Brian Williams, who replaced Tom Brokaw as anchor and managing editor of NBC's Nightly News on December 2, 2004, said in an interview with C-SPAN founder, president, and CEO Brian Lamb: "it's my duty to listen to [nationally syndicated radio host] Rush" Limbaugh and that "Rush has actually yet to get the credit he is due."
From the December 26, 2004, interview:
WILLIAMS: I do listen to Rush. I listen to it from a radio in my office, or depending on my day, if I'm in the car, I will listen to Rush. And he will tell you I've been listening for years. I think it's my duty to listen to Rush. I think Rush has actually yet to get the credit he is due, because his audience for so many years felt they were in the wilderness of this country. No one was talking to them.
Rush said to millions of Americans, you have a home. Come with me. For three hours a day you can listen and hear the like-minded calling in from across the country, and I'll read to you things perhaps you didn't see that are out there. I think Rush gave birth to the FOX News Channel. I think Rush helped to give birth to a movement. I think he played his part in the Contract with America. So I hope he gets his due as a broadcaster.
Here are some examples of Limbaugh's commentary, for which Williams apparently thinks Limbaugh has "yet to get the credit he is due." He has:
- compared U.S. guards' torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison to a fraternity prank, saying the guards were "having a good time," "blow[ing] some steam off" [May 5, 2004];
- claimed that women "actually wish" for sexual harassment, and said he "laughed [him]self to tears" when Media Matters for America documented that remark and other sexist remarks he has made [April 26, 2004; May 5, 2004];
- said: "Hugo, Cesar -- whatever. A Chavez is a Chavez. We've always had problems with them." [March 26, 2004];
- stated, when African American Reverend Jesse Jackson joined Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign: "The Kerry campaign has finally gotten a chocolate chip"; University of Maryland political science professor Ronald Walters described Limbaugh's comment as a "backhanded racist remark" [September 29, 2004];
- said: "John Kerry really doesn't think 3,000 Americans dead in one day is that big a deal" [October 11, 2004]; and
- said Democrats believe "the more deaths in Iraq the better" [December 9, 2004].
Before his promotion, Williams hosted several other NBC news programs, including The News with Brian Williams on MSNBC and CNBC, where Limbaugh was a frequent guest. On September 24, 2002, Williams introduced a News segment on a speech made by former Vice President Al Gore by observing: "[O]ur friend Rush Limbaugh told his radio listeners he almost stayed home from work, not due to any health reasons, but because he was so livid at the speech given yesterday by former Vice President Al Gore criticizing the Bush administration's apparent march to war in Iraq." Williams asked, "Is it un-American to speak out against the Bush plan to take on Iraq? Is it democratic to ridicule and threaten those who do?"
Washington Post columnist and Brookings Institution senior fellow E.J. Dionne Jr. responded on the September 28, 2002, edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
Since when do we debate that it's un-American to take on a president? Sure, that subject surely didn't come up during the Clinton scandals when people were trashing Clinton's foreign policy all the time. ... Have you ever seen the news report, "Jane Fonda couldn't get out of bed because she was so mad about former Vice President Nixon's speech," or "Phil Donahue couldn't get out of bed because he was so mad about President Bush's speech?" ... We are told all the time it is the liberal media, and here Rush Limbaugh not being able to get out of bed supersedes what Al Gore says. If you -- if you want to have Rush Limbaugh on trashing Al Gore afterward, fine. Report the news. Report what he said, and then criticize him.
Limbaugh's remarks downplaying, dismissing, and even endorsing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners prompted Media Matters to create an online petition that calls for Limbaugh's removal from the taxpayer-funded American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS); more than 47,000 people have signed the petition. On June 14, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for fairness and balance on AFRTS. Limbaugh is presently the sole politically partisan host featured on the service's talk channel.