Limbaugh Chokes, Fails Broadcasting 101

With a killer hurricane approaching fast, the right-wing provocateur chose to bash TV stations for their weather coverage and suggest to his listeners that the threat of Irma was being overblown. This was right before he fled his Florida studio. You would think the man never sat in front of a live microphone before.

Broadcasters in South Florida are doing what they always do when their communities are threatened by deadly storms. They are getting out the word, warning the public to hunker down or, better yet, get out of town.

Well, not all broadcasters in South Florida. There’s Rush Limbaugh and the mindless radio stations that broadcast his show.

On Tuesday, in a segment that has generated considerable blowback, the Great Bloviator, who broadcasts from Palm Beach, Fla., went on the air to suggest that televised hurricane warnings are fake news cooked up by TV stations and local retailers to panic the populace and sell more bottled water and batteries.

It’s another one of those conspiracy, Limbaugh said. “So, the media benefits with the panic with increased eyeballs, and the retailers benefit from the panic with increased sales, and the TV companies benefit because they’re getting advertising dollars from the businesses that are seeing all this attention from customers.”

You can listen to the entire segment or read the transcript on Media Matters, one of Limbaugh’s many critics.

True, newsrooms tend to hype up approaching storms with over-the-top graphics and breathless copy. Many a blizzard here in New York has failed to materialize.


But on Tuesday there was no danger of anyone overstating the danger of Irma.

Limbaugh went into his rant the day after the governor of the Florida, Rick Scott, declared a state-wide state of emergency, calling Irma a “major and life-threatening storm.”

And that, as every broadcaster other than perhaps Alex Jones knows, is the simple message that Limbaugh should have relayed to his listeners on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Instead, Limbaugh doubled down. On Wednesday, he opted for double talk. First, he said that the “the situation here in south Florida is dire,” then he went into a big rap about the unpredictability of hurricane tracks and how the experts really don‘t know where the thing will end up by week’s end.

At one point, he said “they claim” Irma has 175-mile-per-hour winds as it approaches St. Thomas. What? Was he implying that the National Weather Service may be exaggerating the power of the storm?

It’s the kind of talk that confuses people when there should be no confusion. When the storm is at the door, people need to take immediate action to protect their property and lives.

On the Wednesday broadcast, Limbaugh also repeated that TV stations’ principal interest in weather coverage is driving ratings and sales for advertisers — of shovels and chains now (can’t forget about his listeners in the North) as well as batteries and water. “It’s always been money,” he says. “It will always be money.”

What an idiot. This all comes just one week after TV broadcasters like Graham and Tegna blew out their entire commercial load for the better part of a week to cover the devastating flooding in the wake of Harvey. Others will do the same this week.

Limbaugh spewed more of this kind of nonsense on Thursday. He’s just like our president. He can’t admit he screwed up and then shut up about it. He portrays himself as a victim of the liberal media that mischaracterizes all he says. Once again, he whined, he’s “being slimed and smeared with fake news coverage.”

All this was prelude to his big announcement on Thursday —  that he was evacuating his Florida studio because of the storm, but would return to the airwaves next week “from parts unknown.” Mark Steyn sat in for him today.

It seems that Limbaugh can accept a scientific fact if it’s wider than Florida and possessing enough wind and water to decimate the entire state.

As Limbaugh now realizes, Irma is a killer.

It’s going to be a tough week in Florida and possibly in Georgia and South Carolina. How tough, we don’t know. But the folks in those states should prepare for the worst.

Limbaugh has demonstrated that he cannot be trusted with a microphone when a natural disaster looms. He failed as a broadcaster. He choked in the clutch and then ran for cover.

My advice for all his radio outlets without newsrooms in the path of Irma is to preempt his show next week and simulcast the storm coverage of the nearest network affiliated TV station where grown-up, gutsy broadcasters still work. You just may save a life or two.

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My condolences to the family of Tom Draper, who died Thursday after a pickup truck struck the bicycle he was riding near his home in Delaware the day before.

I did not know him well, but I’ve admired him and what he represented, the broadcaster who is actually of the community he serves. It’s the ideal, but a rarity is today’s corporate and consolidated industry.

He had just the one TV station, CBS affiliate WBOC Salisbury, Md., but it dominated the market through his personal nurturing of it.

“I’m absolutely involved in the marketplace as are all the people who work here,” Draper told me for a 2002 column I wrote about him when I was editor of B&C. “It’s really old-time broadcasting.”

The headline for that column summed it up perfectly: “The Joy of Broadcasting: Tom Draper Lives His Dream — and the FCC’s.”

Harry A. Jessell is editor of TVNewsCheck. He can be contacted at 973-701-1067 or here. You can read earlier columns here.

Comments (26)

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Wagner Pereira says:

September 8, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Sounds like Rush is related to @formergm and a few other posters with their wx hype comments.

Sean Smith says:

September 8, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Not only is Limbaugh an actor… he’s also a bad actor. Why anybody listens to him defies the imagination.

kendra campbell says:

September 8, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Stations carrying this lunatic should have their FCC licenses challenged for violating “public interest, convenience and necessity”.

    Julien Devereux says:

    September 9, 2017 at 11:08 am

    That’s not going to happen, since the stations that carry this shit, and the people who generate it, are on the side of the current administration, and the current administration is heavily indebted to the propaganda they’ve spun.

Darrell Brotherton says:

September 8, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Rush has been a huge contributor in the dumbing down of America for decades now….what a legacy! I had the misfortune of having to shoot promos for the clown in the 90’s. He insisted on smoking his cigars in studio and stinking up the entire station. What an ass.

John McElfresh says:

September 8, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Surprised, that he hasn’t been called Nazi yet. I think it is a requirement of true left extremist to do that.

    John Murray says:

    September 8, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    OK, dude. I’LL call him a Nazi….. As in, “I do NOTSEE Rush Limbaugh in South Florida because he hightailed his fat ass outta there.”

Amy Warren says:

September 8, 2017 at 6:52 pm

I enjoy listening to Limbaugh on free broadcast radio. I am not all “left” and I am not all “right.” He is a huge commercial success. He has given a voice to many who do not feel they have a voice with traditional media. He was doing well, and still is, long before cable developed both right and left leaning tv news channels. Did I say “news” channels? In actuality as any of you reading this know, those channels also have a lot of opinion. I have no problem with that but i feel the average viewer does not say “this is news” and “this is opinion.” And it ain’t all labeled. BTW any journalist who does news slanted either left or right flies in the face of what I thought Journalism schools always taught – be objective. Tell both sides. But that is yesterday’s media. Yes. Limbaugh is “full of crap” sometimes, but who isn’t. If I was Mr JesseLLL “Three L’s above” (and I had not previously noticed that) and perhaps the last one stands for the “L” word. Yipes. If I were Mr. J I’d be a little concerned that I unintentionally offended the staffs and ownership (notice the order there) of a lot of grass roots USA radio broadcast stations. Those stations do a lot of unquestionably good work in their communities DESPITE three hours a day of airing Limbaugh. I tell my significant other I listen to Limbaugh for entertainment value. He is a master showman, very successful, even with half his brain tied behind his back. And I believe his biggest fair is the return of the Fairness Doctrine. Gone since 1987? I don’t think that will happen since we have so many voices available these days. Blah blah blah. I’m too old for this.

r small says:

September 8, 2017 at 7:43 pm

I believe Al Franken summed him up some years ago in a book title.

    John Livingston says:

    September 8, 2017 at 11:10 pm

    Al Franken is a lying of a lying liar all his books are nothing but lies Al doesn’t know the truth. I have never been a Rush fan I have heard his show from time to time mainly on a road trip with my stepdad although I had my cd player with me so I tuned out Rush. Who like Al is do as I say not as I do.

Cheryl Thorne says:

September 9, 2017 at 8:36 am

Rush Limbaugh is the most successful radio personality EVER!!! Period the End..He forgot more about life and anything else than the rest of all you hacks combined..including Jessell!!! He spills more $$ every day than any of you will ever make..
He was mandated to leave and unlike most of what the prima donna little left wing snowflakes he would do ..he did not whine he obeyed the law and did not fight it..What a bunch of jerks you people are…Jessell ..why don’t you set up another platform just to bash the right….

    John Murray says:

    September 9, 2017 at 9:43 am

    “Rush Limbaugh is the most successful radio personality EVER!!! Period” Thank you Sean Spicer! Now go get a better-fitting suit! : )

Cheryl Thorne says:

September 9, 2017 at 8:37 am

and JD shaw..Russia and China are waiting for your move there!!!!

Snead Hearn says:

September 9, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Just watched weather report in Tampa (12 noon Sat. 9/9/17) and weathercaster mentions that weather people on the networks never had an idea where the hurricane would go now we are in trouble. Maybe it is the way Rush reported about weather and commercials because it seems to be playing out like he said….If you take the political opinion about Rush and President Trump by Mr. Jessell out of the article it does show that nature is unpredictable and observation and caution is always the best when it relates to weather.

Kevin Wright says:

September 9, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Rush Limbaugh, “with talent on load from God.” Perhaps he should pay God back for his (Rush’s) being an idiot.

Kevin Wright says:

September 9, 2017 at 3:08 pm

That’s “on loan from…” But then, if you’ve heard him through these many moons, you know the line well.

Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

September 9, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Great column, Mr. Jessell. However, I believe you give the clown Alex Jones too much credibility by calling him a “broadcaster.”

Cheryl Thorne says:

September 10, 2017 at 8:15 am

These clowns..and that’s what they are, in the weather departments at local stations ought to be audited and held accountable by local action groups in their communities.They are committing fraud and god forbid if I were a station owner I’d be researching possibilities for robots to replace them all..

    John Murray says:

    September 10, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I have an even better idea. Bots should be installed in Comments sections like this and they should be enabled to determine the IQ of the person proposing to post a comment before that comment is permitted to go live…. : )

Cheryl Thorne says:

September 10, 2017 at 8:17 am

Jessell..Why don’t you call Rush Limbaugh and pose your point so we can all listen to how you get intellectually embarrassed on the air..I dare you!!!!!

Kevin Benz says:

September 10, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Rush Limbaugh has done more to promote freedom and liberty period. Anyone who actually listens to his show knows this is BS.

Ryan Rodd says:

September 11, 2017 at 1:31 pm

You might check his transcripts, it is free because he did not say what you accuse him of saying..but when do facts matter?

Carl Schulman says:

September 12, 2017 at 11:10 am

When you can’t sit behind the mike and complain about the mess in Washington, because it’s YOUR BOYS in power now, you have to scramble to find enough red meat for your listeners. Stoking that right-wing rage 20 hours a week requires a lot of fuel.

John McElfresh says:

September 12, 2017 at 11:12 am

Hey Harry, what did you do between 1976 and 1997? Check out old Harry’s bio, those missing years must have been spent practicing biased reporting and writing. This whole article is BS.

Steve Ingram says:

September 13, 2017 at 8:55 am

Rush Limbaugh stands for the worst of what is destroying our democracy. He is a liar and a fraud. He is THE source for much of the “fake news” that is generated to the extreme right wing minority in this country.

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September 24, 2017 at 9:16 pm

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