Outbreak: Limbaugh spreads Obama Derangement Syndrome


Since President Obama's inauguration, Rush Limbaugh has made numerous baseless and ominous claims warning of what will happen if the United States adopts either Obama's policies or those pushed by other progressives, often while invoking fears of rising socialism, communism, and tyranny.

In an April 5 article headlined "Anti-Obama talk worries some on right," Politico reported that some conservatives are concerned that -- in the words of conservative author David Horowitz -- some conservative commentators have "Obama Derangement Syndrome." Politico noted that in a piece for Frontpagemag.com, Horowitz "warns that the criticism of Obama among some conservatives has approached 'over-the-top hysteria.' " The fears are well-founded. As Media Matters for America President Eric Burns pointed out in the Politico article, "[I]n recent weeks, [Rush] Limbaugh made a number of ominous claims about the country's fate, including saying that the White House is '[p]erfectly timed, perfectly programmed, perfectly educated to destroy capitalism ... and they're in the process of doing it.' "

Media Matters has compiled a list of statements Limbaugh has made since President Obama's inauguration, including baseless and ominous claims warning of what will happen if the United States adopts either Obama's policies or those pushed by other progressives, often while invoking fears of rising socialism, communism, and tyranny.

Attacks on Obama's policies

  • On January 22, Limbaugh told Fox News host Sean Hannity that with the election of Obama, "I'm very much concerned that our greatness is going to be redefined in such a way that it won't be great, that we're just going to become average. We cannot have this large a government role in the private sector, with so many people thinking that just because they're Americans they're entitled to things -- that this guy is gonna be passing them out, and keep this country great and innovative, full of entrepreneurs. This -- these things concern me."
  • On February 12, Limbaugh "thank[ed]" Obama for "doing the job that everybody expects of you, taking every tradition and institution that defined this country's greatness and trying to rip it to shreds."
  • On February 13, Limbaugh stated: "I want the stimulus package to fail, 'cause if this thing for the first time ever does what it never has done before, we're even worse trouble. If it becomes established that the federal government and the federal government alone can manage the economy and take over the private sector, then forget it, folks -- I'm looking for property in New Zealand, and I'm gonna put my money in Singapore."
  • On February 27, Limbaugh said, "The dirty little secret ... is that every Republican in this country wants Obama to fail, but none of them have the guts to say so; I am willing to say it." He added, "We want him to fail because we want to preserve our country as we found it. We do not want to see a successful attack on capitalism."
  • On March 10, Limbaugh, noting others' view that the current economic crisis is "a war," declared: "[I]f Obama is our general, this war is lost."
  • As Burns noted, on March 18, Limbaugh claimed that "everyone in the White House" is "[p]erfectly timed, perfectly programmed, perfectly educated to destroy capitalism ... and they're in the process of doing it."
  • Limbaugh also stated on March 18 that "the big point about this AIG business" is to "poison as many minds in this country as possible to capitalism and to corporate America. This is exactly the kind of thing Barack Obama and his team love: everybody hating corporate America, hating Wall Street, hating CEOs, hating executives."
  • On March 20, Limbaugh claimed that "this administration [is] targeting individualism. This administration in the Democrat [sic] Party have an all-out assault on capitalism, individualism, and freedom." He later said that Obama "wants everyone in finance ... to be hated. He wants people in that business to be hated. He wants people in that business to be suspects," and asked, "You don't think this guy has a bug up his dress ... chip on his shoulder about wealthy people?"
  • On March 24, Limbaugh declared of the Obama administration: "They are focused on the destruction of the private sector. They -- this is an all-out assault on capitalism."
  • On March 25, while referring to the "tyrannical mob" that purportedly fomented the AIG bonus outrage, Limbaugh stated to a caller whose husband works for AIG: "You've got the president of the United States lined up against your family. That's what you have to realize. The president of the United States has seen to it that busloads of protestors -- if they find out where your husband and you live -- will show up on a bus tour to protest you."
  • Similarly on March 25, Limbaugh told a caller who said her husband works for either a company that received bailout money or a subsidiary of such a company: "People want families like yours to suffer. They want you to understand how hard life is for them, and that's why they support Obama. Because they think Obama's gonna get your mind right." He added, "Obama is gonna take away from you all these things, and you're gonna have to find out what it's like to send your kid to a rotten school. And you're gonna have to find out what it's like to have your husband never be home. And you're gonna have to find out what it's like for the rest of them. That's what Obama's gonna do. He's gonna equalize things. He's gonna level the playing field."
  • On March 26, while criticizing Obama's response to a question about "when can we expect the jobs that have been outsourced to other countries come back," Limbaugh stated that Obama "is a gutless wonder; he is seeking as much chaos and depression among average Americans as he can get."
  • Also on March 26, Limbaugh claimed, "On Capitol Hill, the treasury secretary [Timothy Geithner] testifies before [Rep.] Barney Frank's [D-MA] committee on how he intends to destroy our capitalist system with Barney Frank banging the gavel in support."
  • On March 27, Limbaugh stated of Obama's economic policies: "I have warned you and warned you again: If President Obama succeeds with this, our nation fails. Our nation is unalterably changed for generations."
  • On March 30, Limbaugh said of the "Obama takeover of the GM plant": "[U]nderstand it has nothing to do with a personal animus about Obama. It's about the fact that we fear -- 62 million Americans fear by virtue of those who voted against Obama -- we love and we fear the loss of our liberty, the loss of our freedom. We fear a government tyranny. We fear any form of a dictatorship. We fear the notion that government has all the answers and will do everything necessary to solve every problem for individuals. It scares us."
  • Later on March 30, Limbaugh stated that "[b]ased on what we've seen with General Motors and the banks, if [Obama] fails, America is saved," adding, "Barack Obama's policies and their failure is the only hope we've got to maintain the America of our founding."
  • On March 31, Limbaugh quoted novelist Ayn Rand saying, "The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters and intends to be the master" and said, "That is President Obama." He later added, "President Obama says we all need to sacrifice for whatever reason -- this reason or that reason. What it means is we need to pay more. We need to have less affluent lives. We need to dial down our prosperity. And we need to give the money to him, not a charity."
  • On April 1, Limbaugh claimed that if Obama "causes chaos and unemployment in a Republican state, that helps him. President Obama is about chaos. He's about misery. He is about people being unsatisfied and frightened of the future so that they will turn to him for the solution, not Governor [Rick] Perry [R-TX] or [Gov. Sarah] Palin [R-AK] or [Gov. Mark] Sanford [R-SC]."
  • On April 3, Limbaugh claimed, quoting Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, that Obama "wants to warranty your life." Limbaugh continued: "Anything that goes wrong, he will deal with, the government will fix. Anything, any injustice, any economic injustice, any kind on inequality, anything that's not fair that happens to you, the government will make it right. That's what he seeks." Limbaugh later added that "Krauthammer calls him the great leveler. This is -- basically, you have to destroy capitalism. You have to wipe it out and then you have to take everything from everybody you deem has too much, and then you have to redistribute. That's what he wants to do."

Attacks on Democrats, Democratic proposals

  • Also during his January 22 interview with Hannity, Limbaugh said, "What made this country great is the recognition by our founders that individuals are all created equal endowed with certain inalienable rights -- life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. If you look at the Democrat Party, are they for life?" Limbaugh then claimed that Democrats are "the party of abortion." He continued, "Liberty? These are the people that are trying to pass any law they can to restrict where you can go, what you can do when you get there, where you can eat, what you can eat, what you can smoke, when you can't smoke, what kind of baby you can have, all these things. Pursuit of happiness? I have yet to see a happy liberal. I have yet to see a happy Democrat. They're always angry about things."
  • On February 17, Limbaugh stated that "the very people trying to undermine the Constitution because it's an obstacle to them are the very people that we put in power lately, over the years, both at the state level -- some places, the city level -- and in some instances, at the United States government level, the federal level. The Constitution is under assault by people who just -- who find it restrictive and unpalatable." Limbaugh later asked, "How do you come to a compromise with people like that?" He continued: "Everybody said, 'We ought to compromise, Rush, bipartisanship, we got to all get along.' How do you do that? How do you compromise good versus evil? How do you compromise victory with defeat? As I said last week, should Jesus have made a deal with Lucifer? Should Jesus have made a deal with Satan?"
  • On February 19, Limbaugh likened Democrats to murderers, rapists, and "this Muslim guy" who "offed his wife's head." He told a caller that "liberal Democrats" "are gonna establish separate rules for themselves by which they live, such as there'll be a w-- able to not pay their taxes and work in government at high levels. They're not gonna be subject to whatever greenhouse gas laws there are." Seconds after, he said, "Forget Democrat. These people are liberal socialists now. They bear no resemblance to the Democrat Party of John Kennedy, for example. ... It's about power; it's about control. These people genuinely look out over this country from their lofty perch and they don't like what they see. ... At this point, I don't care about the why. They're not going to leave, they're trying to control it. At this point, the only thing is they must be stopped -- within, within the confines of our Constitution and the political arena of ideas. They must be stopped. I don't care why they see this country the way they see it. I don't care why a murderer does it. I don't care why a rapist does it. I don't care why this Muslim guy offed his wife's head."
  • On March 10, Limbaugh "expla[ined]" the Employee Free Choice Act by stating, "You are a small business employee. Your boss has a shop that is not union. After this legislation passes, one day Tony Soprano will walk in, with a lead pipe, and he will start beating people upside the head to vote to unionize, because you cannot vote in private." He went on: "Card check is a public vote on whether to unionize. So they send in a Soprano guy with a lead pipe aimed at your kneecaps, or your head, and they tell you it'd be a good idea if you participated in unionizing the shop. And then after they unionize the shop, they really couldn't care much less about your shop. All they want is your dues -- to be able to send it to the Democrat Party."
  • On March 18, Limbaugh stated of the threats AIG CEO Edward Liddy had been receiving over bonuses: "I'm sure these are deranged leftists from the Democrat blogs and so forth. Well, they're the ones that hate capitalists."
  • On March 19, Limbaugh compared Barney Frank to Joseph McCarthy by claiming that "McCarthy sat there on a committee, and was basically using the power of government to impugn -- legally or not, falsely or not -- private citizens. Barney Frank's doing the same thing, demanding their names be made public, that their bonuses be turned back."
  • Also on March 19, Limbaugh stated of the Obama administration, "I think as much of the capitalist system as they can destroy, they will. They will at least send it on a downward cycle, which creates the need for government." He added, "That's what this AIG business is about. This AIG business is about, 'Look it, these people are thieves.' "
  • Discussing the Employee Free Choice Act on March 19, Limbaugh returned to his earlier comparison and said, "Imagine this: You're working at your small business, and Tony Soprano walks in and -- got a lead pipe with him. And we're gonna unionize this place -- well, at least we're gonna vote on unionizing this place, and we're gonna -- we're gonna vote in public." He added, "Nobody wants their kneecaps busted. I'm speaking figuratively, of course. But this is the intimidation factor of publicly voting, not the secret ballot, which exists today."
  • On March 27, while referring to "predatory politicians," Limbaugh stated, "We keep hearing about toxic assets on Wall Street. ... The real toxicity is in the U.S. Congress. Barney Frank and [Sen.] Chris Dodd [D-CT] for example, just to name two, are toxic congressmen. They are toxic. They are poison members of our government."
  • On March 30, Limbaugh said: "Liberals, whether it's [Michigan Gov. Jennifer] Granholm or Obama, they want every one of us to make sacrifices. We have to suffer, and that's their version of life: suffering. We must all suffer. We must pay for the consequences of our prosperity, and the only way to fix things is with mass sacrifice, mass suffering." He continued: "Well, let me translate and define that for you. Mass sacrifice is tax increase upon tax increase upon tax increase upon loss of freedom upon loss of freedom. That's what they mean by sacrifice. You give up a little bit of you for the sake of the government growing large over you."
  • On March 31, Limbaugh claimed that a new piece of climate change legislation being drafted by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) will "finish this country off."
  • On April 2, while discussing the proposed Pay for Performance Act of 2009, Limbaugh referred to "leftists ... talking about fairness" as "slave masters," stating that "[t]hey are going to decide what's fair. And their definition of fairness is everybody being the same -- equalization of outcomes, which means, as I love to constantly say, spreading misery equally."
  • After a caller asked about "card check" on April 3, Limbaugh again used mafia imagery: "Tony Soprano standing in your business with a baseball bat or a lead pipe, you as the business owner are not going to try to convince your workers to a) throw him out and decertify, because even if you throw him out, Tony Soprano's waiting outside the door when the employees leave."

Invoking scenarios of socialism, communism, and tyranny

  • A March 12 entry (subscription required) on Limbaugh's website stated that Obama's policies are "about 'social justice.' " It continued: "His education plan is Maoist (no surprise given the Ayers/Klonsky influence), and he is otherwise a Bolshevik. I'm also quite sure, given his character traits, that he would be a Stalinist if he thought he could get away with it ... and he's working on that, too. I wonder what the country will look like in his 10th or 15th year as president?"
  • On March 16, while discussing New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's letter asking for names of AIG bonus recipients and negotiators, Limbaugh asked, "Is [Cuomo] working out of the Reichstag or what? Does Albany have a Reichstag building in it? Or maybe there's a Kremlin in it. "
  • On March 20, pointing to reports of AIG executives seeking private security to protect them at their homes, Limbaugh claimed that we "now have mob rule the way it started in Nazi Germany." Minutes later, Limbaugh stated of the AIG clawback vote in the House: "We are not Soviet Russia and they are not the Politburo, but you can't tell the difference some days in the way they act, in the way they speak."
  • On March 24, Limbaugh stated of wanting Obama to fail: "Our opposition to Obama is indeed based on N-O. We say no to socialism. We say no to government berating the private sector for the purpose of taking it over. What's negative about that?"
  • Also on March 24, Limbaugh claimed that Obama is "taking away freedom incrementally, each and every day, making another big grab at it," adding, "That's not hypocrisy, that's tyranny."
  • On March 26, while discussing the upcoming Earth Hour, a climate change awareness initiative asking people to turn their lights off for an hour, Limbaugh called Obama an "extremist, tyrannical president," stating that "this level of emotional derangement, it's been present in this country for a long time, but, look with the election of extremist, tyrannical president, look at all of it that he's brought to the surface."
  • On March 31, while noting support for Obama in a poll, Limbaugh said: "Maybe we have descended into a nation that sort of loves the concept of soft tyranny. Maybe we have a majority of Americans that actually like it or are willing to support it."
  • Also on March 31, Limbaugh compared the United States to Venezuela, stating, "Look where we are today -- the government has taken over two automobile companies, have expressed purpose in getting rid of SUVs and trucks. They have." He added, "Same thing's gonna happen with health care, 'cause you can't have a change without a crisis, without a villain. Obama has to always be portrayed as the hero. Phony outrage fueled by all the president's men, the drive-by media, will turn the country upside down. We are Venezuela in the early years."
  • Later in his March 31 show, while claiming that the Obama administration wants Americans to "sacrifice" on their car choices, Limbaugh compared the administration to the Nazi Gestapo. After stating his theory that Obama wants to jack up gas prices and force hybrids on everyone, Limbaugh said: "Politics is why you can't get a car you really, really like or why they don't make as many as you really, really like because they're being forced to keep the Gestapo off their back. They're forced to manufacture cars that people aren't buying to keep the Gestapo off their back."
  • On April 2, Limbaugh claimed that "Obama is engaged in a slow surrender of United States' best interests, our national interests" at the G-20 summit. He later added that "this is being reported as a slam dunk, grand slam. [Obama's] the star of the show. ... But the truth of the matter is the socialists at the G-20 have prevailed, and Obama is, for all intents and purposes, one of them. It's not just the $1 trillion they have pledged, the G-20 nations to the IMF and the World Bank to ostensibly wipe out third-world poverty -- worldwide poverty and stabilize the world economy. These clowns wouldn't have the first idea about stabilizing anything. They're about destabilization."
  • Later in the April 2 show, Limbaugh aired a clip of Obama discussing the results of the G-20 meeting: "We made enormous strides in committing ourselves to comprehensive reform of a failed regulatory system. We agreed to increase transparency and capital protections for financial institutions. We're extending supervision to all systemically important institutions, markets, and products, including hedge funds. We'll identify jurisdictions that failed to cooperate, including tax havens, and take action to defend our financial institutions." Limbaugh claimed that "[t]his is what [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy wanted. This is what Sarkozy threatened to walk out over. This is -- this was already -- tax havens, hedge funds." He continued: "They're going to raise taxes. They're going to go out and create new tax cheats in order to get money from them. They're going to spend and spend and spend and spend. This is a global socialist big-time maneuver."
  • Limbaugh described Obama saying at the G-20, "As president of the United States, president of the American people, I have to convince the American people that their self-interest is tied to yours" as "socialist gobbledygook." He stated, "This is all just getting so -- it's frustrating and it's so dead wrong. Our self-interest is tied to who? Who? I get up every day, and I've got to wait to figure out what somebody else in the world is doing before I decide whether or not what I'm doing is going to work? Whether it's good for me or my country, our self -- what? Our self-interest? That must -- alternative fuels -- so we've got to get rid of oil so somebody else can come up with a new green technology. What is -- all this is socialist gobbledygook. It sounds just brilliant. It sounds just unified and compassionate."
  • On April 3, after stating that liberals are never satisfied, Limbaugh compared advocates of gay marriage and opponents of SUVs to "the Soviets" and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: "They don't stop. It's like the Soviets. They didn't have four-year plans based on the service of term of their leader. They had forever plans, and if you had to, you know, take a year off, maybe a step back before you took two steps forward, then fine. But they had the objective, it was there, and whenever it got done was fine as long as you're always working for it." He continued, "Same thing with Hugo Chavez. Hugo Chavez taking over the banks now. Hugo Chavez nationalizing the oil industry. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. We're getting an early sign of what Chavez did by watching things happen here. But they just -- they don't stop. They advance these ideas, and this is why an electoral majority needs to happen in order to defeat these people."
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