PALM BEACH, Fla. – On any given weekday, the 62-year-old man sits in a chair in a South Florida radio studio, surrounded by computer monitors displaying news sites such as the Drudge Report.
He has a "stack of stuff," which is merely a pile of printed-out news reports about events and issues he wishes to talk about, beginning at six minutes past noon, Eastern Time.
Advertisement - story continues below
As the musical introduction of his show begins, the opening drum and guitar combination from the Pretenders' classic "My City Was Gone" pounds out a classic 1980s bass riff which, save for a Cochlear implant, the host would not be able to hear since losing his natural auditory sense years ago.
He then switches on the in-studio video known as the Dittocam and leans into a golden-colored microphone to address the largest radio audience in America, an estimated 15 to 20 million people each week.
And though he tells you what is happening in the news as well as what to think about it from the right side of the U.S. political spectrum with half his brain tied behind his back just to make it fair, none of this has anything to do with why Rush Limbaugh has been named WND's 2013 Person of the Year.
Advertisement - story continues below
To put it simply, 2013 is a history-making year for the broadcast giant. Perhaps another, more accurate, way to phrase that is 2013 is a history-celebrating year for Rush.
The radio raconteur who goes by a variety of nicknames including the "doctor of democracy," "America's truth detector," and "harmless, lovable little fuzzball," has accomplished something that could have a massive and positive ripple effect on generations of future Americans.
In the style of "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling, Limbaugh has commenced a fascinating journey through time to accurately dramatize the founding of the United States for the nation's children and stop, as he puts it, "the bastardization of American history as taught throughout America today."
He has written and voiced a book titled "Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans," telling the story of the Pilgrims' voyage from Europe to the New World in the early 17th century.
Advertisement - story continues below
Not only did the book skyrocket to an instant No. 1 bestseller on Amazon.com, it has already become a sensation among youngsters across the fruited plain, and not just the 10-to-13 targeted age group. Countless children of all ages, not to mention adults, are reading the printed book or listening to the 4-and-a-half hours of audio on CDs. Many are flooding the characters of the book – both the fictional ones and real, historical figures – with fan mail.
Birth of a national phenomenon
It has been two decades since Limbaugh, the perceived savior of AM radio who is now heard on nearly 600 stations, put his ink into books when he wrote the runaway bestsellers "The Way Things Ought to Be" and "See, I Told You So" which have sold more than 8.9 million copies.
During that time, many people have been encouraging, even pestering, him to pen another work.
Advertisement - story continues below
Among them was Limbaugh's personal friend Vince Flynn, the famed author of political thrillers who died in June after a three-year bout with prostate cancer.
"Come on, Rushbo!" Flynn kept urging Limbaugh. "Come on, Rushbo! This is it. This is the time. You've gotta get it out for the next election."
But Limbaugh felt like he's been there and done that, and told Flynn, "Vince, I've done it. I mean, the book market is just jammed. Everybody's writing books these days, and my so-called conservative manifestos are out."
Rush says Flynn was relentless in pushing him on a new book, and continually tried to spark the fire.
"And on one of those occasions, Kathryn, my wife, had an idea that really lit the fire and then brought everything Vince was trying to get me to do into culmination," Limbaugh said.
He remembers how Kathryn had said, "Look, you have expressed your concern over what's happened to elementary education. Well, all of education, but particularly young people. Why don't you do a book aimed at young people that tells the truth about American history? You could start with the Pilgrims, 'cause that's where it all really did start."
"That intrigued me," says Rush, "and in a professional sense, it was new, something I hadn't done. It was an audience, young people, that naturally talk radio doesn't reach. And it was something of great concern, and it still is, of mine – and I know it's of yours, too – and that is, for lack of a better word, the bastardization of American history as taught throughout America today. Not just the public schools, but all the way through middle school and high school and even into college."
Limbaugh has railed about the problem for years on his radio program.
"We talk about how we conservatives can actually gain ground and make progress on things. We've lost sectors of our culture. We've lost pop culture, Hollywood, books, movies, TV shows, this kind of thing. We've lost education. The libs own this. So I was really intrigued by this.
"Here's an opportunity here to, A, write another book, but, B, have it actually be something of substance and oriented around a great purpose that is indeed a passion of mine, and that is the founding of this country and American exceptionalism: Why it's great, why we are unique as a country. Talk radio doesn't reach the 10-to-13 group other than as Rush Babies. Young people might be hearing the radio as their parents listen to it. So this became something I got really, really excited about."
Limbaugh says he's really sensitive about throwing his name on a product just to hawk, and stresses this project is nothing of the sort.
"This actually has a committed, passionate purpose, and that is the effort to tell the truth of American history in a way that makes it fun for people to learn, for young people to learn."
The inside story
The structure of the book utilizes the Rush Revere character, who is the icon for Two If By Tea iced tea created by Rush and Kathryn, and bears the face of Rush Limbaugh himself.
"We decided to turn him into a substitute teacher at a middle school, and then we gave him a talking horse named Liberty," Limbaugh explains. "This talking horse can time travel anywhere in American history, with Rush Revere in the saddle, and Rush Revere can take his iPhone with him when he time travels back to American history, and does, and uses the video function to record what he sees and brings it back to the classroom where he is the substitute teacher."
(Watch a video interview with Limbaugh about the project:)
And not only can Rush Revere and the horse travel through time, the pair can transmit what they witness in the past directly to a digital projector where students in the present can watch in real time what took place centuries before.
"Once this structure was set up, there were no boundaries on what we could do with it," says Rush. "There were no limits on what we could do, and the objective here, as I say, is to simply tell the truth. The multiculturalists have gotten hold of the education curriculum in this country and many other things, and among the things that they have done is teach young people that this country is not what it really is. That it was founded in an unjust and immoral way. That there were people already here and that they were wonderful people, beautiful people, the Native Americans, and they were minding their own business, and then these evil white settlers showed up, starting with Columbus and then the Pilgrims, and they brought with them all of these corrupting influences.
"This is what's taught today, and it's been taught for a long time. So the young people of this country have grow up learning that there is no such thing as American exceptionalism, that there isn't anything really unique – and in fact this country has gotten great and became wealthy because it oppressed other people and stole from other people around the world. We took what we wanted, wherever we found it. We left poverty and destitution in our wake! And it just couldn't be further from the truth. It's the exact opposite.
"So this book is an effort to tell the truth about the Pilgrims, who they were, where they were, why they wanted to leave where they were, what that voyage entailed, how they put it together, what happened when they got to the New World, and how did that go. We include the true story of Thanksgiving in this, and it's all done in a combination fun, entertaining, persuasive, and – most importantly – truthful way."
Limbaugh himself actually voices the audio version of the book.
"And unlike Nancy Pelosi," Rush quips, "I didn't have to read my book to find out what's in it. I wrote it. I know what's in it."
He explains: "The moments in this book that I really like – that when I narrated or read it that I really put my soul into – are those conversations between Rush Revere and William Bradford. When Bradford is explaining the troubles they all had when they first founded the colony and how it didn't work out and they tried to be fair with everybody – and everybody get equal amount in outcome-based educations, everybody get outcome-based results, everybody got the same thing – and it didn't work. And then at the end of the book, same similar conversation when Bradford is recounting the blessings from God that the first Thanksgiving was really all about.
"The misunderstood part of Thanksgiving is that the Pilgrims were thanking the Indians for helping them to survive. While that is true and it did happen, the real purpose of Thanksgiving was Bradford and the Pilgrims thanking God for the guidance that they had received after all of the trials and tribulations. And the parts of the book where that is made clear in a conversational way, almost a direct quote from Bradford, those to me were the real money aspects of the book where I really wanted to pour everything I could as the narrator because those were exciting. I mean, that was the reason. Those two points there were the real reason for doing the book."
While it was natural for Rush to narrate the book, he says the actual recording process was not easy, even for a highly trained broadcast professional such as himself.
"This book is truth and it has a lot a conversation, a lot a different voices, a lot of different inflections. This wasn't just reading words on the page and changing inflection or speed. This was a real challenge. It was almost like acting without a camera, and that was something I've never done before. I've never done something like this before and it was a challenge to do it well and to hopefully meet the expectations of the audience and the people who buy it.
(Listen to Rush Limbaugh read an excerpt from "Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims":)
"I hope that what is taken away from this is that it's almost like a little bit of family fun time that's away from the television set or away from the computer or what have you. Because I think there are a lot of people in America right now really worried about what their kids are learning and really worried about what this country is going to be when their kids get older, and we're just trying to tap into people and let them know that the country's still great. It was founded in goodness, and there's still a lot of people who think so and there's every reason in the world to want to remind people of that and be proud of that and build on it."
As Limbaugh has taken feedback on the air about his book, some real-life descendants of those on the Mayflower phoned in to share their experiences.
Linda from Wheaton, Ill., was one of them, and told Limbaugh: "I called today to give a name to the young man who was swept overboard on the Mayflower. You had a previous caller that got quite choked up about it. And that young man happens to be my tenth great-grandfather. And his name was John Howland."
"Unbelievable," responded Limbaugh. "Do you realize how I'm feeling here? Somebody in my audience, of all the people in the country, somebody in my audience is related to the guy who fell overboard on the Mayflower. ... I'm sitting here practically near speechless."
Tanya from Eddy, Texas, called to say she was a tenth-generation descendant of William Bradford, and Sandy from South Bend, Ind., phoned the show to say she was a tenth-generation descendant of Capt. Myles Standish.
"I had a couple cousins in the seventies that were doing the genealogy work, and they could not connect," Sandy said of her relatives' genealogical hunt. "They connected from Myles Standish up to a point, and from my grandfather, who was John Sidney Standish down to a point, and they couldn't connect it. So they got in the car and they drove to Plymouth, Mass., and asked people around there if they could give 'em some help, and they were directed to an elderly lady that had a family quilt. The family quilt was little squares that had every baby's birth and deaths and everything, and by that quilt, they were able to connect, finally, how we were related."
"That's just short of amazing," said Limbaugh.
The book and CDs have received rave reviews from the public. On Amazon.com, of the 1,500 reviews posted, more than 1,300 give the project the highest rating of five stars.
One grandmother said her 7-year-old grandson was so inspired after reading the book, he offered to say the family prayer before their Thanksgiving meal this year. (See the video of his prayer below:)
The adventure has also created a deluge of fan mail, mostly addressed to the stars of the book. A few of them say:
- "Dear Rush Revere and Liberty: We've been reading Rush Revere to our three daughters, 10, seven and four. They love your book. I wish you could have been in our living room last night listening to our seven-year-old belly laughing at Liberty's antics. Our 10-year-old daughter, who's very picky about her reading material, remarked, 'He's really good. We should get some of this serious. Trust us. This is a huge compliment from our kids, Rush. We are so thrilled to have this book in our library to open our girls' eyes to what the Pilgrim voyage was really like. We've spent some great family time reading this book together, so thank you so much, Rush Revere and Liberty, for sharing history with us. Grateful parents, Matthew and Kate. Delighted children, Sabrina, Sarah, and Simone."
- "Dear Rush Revere and Liberty: My two girls, age seven and six, are enthralled with your storytelling. To be honest, I didn't know if they'd really enjoy this type of book, but they absolutely love it, especially you, Liberty. When you said 'Bless you' to Rush Revere in chapter one, we were all laughing so hard the tears were rolling. We are thoroughly enjoying the book so far. It's something we look forward to reading at bedtime every night. Thank you."
- "Dear Mr. Rush Revere: I love your book. I'm 10. My dad said I have to read your book. At first I thought history was boring and reading about it would be boring, but I guess I was wrong. You did change my mind. Now I'm a big fan of history. Please write another book of history, and please tell Liberty I said his history rocks, and thank you, Kathryn."
- "Dear Liberty: My name is Ashley, and I'm 10. I love your CD. You're the funniest character. I like how you put on those wooden shoes and couldn't get 'em off."
Fans who can't get enough of Rush Revere and Liberty will likely not be disappointed, as more adventures are apparently in the works.
Limbaugh himself has noted, "This book is the first of what hopefully will be many that are designed to get back to the real roots and the real history without any political bias of any kind about this country, and it really is no more complicated than that."
On Dec. 6, a homeschooling mother phoned the radio show on behalf her children who wanted to know if a movie version of the book might be in the works.
"You know, you're making this hard for me," Rush replied with a sigh. "There is this engrained hope that there is going to be another adventure, and I don't think they're going to be disappointed.
"You tell your kids that we are going to be giving life to the poop deck.
"You've had two requests today – one a suggestion, one a request – and you've basically had both of them answered if you're listening carefully," said Limbaugh.
And there's speculation there may even be some sort of theme park in development after the woman mentioned taking her children to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Limbaugh interjected: "The fervent hope is that one day you can take your kids to Rush Revere World instead of Disney World. I'm just giving you another hint here."