In the much-anticipated return to his radio program today, Rush Limbaugh said he could not offer details at the moment about allegations of drug abuse against him in a National Enquirer report published yesterday.
“I don’t yet know what I’m dealing with here, folks,” he told his audience of more than 25 million listeners. “When I get all the facts, when I get all the details of this, rest assured I will discuss this with you and tell you how it is.”
Limbaugh said he was tempted to respond to what is being reported about the allegations in the press, but would not at this time.
“Trust me. It makes no sense for me to go there,” he said. “Trust me on this.”
The drug allegations came on the heels of the embattled radio superstar’s resignation from ESPN for his comment that a black star football player is overrated by the media.
President Bush expressed support yesterday for Limbaugh, according to a senior administration source who spoke with the Drudge Report.
“Rush is a great American,” who has championed the conservative movement for decades, Bush reportedly said.
“I am confident he can overcome any obstacles he faces right now,” the president added.
Limbaugh, who was the keynote speaker at the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention in Philadelphia yesterday, did not host his daily program as the National Enquirer allegations surfaced.
He told his audience today that in the more than 15 years he has hosted the program, he has been “awed” and “deeply humbled” by the loyalty of his audience.
“There is a deep bond of loyalty you and I have for each other,” he said. “We are like a giant family.”
He said since both stories “erupted” he had received more than 27,000 e-mails and hundreds of telephone calls, with the “vast majority extremely supportive.”
The most listened-to radio talk-show host in history, syndicated in more than 650 markets worldwide, Limbaugh reportedly is under investigation for allegedly buying thousands of addictive painkillers from a black-market drug ring, the Enquirer said, according to the New York Daily News.
The Enquirer reported he was turned in by his former housekeeper, Wilma Cline, 42, who said the radio commentator went through detox twice and was addicted to the highly potent prescription drugs OxyContin, Lorcet and hydrocodone. The housekeeper said she supplied Limbaugh with pills for four years before handing over information to Palm Beach County, Fla., prosecutors, who reportedly have given her and her husband David Cline immunity.
The New York Daily News and the Associated Press said yesterday they independently confirmed an investigation is under way.
The Enquirer, according to the Drudge Report, is considering releasing Internet audio tapes of Limbaugh made by the former housekeeper, who said authorities gave her a wire to record conversations during her last two deliveries of pills.
The Daily News reported today, citing a law enforcement source, Limbaugh is expected to be questioned within days as part of a probe into former Florida pharmacist Louis Beshara. The paper said Beshara and his wife, Gloria, allegedly supplied drug dealers with thousands of prescription hydrocodone tablets.
A source familiar with the case, noting Florida’s recent crackdown on illegal prescription drug peddling, told the New York paper Limbaugh’s fame will not save him.
“If the evidence is there, he could be charged,” the source said.
However, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel today cited local defense attorneys who indicated prosecutors might not have a case against Limbaugh, even if everything the Clines have said is true.
Former prosecutor Marc Shiner told the Florida daily nearly all drug cases are based on someone getting caught with the drugs. In some instances, he said, a trail of criminal activity left by the defendant, such as prescription fraud, could lead to drug charges.
Also, the Clines might have credibility issues, defense attorney Michael Salnick said, because they spoke with the Enquirer before the investigation concluded.
Responding to the allegations, Limbaugh issued a statement yesterday on his website: “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.”
‘Sharks are circling’
Meanwhile, talk-show hosts across the country came to Limbaugh’s defense, and some noted the glee with which the national media pounced on the two stories.
“I think the sharks are circling,” WorldNetDaily Editor Joseph Farah said of the national media on his daily show, “WorldNetDaily Radioactive.” “I think they sense blood in the water, and their prey in this case is the biggest fish of all, the man who single-handedly changed America, for the better, I think.”
Fox News Channel’s Tony Snow, the guest host of Sean Hannity’s radio program yesterday, sounded a similar note.
“I have no doubt that the National Enquirer story has been sitting on the shelf for some time,” Snow said. “And the Enquirer, having seen Rush get bloodied a little in the ESPN fracas, said, ‘You know what, the time to strike is now, there’s a little blood in the water, let’s do it.'”
Snow commended Limbaugh as a friend.
“He is somebody who has given me opportunities,” Snow said. “He is somebody who has shown real generosity to people who are basically nobodies in the business and given us a chance to talk to the American people.”
Similarly, drive-time host John Carlson of Seattle’s KVI acknowledged he would not have his job if it were not for Limbaugh, widely regarded as the reason for the massive expansion of talk radio in the past decade.
Snow urged Limbaugh to set the record straight on the drug allegations, as many Americans are behind him.
“I don’t know if there is any truth to this or not,” he said. “If it is false, I would love for Rush to come out and say flatly it’s false. And if it’s true, my prayers go out for him.”
Farah said Limbaugh’s enemies understand if they can neutralize him, they will have won a significant battle.
He noted the National Enquirer – which supported former President Bill Clinton when he was accused of raping Juanita Broaddrick – has retained former Clinton attorney David Kendall in its high-profile cases.
Talk show host Lucianne Goldberg told her weblog readers that however the story unfolds, “now is not the time to desert a man who has changed all our lives so profoundly.”
“If Rush is in pain, so should we be,” she said. “He was there for us back during the dark years. The days ahead may be very dark for him. Let’s repay the debt. Hang tough, never waver, they are about to attack the heart of conservatism and shall not prevail. To quote the Baroness [Margaret Thatcher], ‘Now is not the time to go wobbly.'”
Farah said he is “standing behind Rush Limbaugh.”
“I want to be a blessing to him during this trial,” he said. “I want to give him the benefit of every doubt.”
In contrast, Dick Meyer, editorial director of CBSNews.com, wrote in an editorial that while he did not think Limbaugh’s remarks about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb were “seriously racist,” he nevertheless rejoiced in Limbaugh’s misfortune.
“Am I delighted to see Rush Limbaugh attacked, ridiculed and forced out of his ESPN gig?” Meyer asked. “Absolutely. Justice is being served.”
Meyer, a former political and investigative producer for The CBS News Evening News With Dan Rather, said “Limbaugh routinely insults those he disagrees with.
“He gives them nasty nicknames; he mocks them, besmirches them and makes fun of them far more adeptly than his current attackers.” Meyer said. ‘This is how he makes his millions. It is ludicrous for him, and for his defenders, to claim he is being treated unfairly. Others are simply doing unto him what he does unto others. That’s justice in my book.”