PALM BEACH, Florida – Rush Limbaugh, the most listened-to voice in U.S. radio history, may never have become a household name across America if it were not for his own naïveté.
The honest admission from the broadcast legend came Tuesday, as Limbaugh completed 29 years as a national host and kicked off the start of his 30th year.
“I’m constantly conscious, I’m aware each and every day of things – my life, circumstances, in business, personal, professional. And I think back to how naïve I was in 1988 and in the years prior,” Limbaugh said, explaining how he purposefully quit college because he hated school, seeking to focus solely on being a radio personality.
“I wanted to get out of this prison which was school and get started on what I had wanted to do since I was eight years old. And I really believed that there was, in America, a level playing field.”
“If I had known what I know now, 30 years ago, I honestly can’t say I would have tried this. If I had known about the East Coast parochial bias, not just in media but in life, if I had known about all of the obstacles that were there, it was good that I didn’t. It was actually fortuitous for me that I was unaware of all of the obstacles I was encountering. It was my naïveté that was the reason why I didn’t know they were there.”
Limbaugh continued: “There are so many things that I did not know. I didn’t know about the establishment and I didn’t know who was in it and I didn’t know how it operated. And I didn’t know how it was populated. I didn’t know anything about it, and I didn’t know its reach.”
Limbaugh says he was under the mistaken impression that news coverage of people three decades ago was based on their accomplishments, not realizing that it was merely clever public-relations agents responsible for much of the media features.
“I believed that everything that I was gonna get had to be acquired by virtue of accomplishment, not P.R. and buzz,” Limbaugh said. “And I’m actually thankful for that because that led to this [show] being a legitimate No. 1, rather than a program that’s out there that the media or others say is No. 1, but really isn’t.”
“It was this incessant belief that I had to demonstrate it, that I had to genuinely, legitimately accomplish it that drove me to do so. And I have learned that there are so many people who are portrayed as having done that who haven’t. No bitterness. It’s just how naïve I was about how the world works.”
Upon gaining experience as a local host in Sacramento, California, Limbaugh was offered the opportunity to try his program on WABC, one of the top radio stations in New York City.
“My first day at WABC, it was a heatwave. The rain felt like a hot shower,” Limbaugh recalled. “I walked into WABC and I knew that many in management wished the deal had not been made that had me there to do these two free hours on WABC. But yet, it was WABC. It was New York. It was the pinnacle, it was such a gamut of emotions that I went through. I’ll never forget any of it.”
With many so-called “experts” in the radio business telling him a national midday talk program would never work on the radio, Limbaugh says his naïveté worked to his advantage.
“I wanted to give it a shot. I said, ‘What can happen if it doesn’t work? I’m not gonna be the only failure. It won’t be the first failure. Just join the long list of failures.’ I figured it was a no-lose situation and that the upside was just over the top in possibility, which turned out to be the way it happened. … It took off and grew like nothing ever had because of the content. And so, for the first time, it worked when not a single expert in radio thought it would.”
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During his anniversary broadcast on Tuesday, Limbaugh aired a mock commercial for his show, to let listeners know his team was “starting our 30th year of sustainability.”
In the phony ad, the announcer stated: “During the first 29 historic years of Limbaugh, O.J. Simpson went from beloved former football star to accused murderer to convicted armed robber, and now, newly paroled felon. … Bruce Jenner went from male to female. What will happen next? Who can guess? Rush, 29 years of sustainability on the EIB Network.”
At the conclusion of his anniversary comments, Limbaugh noted: “Thirty years at any job is a big deal. Thirty years in this business, in the same job, maybe five people have done it. Maybe three. I don’t know.”
“I’ve never taken any of this for granted.”
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