Limbaugh defended Cunningham's use of Obama's middle name

››› ››› ANNE SMITH

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh defended Bill Cunningham's comments at a rally for Sen. John McCain in which Cunningham repeatedly referred to Sen. Barack Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama." Limbaugh reacted to the incident, saying, "Now, may I ask a simple question? Is that his name? It is. So why can't it be used?"

On the February 26 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, host Rush Limbaugh defended comments made by Cincinnati radio talk-show host Bill Cunningham at a rally for Sen. John McCain in which Cunningham repeatedly referred to Sen. Barack Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama." McCain subsequently denounced Cunningham's comments. Limbaugh reacted to the incident, saying, "Now, may I ask a simple question? Is that his [Obama's] name? It is. So why can't it be used?" He said: "[W]hat if the Democrats start talking about John Sidney McCain? Is somebody going to say, 'We're not going to tolerate that. ... [T]hat's the kind of disparaging reference to my opponent we're not going to put up with'? His middle name is Hussein. 'C'mon, Rush. You know they're trying to use it in a disparaging way.' How? Because Saddam Hussein? Because it's a -- it's an Arabic name? What? It's his name."

Limbaugh later stated: "This Hussein business -- that could backfire. I mean, it's so charged that it's -- it's almost one of those things that could arouse sympathy for Obama, but regardless, I can't believe that somebody's name is off limits. I just can't believe it."

Returning to the subject later in the program, Limbaugh said, "I have a question about this business that we can't use Barack Hussein Obama or that if somebody in McCain's camp does, McCain's gonna apologize for it and, you know, get rid of this disparaging term. If Obama is given a free pass because of his father's heritage -- you know, one generation removed. I mean, if he's given a pass for that, then a question: Are all white Americans going to continue to be held responsible for their alleged racist forebears, multiple generations removed?"

Limbaugh also defended Cunningham's comments on the February 27 edition of his show and asserted that "we're getting dangerously close here to where the liberals are telling us what we can and can't say." He went on to say that "Senator McCain should start pretending that liberal Democrats are conservative Republicans, and then he can cuss them out and throw them under his bus. Because if anybody needs to be thrown under his bus, it's liberal Democrats."

On the February 28 edition of his show, discussing media coverage of his comments, Limbaugh asserted: "Now, the drive-bys are insinuating that I think calling Obama by his middle name to highlight something Muslim is legitimate. Wrong again. I have never said -- all I said was, 'We're going to let these guys tell us what we can't say?' We can't -- you know, Obama doesn't like his middle name being used, so we can't use it? What are we going to call him? Barack Fitzgerald Obama? Barack Earl Obama? What, are we going to give him some other middle name?" He later added: "But somehow, when Obama doesn't want his middle name used or if he doesn't want to be called a liberal, then our guys -- 'OK, OK, fine, fine, whatever you want.' So defensive and so afraid. That's what I pointed out. I've never said he's a Muslim." Later on in the program, he stated: "Really, on what basis involving anything involving me here is this a smear or is this ugly? All I said was to Senator McCain, 'You know, it'd be nice if you'd start treating liberal Democrats the way you treat some conservative Republicans. Treat them as the enemy, throw them under your bus.' "

From the February 26 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: We never see Republicans on TV attacking liberals the way we are constantly attacked. We just don't do it. We're not -- we don't have warriors. We got -- we have some. They're just not in elected office, at least federally. I think there's some -- some effervescence out there, if you will, in the warrior class in the state legislatures, governors' mansions, and this sort of thing. But it is an excellent point, and here is an illustration of what I'm talking about.

McCain's in Cincinnati. MSNBC is reporting that a McCain supporter repeated -- repeatedly calls Barack Obama "Barack Hussein Obama." The guy -- this supporter -- I think it was a Cincinnati talk-show host, but I'm not sure -- was on the mic at a McCain rally, kept referring to Obama as Barack Hussein Obama.

Now, may I ask a simple question? Is that his name? It is. So why can't it be used? Because McCain apologized for this. McCain went out there after the event was over and virtually apologized and said that kind of disparaging reference to his opponent is not the way he runs his campaign. He said he accepts full responsibility for it because his campaign set up the event, but he didn't know that the talk show host was going to be speaking.

So it's Barack Hussein Obama. Now, we don't make a big deal out of it here, but other people do, and it happened at a McCain rally, and McCain went out there -- "it's -- it's -- I'm sorry. It's uncalled for. It's uncalled for in American politics. It just ain't gonna happen. I take full responsibility, although he did it. I didn't even know he was going to be here."

Now, what if McCain's middle name was Adolf instead of Sidney? What -- his name is Sidney. What if Obama -- what if the Democrats start talking about John Sidney McCain? Is somebody going to say, "We're not going to tolerate that. That's -- that's -- that's -- that's -- that's the kind of disparaging reference to my opponent we're not going to put up with"? His middle name is Hussein. "C'mon, Rush. You know they're trying to use it in a disparaging way." How? Because Saddam Hussein? Because it's a -- it's an Arabic name? What? It's his name.

As I say, we don't make a big deal out of it here, but this just illustrates the fact we're not even going to do that. And in fact, if somebody does call him Hussein -- because we're going to apologize for it because it's disparaging. So we're going into this defensively.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: OK, so his name is off limits. Can't use Hussein. You can't call him a liberal. What other facts about Obama are we not going to be allowed to talk about? That's right -- can't talk about his ears either, because when Maureen Dowd made some comment about his ears, he went straight into the crowd and said, "I'm very sensitive about my ears." She said, "We're trying to toughen you up." Well, it hasn't worked. Can't use the name Hussein, can't call him a liberal.

And this is the kind of thing this -- look, it's brilliant on Obama's part. He's setting the rules and everybody's going to abide by them. Republican National Committee -- "OK, we can't call him a liberal because he's going to -- he's going to tear into us. We don't want him tearing into us." Well, I don't know how you're going to characterize his policies if you don't call him a liberal.

And by the way, what's so bad about being a liberal? How come none of these liberals want to be called liberals? See, Obama's no different than any of the rest of them, folks. No different at all. Nothing new here. The only thing new is the Democrats have now made it official that their guiding principle is, "America sucks." But they have to mask who they are, they have to disguise themselves, camouflage themselves -- whatever. You call them a liberal, and it's a personal attack.

And so Obama's now said liberal's off limits, can't do it. What will the Republicans do? Your guess is as good as mine, but I hope they don't shy away from that. This Hussein business -- that could backfire. I mean, it's so charged that it's -- it's almost one of those things that could arouse sympathy for Obama, but regardless, I can't believe that somebody's name is off limits. I just can't believe it.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: Now, I have a question about this business that we can't use Barack Hussein Obama or that if somebody in McCain's camp does, McCain's gonna apologize for it and, you know, get rid of this disparaging term. If Obama is given a free pass because of his father's heritage -- you know, one generation removed. I mean, if he's given a pass for that, then a question: Are all white Americans going to continue to be held responsible for their alleged racist forebears, multiple generations removed? Of course. Why ask? It's a stupid question. Of course they are.

But you could say, "OK. Obama, you don't want the name of Hussein used, we'll give you a pass, if black America gives all of us a pass." I mean, isn't -- isn't that what the primary reason that a lot of white Americans want Barack Obama because Barack Obama offers absolution for sins that they aren't even responsible for?

Well, that -- I mean, that's just the whole "Magic Negro" concept, that white people vote for him not knowing what he stands for, don't care what the stands for, 'cause it makes them feel like they're getting rid of their racial sins and that, you know, discrimination, racism they never even committed.

So it's, it's -- this -- this is a classic example, by the way. You know, I, I said, anybody think -- somebody called here and, and asked if, "Well, if Obama is actually elected president, is it -- is it gonna end racism in America?" Oh. It's gonna get even better. It's gonna expand. It is -- the race business will become more heated than ever before. You wait, folks. I know what I'm talking about here. You know that and I know that.

From the February 27 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: I'm sure you've all heard -- yesterday, when I talked about this, I did not know that it was Bill Cunningham who was the talk-show host in Cincinnati who had warmed up the audience for McCain. And then, of course, he kept talking about -- I guess he mentioned three times Barack Hussein Obama. And McCain claimed after the -- Cunningham finished, McCain did his remarks, the rally. And after that, when he was told what happened, he immediately apologized, threw Cunningham under the Straight Talk Express and disavowed it, and said this kind of stuff's not going to happen in his campaign anymore because Obama and Hillary are honorable people.

Here is -- here's a little of what Cunningham said in Cincinnati yesterday, warming up the crowd. And by the way, Cunningham says, "What'd they ask me to do? They wanted me to warm up the crowd, go out and get people ready for McCain" -- you know, McCain's trying to build his bona fides with conservatives. They hire this conservative talk-show host to go out and warm up the crown, and this is what Bill Cunningham said:

CUNNINGHAM [audio clip]: At some point in the near future, the media -- the stooges from The New York Times; CBS, the Clinton Broadcasting System; NBC, the Nobody But Clinton network; the All Bill Clinton channel, ABC; and the Clinton News Network at some point is going to peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama. That day will come. At some point, the media will quit taking sides in this thing and maybe start covering Barack Hussein Obama the same way they cover Bush, the same way they cover Cheney, and the same way they cover every Republican. I'll look forward to that day when truth comes. I look forward to that.

LIMBAUGH: OK. So in that bite, Cunningham says "Barack Hussein Obama" twice. There have since been a number of people saying this is not a wise thing to do. Now, I commented on it yesterday -- we don't harp on his name on this program for a host of reasons. Even Karl Rove has come out today and said, "Don't do this. It's not -- it's not productive. It's not going to accomplish anything."

It's -- you know, my reaction is, we're getting dangerously close here to where the liberals are telling us what we can and can't say. We can't use the guy's name. We also cannot call him a liberal. He says he doesn't want to be called a liberal. Says he's not -- we can't call him a liberal. And we're not supposed to talk about his ties with [Nation of Islam leader Louis] Farrakhan, at least -- not his ties, but Farrakhan endorsing him. And we're not supposed to really talk much about his pastor. We're not supposed to talk -- so, with the Republican National Committee writing all these memos saying, "Eh, we gotta be careful how we go after Barack Obama because we don't want to be perceived as racist or sexist and what have you."

So this is why -- I'm going to repeat myself -- this is why I have wanted Mrs. Clinton to stay viable and in this, because Obama needs to be bloodied up a little politically, and it's clear that our side isn't going to do it. And I admit, it's gonna be tough. Because I said last hour, he's not leading a campaign. He doesn't have a bunch of people that are supporting him because of his stand on the issues, even though his stand on the issues is discernable. That's not why they support him. What he's got is a movement going on. He's got, maybe, exaggerating, saying it's a cult, but I mean, that makes the point -- he's got people that don't care.

Look, I saw this. I saw this with Perot back in 1992. The people that were following Ross Perot early did not care to hear anything negative. It didn't register; bounced right off. They thought that people were trying to do unfair damage to their guy. It's gonna be the same thing here with Obama. And the Republicans are gonna have to be careful about making fun of Obama's supporters, too, 'cause that's not gonna drive them away. It's gonna be a delicate balancing act because all the restrictions now that are in place. Can't call him Barack Hussein Obama, can't use his real name. Can't we call him BHO. You know, presidents have initials. W is W, but JFK, RFK. We refer to Reagan as President Reagan. Jimmy Carter, JEC -- we didn't call him Jimmy early on. But sometimes presidents are known by their three initials. BHO. Or are we going to call him BO. Don't think we're going to do that. I don't think the popular vernacular -- if he becomes president, we're gonna -- we're not going to say, "BO! BO!" No, we'll say Barack. Or Obama.

But we're being told can't use Hussein, being told we can't talk about him being a liberal.

But I want to get Bill Cunningham off the hook here a little bit. Bill, apparently you're not to blame for this. I am. On CNN, The Situation Room last night, Wolf Blitzer is talking to John King, a reporter-ette and contributor -- or reporter -- contributor-ette Gloria Borger. John King said, "You know, they knew they were taking a risk by having Cunningham there, but they wanted him on board the campaign. And now they say that the risk backfired. Senator McCain obviously having to come out, it's embarrassing. He wanted to talk about Iraq and the economy today, instead he had to repudiate one of his own supporters."

[begin audio clip]

BORGER: I think John McCain would take every conservative radio talk-show host he can get right now on his campaign, given where Rush Limbaugh stands on him. So, this fellow is a conservative radio talk-show host, except he ended up embarrassing the campaign and now, of course, he's disowned the campaign completely, so this is something -- if they want to be ready for primetime, they gotta watch out for these things.

BLITZER: But you know what? I've known John McCain for a long time, and it does underscore that he is a decent, decent person to so quickly go out and repudiate what this conservative radio talk-show host had to say. He didn't mince any words, saying he doesn't want to run a campaign against either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama using this kind of language.

[end audio clip]

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, there's a translation for that, and that is that my criticism forced McCain to associate with talk-radio hosts, and it got him in trouble. But still, he's a great guy now because he threw a talk-radio host under the bus. So, people like me -- I made McCain's camp go out and try to get the support of a talk-show host. They got the support of a talk-show host, and they threw the talk-show host under the bus. So this is -- I translate what CNN was saying.

Here's, by the way, what McCain said. He rushed to the microphones to apologize after his rally yesterday.

McCAIN [audio clip]: I regret any comments that may be made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans. We just have strong philosophical differences. And so I want to disassociate myself from any disparaging remarks that may have been said about -- I will take responsibility in any offense that was inflicted. I apologize for -- I will take that responsibility. Whatever suggestion was made that was in any way disparaging to the integrity, character, honesty of either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton was wrong, and I condemn it. And if I have any responsibility, I will take responsibility, and I apologize for it.

LIMBAUGH: Now, I haven't heard everything Bill Cunningham said, but I don't think he's -- he was probably more disparaging of the drive-bys than he was of Obama. See, all he did was, "Here's Obama middle name." Now, I didn't -- again, I didn't hear the whole thing, but I'm wondering if McCain heard what he said either. I know McCain wasn't there when he said it, I know McCain wasn't there when he said it, but I'm wondering if McCain got an accurate portrayal of what he said.

You know, Rob Portman, who is director OMB, former congressman from Ohio -- and I know Rob Portman and his wife, and they are great people. And Portman was the guy who went out and got Cunningham and asked him to do this, from what I understand.

One more bite because McCain also had said yesterday he'd never met Cunningham, but Cunningham was on CNN's Election Center last night and said he has met McCain. John Roberts said to Cunningham, "Have you ever met John McCain?"

[begin audio clip]

CUNNINGHAM: Twice.

ROBERTS: He said he's never met you.

CUNNINGHAM: He's got a bad memory.

ROBERTS: When did you meet him?

CUNNINGHAM: I met him at the home of Bob Ryan, who is a friend of mine in Cincinnati, and I met him at the Kentwood Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the presence of [former] Senator Mike DeWine. I met him twice. His people called me specifically. His people said, "You're the guy we want because you've met John." But I'm not going to meet him again. I've had it up to here with McCain. He's off the list. I'm joining Ann Coulter in supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton.

[end audio clip]

LIMBAUGH: He also said that McCain threw him under the Straight Talk Express. So anyway, it just keeps on. It just keeps on.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, yeah. That Cunningham guy. It's so awful what he said. So awful. I mean, daring to speak Obama's full name? Who does Cunningham think he is? And then, after making that mistake, Cunningham then had the audacity to say that Obama is tied to the Chicago political machine. How over the top was that? We can't have this in the Republican Party. If we -- I mean, you can't -- we can't go anywhere if we're going to name our candidates, our opponents. If we can't talk about their names, if we can't talk about the fact that they're part of the Chicago political machine.

You know, I think Senator McCain would be well-advised -- and far be it from me to -- advice comes from me, he's not going to accept it, but -- Senator McCain should start pretending that liberal Democrats are conservative Republicans, and then he can cuss them out and throw them under his bus. Because if anybody needs to be thrown under his bus, it's liberal Democrats.

Remember, ladies and gentlemen, there was a campaign event -- and I don't know, this might have been back in South Carolina. I forget the state. But there was a woman in the audience talking about Hillary when McCain was on the stage. And the woman called Hillary a bitch, do you remember this? And McCain chuckled. I think the woman said, "How we gonna beat the B-I-itch?" Said it right in front of McCain. I don't think he denounced this babe in the audience, but he denounces Cunningham, who he didn't even hear, for saying Obama's middle name.

So, I don't know. I just -- you just got to stop accepting the premises of the left, folks. And I'll tell you, this business of going out of your way to please the drive-by media and throwing your own supporters under the bus. I mean, if McCain was unhappy with what Cunningham said, there's a better way of dealing with this than to go out and throw him under the bus this way. There's a better way of dealing with it.

[impersonating McCain] "I didn't hear it. So I can't say yet. I'm gonna find out. I'm gonna find out what we said, I'm gonna find out who asked this guy, and I'm gonna talk to this guy. And then I'll get back to you."

But no. Throw the guy under the bus.

From the February 28 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: The drive-by media continues to misreport either by design or by accident this whole controversy over Obama's middle name and me. Twice now, in drive-by coverage, they've misconstrued -- it's either laziness or malice, and perhaps both -- the context of what I have said. The first time was when The New York Times smeared McCain on this lobbyist and the sex angle. What the drive-bys said that conservatives rallied to McCain, even Rush Limbaugh. They were all -- I mean, I don't care where you go, whatever cable network you went to, whatever newspaper you opened up: "Limbaugh, fellow conservatives rally to McCain."

I never addressed support or non-support for McCain. I was talking about the issue on the table, which is, this is what happens when conservatives seek acceptance from liberals, be they in the Democrat [sic] Party or be they in the drive-by media. They're out to savage us, they're out to destroy us. They're not out to get along with us, as we seem to be trying to do with them. And it was just evidence. So I suggested to Senator McCain, maybe the lesson to learn here is who your real friends are.

Likewise with this Hussein name business. If I've read it once today, I've read it twice that I constantly refer to Obama using his middle name. Which I don't. And in fact, the last two days, I've made a point of saying we don't make a big deal out of it here because frankly, there are other ways of going about dealing with Obama that are gonna require far more finesse than just throwing out his middle name, or whatever you want to try to imply by using his middle name. And one of the things I addressed in great detail yesterday was, we're dealing here with people who are attached to a candidate, in this case Obama, on the basis of faith. Not knowledge, not policy, not ideas -- faith. You know how tough it is to get people to give up their faith. He's leading a movement here, he's not running a political campaign. And so attacking his candidacy in the traditional ways of going about an opposing campaign -- at some point you'll have to do that, but in addition to that, you're gonna have to find a way to separate some of these faithful followers from him. And the more you criticize Obama, the stronger the attachment the faithful are gonna have to him. It's human nature. I made it plain.

Now, the drive-bys are insinuating that I think calling Obama by his middle name to highlight something Muslim is legitimate. Wrong again. I have never said -- all I said was, "We're going to let these guys tell us what we can't say?" We can't -- you know, Obama doesn't like his middle name being used, so we can't use it? What are we going to call him? Barack Fitzgerald Obama? Barack Earl Obama? What, are we going to give him some other middle name? Are we supposed to -- we --

You know, I can call the drive-bys every day and say, "You know, I really wish you wouldn't say this about me." Isn't gonna matter. But somehow, when Obama doesn't want his middle name used or if he doesn't want to be called a liberal, then our guys -- "OK, OK, fine, fine, whatever you want." So defensive and so afraid. That's what I pointed out. I've never said he's a Muslim. Other kooks out there doing that. I'm not wasting my time with that. Only an idiot would insinuate I'm out there trying to make a connection between Obama and some radical Islamic fact -- faction.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: Last night on CNN's Election Center, the drive-bys -- I discussed this in the last hour -- the drive-bys using Obama's middle name, Hussein -- using this flap to mischaracterize me and insulate Obama from me. Campbell Brown and The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel -- Hurricane Katrina vanden Heuvel -- what? What did you -- you don't like Campbell Brown? Dawn does not -- let it be known: Dawn does not like Campbell Brown. Do you know she married some big-time Republican? No, no -- she ma-- yeah, that's right. She married Dan Senor -- or Senor. Was -- what's his name -- [Paul] Bremer's spokesman over there in Iraq when Bremer was running the show shortly after we ousted Saddam. Can't say his last name. Saddam al-Tikriti. But we can't use Saddam's last name. We can't use Obama's middle name.

Anyway, here's the exchange.

[begin audio clip]

BROWN: Listen to Rush Limbaugh.

LIMBAUGH [audio clip]: Senator McCain should start pretending that liberal Democrats are conservative Republicans, and then he can cuss them out and throw them under his bus. [audio break] If McCain was unhappy with what Cunningham said, there's a better way of dealing with this than to throw him under the bus this way. There's a better way of dealing with it.

BROWN: Does McCain still have a conservative problem?

VANDEN HEUVEL: What's delicious is to see Rush Limbaugh and these right-wing talk-radio hosts in a tizzy. The key thing here is we're going to see a lot of surrogate smears in this campaign, and this prefigures one of the ugliest elections we may see.

[end audio clip]

LIMBAUGH: Really, on what basis involving anything involving me here is this a smear or is this ugly? All I said was to Senator McCain, "You know, it'd be nice if you'd start treating liberal Democrats the way you treat some conservative Republicans. Treat them as the enemy, throw them under your bus."

Network/Outlet
Premiere Radio Networks
Person
Rush Limbaugh
Show/Publication
The Rush Limbaugh Show
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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