Wingnut Week In Review: Rush Limbaugh Is A Big, Dumb Ape

Terrance Heath

Rush Limbaugh knows less about evolution than the average seventh grader, and now it looks like Limbaugh’s own failure to evolve may land him on the endangered list.

Rush Limbaugh is confused about evolution (among other things). On his radio show, Limbaugh claimed that if evolution was real then Harambe, the gorilla that was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo when a young boy fell into its enclosure, would have become “one of us.”

“Don’t doubt me on this. A lot of people think that all of us used to be gorillas, and they’re looking for the missing link out there. The evolution crowd. They think we were originally apes… If we were the original apes, then how come Harambe is still an ape, and how come he didn’t become one of us?”

Where to begin?

Actually, this stuff is so easy that even a seventh grader can understand it. It just happens that our oldest son is in the seventh grade, and has spent that past year learning about cells, genes, inheritance, etc., and now his science class is learning about evolution. And I don’t mean just human evolution either. I mean from single-celled organisms to, well, us.

Last night, I sat with our son as he finished some science homework that involved visiting “The Evolution Lab,” a rather incredible site created for the PBS program “Nova,” to help students understand why there are so many different forms of life on earth, and how they’re all related.

His assignment was to use the site’s “Deep Tree” to explore the relationships between over 70,000 different species on the planet. Still shaking my head at Limbaugh’s aggressive ignorance, I decided to see just how easy it is to answer his question, by comparing humans and gorillas.

The answer is so simple, the average seventh grader can understand it. Gorilla’s and humans share a common ancestor who lived 8 million years ago. At that point, the “family tree” branched off, and gorillas and humans evolved independently. So, there’s more than a concrete barrier, a 12-foot drop, and a moat separating you from the gorilla at the zoo. There’s 8 million years of independent evolution.

So, Harambe missed his chance to turn into “one of us” when the family split up about 8 million years ago, and we went in very different directions.

Rush On The Endangered List

Limbaugh hasn’t evolved much beyond the knuckle-dragger stage himself, and it’s landed him and his show on the endangered list. His days of $400 million radio deals are in the past. Ratings hurdles, aging demographics, and radio advertisers who now find him toxic have left Rush and his empire in peril.

A Politico article last month confirmed that Limbaugh’s show is on shaky ground, thanks to an advertiser boycott. In the last few years, he’s been dropped by several long-time affiliates, including some in major markets like New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. In other cases, he’s been moved onto smaller stations with weaker signals that cover much smaller areas. All because four years after he sparked a major boycott movement when he called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” on the air, advertisers still avoid him like the plague.

Radio is, after all, a business. And that business is selling a product, whether it’s Limbaugh’s show or the stuff advertisers pay top dollar to hawk to Limbaugh’s audience. Damage your brand badly enough and, like Rush, you may never recover.

Perhaps he was drunk with his own power, at the top of the right-wing media pile. Maybe he overestimated his invincibility, due to his army of loyal listeners. But Limbaugh “broke a cardinal rule of radio — not to mention police society,” spelled out by radio industry veteran and former Clear Channel news-talk format chief Darryl Parks in the Politico piece: “Don’t beat up on a woman, and don’t beat up on a [young person].” The reaction was swift and harsh. According to Parks, “Thirty-eight percent of revenue disappeared overnight.”

Groups like Media Matters for America called on advertisers to refuse to buy time on Limbaugh’s show, and for local affiliates to drop it. A “Flush Rush” campaign swept social media, and within months Netflix, JCPenny, Sears, and other companies joined the boycott. Even though Limbaugh later apologized, some 45 advertisers jumped ship. Most haven’t returned.

Limbaugh is likely to feel it come his next contract negotiation. Eight years ago, Limbaugh signed a contract paying him $400 million with Premiere Radio Networks — one that guaranteed Limbaugh millions even if every advertiser dumped him. That contract is ending, and the show is still bleeding advertising dollars. It gets worse. Premiere is owned by iHeartRadio, which was formerly known as Clear Channel. iHeartRadio’s parent company, iHeartMedia, has one foot in bankruptcy court and one foot on a banana peel. The company is struggling under $20 billion in debt, thanks to an ill-advised leveraged takeover masterminded by none other than Bain Capital (yes, that Bain Capital in 2008, the same year Limbaugh signed his contract.

That means, as conservative writer Ethan Epstein put it, wherever Limbaugh goes next, he’ll be taking a significant pay cut for calling Fluke a “slut.”

The success and strength of the advertiser boycott is probably due to a number of factors. The change in demographic trends not only shrunk the GOP’s white working-class “go-to” constituency, but shrunk Limbaugh’s audience. The America that contributed to Limbaugh’s rise is fading, and not even the “Trump bump” in ratings, from ascension of Donald Trump to presumptive GOP nominee can bring it back.

Limbaugh’s not going away, though. He still has a remnant of an audience, and whether or not he stays with Premiere Radio Networks, he’ll talking somewhere. But he’ll be doing so for a smaller audience, and a lot less money

Here’s the best of the rest of the worst in wingnuttery this week:

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