Mr. Neal Shapiro
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Dear Mr. Shapiro:
I am writing to you today to ask that NBC not feature conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh as a political commentator during election night coverage, as your network did in 2002.
As you should know, Limbaugh has a track record of using extreme, hateful speech that has no place in civil discourse. To pick just a few examples from this year, as documented by Media Matters for America: Limbaugh compared the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib to a fraternity prank, telling America and an international audience on the taxpayer-funded American Forces Radio and Television Service that the torture was a "brilliant maneuver" and that the photos were "good old American pornography." Limbaugh further claimed that "the reaction to the stupid torture is an example of the feminization of this country." He has also labeled Senator John Kerry a "stupid S.O.B." and a "gigolo."
Limbaugh's racist commentary also makes him unsuitable for an appearance on your network. Just last month, Limbaugh, commenting on Reverend Jesse Jackson joining the Kerry campaign, stated: "The Kerry campaign has finally gotten a chocolate chip," sparking outrage in the African American community. On March 26, Limbaugh said: "Hugo, Cesar -- whatever. A Chavez is a Chavez. We've always had problems with them." The talk show host also claimed: "[T]ruce is an old Arabic word. Goes way, way back in Islamic-Arabic culture, and it means, 'We will get you later.'"
Limbaugh's sexist commentary is beyond the pale as well. Last spring, Limbaugh said that women "actually wish" for sexual harassment. Limbaugh shared with listeners his "pet name" for the National Organization for Women (NOW): "National Association of Gals" (his acronym: "NAG"), claiming that the "militant feminists" who make up the "NAGs" "aren't determining who wins elections. White men are." Limbaugh also warned that with "new female police chiefs ... we can watch out for some naked pyramids," a crude reference to Abu Ghraib following the appointment of four women as chiefs of police in four major U.S. cities.
Limbaugh has a reckless disregard for facts and the truth. For example, Limbaugh falsely stated that the 9-11 Commission report confirmed Vice President Dick Cheney's claim that September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta may have met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in April 2001. As you know, the report said this meeting did not occur. Limbaugh was wrong about the minimum wage on his April 29 and August 12 shows, and he mischaracterized the U.S. fiscal shortfall on July 8.
Limbaugh has also claimed that in reference to Iraq, "[President George W.] Bush never said the words 'imminent threat.' That's another myth that gets perpetuated by Kerry and picked up by the mainstream press. Bush never said there was an imminent threat. He wanted to go. It was a mounting threat. He wanted to get in there before it became an imminent threat. ... Now, Bush has never -- Bush hasn't used the word 'imminent' ever, and neither has Cheney." But Bush did call Iraq an "urgent threat"; Cheney called Iraq a "mortal threat"; and other senior White House officials assented (on October 16, 2002 and January 26, 2003) when reporters applied the "imminent threat" characterization. And Limbaugh's claim that AIDS "hasn't made that jump to the heterosexual community ... other than in Africa [where] ... it's promiscuity that ... spreads this," is clearly false -- and jaw-dropping.
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and the conservative point of view should be represented in the media. There are plenty of conservative pundits who make tempered, intellectually honest arguments. I take issue, however, with Limbaugh's dishonesty and vitriol. His lies and hate speech have no place on your network and our public airwaves.
I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter before Election Day.
President and CEO
Media Matters for America