilley was not spared criticism — his nomination of Limbaugh attained major league status on the left as he was skewered in The New York Times and by MSNBC's Chris Matthews in an interview with Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Gov. Nixon, called upon to step forward and block Rush's Hall of Fame entry, wisely declined, instead offering the safe opinion "that only people who have passed on should be honored." In reality, the anti-Limbaugh blitz was futile. Instead of thwarting the process, it backfired by gift wrapping an extra measure of publicity for the talk radio icon.
As I have made clear in the past, I am not a particular fan of Mr. Limbaugh — I suppose I could be described as mildly ambivalent. Nevertheless, there is not one scintilla of doubt that the arch-conservative talk show host is, in fact, famous and, like it or not, he is a Missourian.
A four-time recipient of the Marconi Radio Award for Network/Syndicated Radio Personality of the Year (awarded by the National Association of Broadcasters), he was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1993. The highest-paid syndicated radio host, Mr. Limbaugh also has hosted the No. 1 commercial talk radio show in the U.S. since 1991, with daily listeners estimated at more than 15 million.
Evidence of his "human" side is seen in his annual "EIB Cure-a-Thon" for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, an effort that has raised millions of dollars in its 22 years of service, and in his donations to the Marine Corps - Law Enforcement Foundation. This latter foundation collects money to provide scholarships for the children of Marines and law enforcement personnel who have died in the line of duty.
Following his induction into the Hall of Famous Missourians, both the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Kansas City Star published "sour grapes" editorials, slamming the recipient, decrying partisanship and echoing the Democratic Party legislators' laments over closing the chamber to all but selected Republicans.
Unwittingly, the Republicans did the Democrats a favor by having a selective audience and making the announcement too late for any reaction. Had it been advertised and open to all, a phalanx of dissenters would have assembled for a less than orderly protest. They would have made complete fools of themselves as mobs are wont to do.
Finally, in today's climate of forced political correctness and diversity, it is doubtful that Mark Twain would have passed muster for the Missouri Hall. After all, he is roundly accused of politically incorrect prose, particularly "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," the novel unfairly and ignorantly condemned as racist and unfit for inclusion in selected libraries.
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, to include vocal or written assent/dissent. Admittedly, Limbaugh is a polarizing figure whose shtick in torching the left sometimes crosses the line. Nevertheless, to deny a National Radio Hall of Fame member induction into the Hall of Famous Missourians would be silly. As I recall, the less than mannerly Ty Cobb is one of five charter members of baseball's Hall of Fame.
Besides, in a couple of weeks, it will be forgotten for some new episode of similar unimportance.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at JKarlUSMC@aol.com. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.