Fox News' Greta Van Susteren sat down with Rush Limbaugh for the full hour of her program last night, telling her viewers that she had secured a "rare interview" with the conservative talk radio host. Van Susteren's interrogation of Rush was anything but harsh and never touched on any of Limbaugh's ongoing contractual and advertiser problems -- pretty much what you'd expect from a Fox News interview. Her characterization of the interview as "rare," however, wasn't quite accurate. In the past, Limbaugh has indeed been reticent to appear on cable news and even boasted that any platform other than his own was a waste of his time. Something has changed: Limbaugh's July 30 interview with Van Susteren marked the third time Rush has appeared on Fox News this month.
That's a dramatic shift from Limbaugh's longstanding disregard for TV appearances. In July 2010, a caller to Rush's radio show asked him why he doesn't spend more time on TV, and Rush said it was beneath him: "I don't want to go on television shows with one-tenth the audience the radio show has, and I don't like talking with people who don't know what they're talking about and get into contrived arguments and debates where nothing is solved."
He continued in that same vein:
LIMBAUGH: I'm not going to rely on some other show or another TV network or whatever informing you. That's my job. So it's a purely psychological thing. That's why I joke around: "If I haven't said it, it hasn't been said. If I don't talk about it, it's not worth you knowing it." Plain and simple. It's not meant as an insult to anybody. In fact, it's a little inside baseball. How do I approach. This how do I do it? And that's all I meant by it. I was not insulting anybody else who does this, but I was being honest. Why should I go on a show that has 400,000 viewers? I've got that many at the corner of 59th and Madison in New York every day. Why should I waste my time on any of these shows? Plus I don't want to.
And yet, Rush has logged three Fox News interviews over the last month: On The Record on July 30 (part two of the interview will air on August 2), The Five on July 10, and Fox & Friends on July 2. A quick search of Nexis transcripts and some furious Googling showed that Rush's previous three Fox News interviews (all with Van Susteren) were spread across the previous three years, on December 14, 2011, May 26, 2011, and September 27, 2010.
It's hard to see how this shift in media strategy isn't linked to Limbaugh's troubles with Cumulus Media and their reported plans to drop his show from their 40-plus radio stations at the end of the year. The Cumulus trouble arose from the ongoing advertiser boycott Limbaugh is dealing with after his sexist and gratuitous attacks on Sandra Fluke in early 2012. Rush insists that the Cumulus fracas is no big deal and his show is doing just fine. But he's out there doing media hits on a platform that isn't his own -- a public relations move that, until recently, he insisted was demeaning and unnecessary.