One aspect of Limbaugh's radio career that often goes overlooked is his role as a conduit for wild and pernicious conspiracies born on the right-wing fringe to migrate to a broader audience. Limbaugh frequently poaches material from obscure conservative writers and enthusiastically disseminates their feverishly conspiratorial and racially charged content to his national audience.
On July 20, 1993, the body of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster was found in Northern Virginia's Fort Marcy Park. According to multiple investigations, Foster died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But conservatives, led by Rush Limbaugh, incessantly cast doubt on Foster's suicide, suggesting instead that the Clinton White House had murdered Foster and covered it up. On the March 11, 1994, broadcast of his television show, Limbaugh reviewed "some of the key questions" surrounding Foster's death:
LIMBAUGH: His body was found lying face-up and straight. His head was at the top of an incline; his feet at the bottom, an unusual position for someone who had shot himself while standing on an incline. Looked like he was ready for the coffin, in other words. [via Nexis]
Neither time nor the end of the Clinton administration has dampened Limabugh's ardor for Vince Foster conspiracy theorism. During the 2008 Democratic primary, Rush often invoked Fort Marcy Park when commenting on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign:
LIMBAUGH: In the meantime, the National Transportation Safety Board said yesterday that they are going to investigate what caused Obama's dinky little MD-80 to make an unexpected landing in St. Louis. He was traveling from Chicago to Charlotte aboard Fort Marcy Airlines when the pilot's first officer announced that they were experiencing controllability issues with the pitch of the MD-80. And so Fort Marcy Airlines had to put down at Lambert Field in St. Louis. And we found out that one of the things that happened during the flight was that in the back of one of these dinky little old MD-80s is a rear door underneath the fuselage, and it'll come down, and you can put out -- you can put the exit slide, the emergency slide. It deployed. It deployed in flight. And, of course, that would -- at altitude and speed, that would have a demonstrable effect on controllability issues. And I don't know if the pilots knew that that was the case at the time. Probably warning lights in the cockpit, even on MD-80, would indicate that.
The Soccer Conspiracy
On April 13, 2010, American Thinker writer Cat Corben posited an elaborate conspiracy that involved Obama "venturing out to a soccer game that didn't exist in a high-crime area" of Washington, DC. Corben wanted to know why Obama lied to the press and the Secret Service so he could hang out in this high-crime area by himself, writing: "Something is most definitely wrong."
Indeed something was wrong: everything with Corben's story. The soccer game did happen, the area was most assuredly not high-crime, members of the press saw Obama at the game, and he was under Secret Service guard the whole time.
Nonetheless, Limbaugh picked up Corben's story and repeated it on-air:
LIMBAUGH: It doesn't make sense because there was no soccer game scheduled on the Sidwell Friends soccer schedule on their website. Sidwell Friends would not be playing a soccer game in this neighborhood. The American Thinker's posted a picture. There is a soccer field at this neighborhood, but it's not -- Sidwell Friends wouldn't send their kids there to play. It's Clinton-esque, but it is curious. What was he doing out there?
Canceling The Elections
On September 30, 2011, Judi McLeod of the Canada Free Press published a column warning that President Obama was planning to suspend the 2012 elections in order to remain in office. The column, which swerved into birtherism and the absurd theory that Obama's autobiography was ghostwritten by Bill Ayers, counseled: "Patriots who want their grandchildren to grow up in a Marxist-free America should start the counter revolution called the 'Revolution for an Obama-free America' and they should start it 'like yesterday.'"
The author has a colorful menagerie of conspiracy theories, including a stemwinder about mafia involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks. And she had her election-canceling column read on the air by Rush Limbaugh:
LIMBAUGH: Remember now, "nothing is impossible when all the control is held by a tyrant." This is in a Canadian publication. "Obama and his masters already pulled the biggest scam on any country in modern times by making it to the White House without legitimate I.D. A dangerous new chapter is being written in American history that, if successful, is destined to impact the history of the West. It's called "Re-Election by Suspended Election Revolution." This babe, Judi McLeod, Canada Free Press, actually thinks this is a strategery, that it is a stratagem, that it is a gambit! That is being hatched in the darkest corners of the Oval Office in the White House. I find it fascinating. I'm fascinated. This is what happens, folks, this is exactly the kind of thing that happens when you get tyrants and authoritarians in office.
Obama The African Colonial
On June 25, 2009, the American Thinker published a piece by L.E. Ikenga arguing that "the key to understanding [Obama] lies with his identification with his father, and his adoption of a cultural and political mindset rooted in postcolonial Africa." Ikenga's overlong and poorly informed analysis of Obama's political psyche includes the following:
My friends, despite what CNN and the rest are telling you, Barack Obama is nothing more than an old school African Colonial who is on his way to turning this country into one of the developing nations that you learn about on the National Geographic Channel.
Obama has been living on American soil for most of his adult life. Therefore, he has been able to masquerade as one who understands and believes in American democratic ideals. But he does not.
Barack Obama Sr. was an African colonial to the core; in his case, the apple did not fall far from the tree. All of the telltale signs of Obama's African colonialist attitudes are on full display in the book -- from his feigned antipathy towards Europeans to his view of African tribal associations as distracting elements that get in the way of "progress".
Ikenga concluded with a flourish: "Understand this: the African colonial who is given too much political power can only become one thing: a despot."
Limbaugh was taken with Ikenga's "special piece" and read most of it on the air on June 26, 2009.
LIMBAUGH: I share all this with you because it is -- she's nailed who the guy is. Americans look at Obama, the first black president, and they go "oh we're shedding some of our guilt here, look how enlightened we are, what a great country we are," when in fact we've elected someone who's more African in his roots than he is American, loves his father, who was a Marxist, and is behaving like an African colonial despot.
No, Wait: Obama The Anti-Colonial
In September 2010, Dinesh D'Souza published a book called The Roots Of Obama's Rage which argued (seriously) that the president inherited an "anti-colonial" mindset from his father, which explains Obama's actions in a way "that no rival theory can even begin to do." D'Souza's book was based largely on egregious and easily debunked falsehoods, and his theory courted denunciations from all corners as "pseudo-academic divorced-from-reality conspiratorial garbage" and "a brazen outburst of race-baiting."
For Rush, however, D'Souza's "anti-colonial" theory was "very consistent with the way I've analyzed" Obama:
LIMBAUGH: Dinesh D'Souza has a book out, and a cover story in Forbes magazine, what really motivates Obama is his father. And his father hated colonialist America, hated colonialist Great Britain, and had profound influence on Obama. And Obama's anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, and looks at the United States as colonialists. And I think this is very consistent with the way I've analyzed this guy from the get-go.