Give 'em enough rope

From Rush to Newt to Bob Dornan to Ari Fleischer, the right wing's most outrageous (and hateful) comments of the past decade. An exclusive excerpt from "Take Them at Their Words: Shocking, Amusing and Baffling Quotations From the GOP and Their Friends, 1994-2004."

Salon Staff
June 10, 2004 12:00AM (UTC)

In the wake of the "Republican revolution" of 1994, the new GOP leaders in Congress made Rush Limbaugh an honorary congressman, and began to meet once a month with sympathetic talk-radio hosts from all over the country. As Chicago writer Bruce J. Miller noticed in his travels through the Midwest, the airwaves of the '90s were suddenly full of Limbaugh and his imitators, broadcasting radical-right rhetoric over many of the most powerful stations in the country. As Miller puts it, "The public airwaves had been annexed."

Miller and his co-author, Diana Maio, have spent much of the last decade gathering more than 1,000 quotes from prominent Republicans and right-wing commentators, covering every hot-button issue of the day. These quotes come not merely from talk radio, but also magazines, newspapers, legislative debates, TV shows and even the Congressional Record. The result of their labors is the new book "Take Them at Their Words: Shocking, Amusing and Baffling Quotations From the GOP and Their Friends 1994-2004" (with an introduction by Salon's Sidney Blumenthal), which Miller calls "a wide-angle snapshot of the moral values Republicans and their allies proudly embrace."


"Take Them at Their Words" includes sections on gender, race, abortion, the Iraq war, the environment, health and economics, among others. One of the most noteworthy characteristics of these quotations is the all-too-frequent appeal to violence or hatred, even to killing. Much of the material is laughable, but as Miller writes in his preface, "While Republican rhetoric is, at worst, an incitement to violence, at best it is narrowing the platform of debate, alienating the public from our political system and working against productive compromise."

Herewith is a brief selection of samples, reprinted by permission.

Family Values

"I haven't killed anyone yet, but I believe they [physicians who perform abortions] deserve to die."

-- Anti-abortion crusader Dan Holman, Chicago Tribune, 10/30/2003

"I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good."


-- Randall Terry, the New Republic, 8/1/1994

Cracks in the Melting Pot

"Black ministers should not be involved in politics ... I thought there was separation of church and state."

-- Talk radio host Bill Cunningham, WLW, Cincinnati, 2/20/95

"Quit looking at the symbols. Get out and get a job. Quit shooting each other. Quit having illegitimate babies."


-- South Carolina State Rep. John Graham Altman, talking to African-Americans who supported Gov. David Beasley's proposal to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol dome, New York Times, 1/24/97

Sensitivity Training

"Ideally, it would have been nice to have a few phalanxes of policemen with machine guns and mow them down."


-- Talk-radio host Bob Grant of New York's WABC, commenting on the Gay Pride Parade, Boston Globe, 4/29/95

"The homosexual blitzkrieg has been better planned and executed than Hitler's."

-- Rep. William Dannemeyer, R-Calif., the New Republic, 6/1/94


"Every lesbian spear-chucker in this country is hoping I get defeated."

-- Rep. Bob Dornan, R-Calif., Washington Post, 11/23/96 [He was.]

The Gender Gap

"[Abortion rights activists] are homosexuals, wimps, and/or Jewish lawyers."

-- Talk-radio host Stan Solomon, WIBC/Indianapolis, as reported in the Indianapolis Star, 6/9/94


"I don't care about the circumstances of a child's conception. You want to execute somebody in the case of rape, execute the rapist and let the unborn child live."

-- Pat Buchanan, New York Times, 2/24/96

Their Cold Dead Hands

"[Gun-control activist Sarah Brady, wife of former White House press secretary Jim Brady] ought to be put down. A humane shot at a veterinarian's would be an easy way to do it. I wish she would just keep wheeling her husband around, wiping the saliva off his mouth once in a while -- and leave the rest of us damn well alone."


-- Talk-radio host Bob Mohan, New York Times, 1/1/95

"If guns are outlawed, how can we shoot the liberals?"

-- Mississippi state Sen. Mike Gunn (R), Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/31/96

The Art of Diplomacy

"Jacques Chirac isn't marching in front of some of those Iraqi soldiers; it would be a very satisfying thing to watch -- put that on pay TV and I'm in, 50 bucks, a hundred, whatever, to see that S.O.B. get just blown to smithereens."


-- Talk-radio host Lee Rodgers, KSFO/San Francisco, 3/25/03

"I read your book. When you get through, you say, 'If I could put a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom [home of the State Department], I think that's the answer.' I mean, you get through this and you say, 'We've got to blow that thing up.'"

-- Pat Robertson, talking to Joel Mowbray, author of "Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's Security," "700 Club," as reported in Chicago Tribune, 10/12/03



"Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

-- Vice President Dick Cheney, "Meet the Press," NBC, 3/16/03

"The cost of the war will be small. We can afford the war, and we'll put it behind us."

--Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, New York Times, 3/9/03

War Is Hell

"And finally, and most importantly, the next time we go to war, don't give a specific reason for the war that the left can seize upon and later flog us with it ad nauseam, just do it. Remember, the first rule of Fight Club is that you don't talk about Fight Club."

-- Dennis Miller, "Hannity & Colmes," Fox News, 6/27/03

"The loss of innocent life is a tragedy for anyone involved in it, but the numbers are really very low."

-- Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, Chicago Tribune, 8/17/03

"And there is, I am certain, among the Iraqi people a respect for the care and the precision that went into their bombing campaign. It was not a long air campaign. It didn't last for weeks. And there was minimal collateral damage -- unintended damage."

-- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld,, 4/9/03


"The United States believes that time is running out. We will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction."

-- Secretary of State Colin Powell, "Hardball," MSNBC, 1/31/03

"And I said on my program, if the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again."

-- Bill O'Reilly, "Good Morning America," ABC, 3/18/03

"We have confidence we're going to find them. They're still there."

-- White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, Chicago Tribune, 6/10/03

"The president of the United States is not a fact-checker."

-- A "senior administration official," discussing George W. Bush's use of faulty intelligence in the State of the Union address, Los Angeles Times, 7/29/03

Demonizing Democrats

"To be very blunt -- and God watch over Paul's soul -- I am a 99-percent improvement over Paul Wellstone. Just about on every issue."

-- Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 4/9/03

"We're going to keep on building the party [the Texas GOP] until we're hunting Democrats with dogs."

-- Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, Mother Jones, August 1995

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

"Kurt Cobain died of a drug-induced suicide, I just -- he was a worthless shred of human debris."

-- Rush Limbaugh,, 4/8/94

"Not an addiction, not a problem, no therapy, gambling too much, stopped it."

-- William Bennett, New York Times, 11/17/03

Compassionate Conservatism

Pete: "You probably weren't even born when Kennedy was killed, right?
Wayne: "Ted Kennedy was killed?"
Pete: "Yeah. There'll be a party at my place later." [Laughter].

-- Fill-in hosts for Kim Peterson, WGST/Atlanta, 9/11/03

"I don't understand how poor people think."

-- George W. Bush, New York Times, 8/26/03

Public Enemy: Public Schools

"You know if there was any piece of legislation I would pass it would be to blow up colleges of education. I know that's not politically correct ..."

-- Reid Lyon, National Institute of Child Health and Development,, 11/19/02

Earth Day

"God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'"

-- Ann Coulter, "Hannity & Colmes," Fox News, 6/20/01

"[Environmentalists] are a socialist group of individuals that are the tool of the Democrat Party ... I'm proud to say that they are my enemy. They are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans."

-- Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, 8/19/96

"Why is Earth Day, today, also Lenin's birthday? Coincidence? Or does it signal the true intent of the national and worldwide environmental movement?"

-- Alan Caruba, Fargo Forum, 4/22/97

Say What?

"If we don't know for sure they're going to do something, or not, we need to make sure that we prevent anything they may be planning, whether or not we know or don't know about it."

-- FBI agent quoted by Nicholas von Hoffman, New York Observer, 11/3/03

"Gay marriage should be between a man and a woman."

-- Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a radio interview with Sean Hannity, New York Daily News, 8/29/03

"I thought [Jesus Christ] was a free enterpriser ... He was a carpenter's son and I thought he was doing well. He was able to change water into wine; now that to me is the classic definition of a guy in the entrepreneurial spirit."

-- Gov. Tommy Thompson, R-Wis., responding to a reporter who asked him if Jesus was a socialist, Madison (Wis.) Capital Times, 7/10/96

Let Them Eat Cake

"When I see someone who is making anywhere from $300,000 to $750,000 a year, that's middle class."

-- Rep. Fred Heineman, R-N.C., Washington Post, 10/29/96

"We're poor people."

-- Newt Gingrich, describing his wife and himself, Denver Post, 12/29/95

Salon Staff

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