Limbaugh: Obama "stoking racial antagonism"

Rush Limbaugh responds to the Obama campaign's having used quotes from him in a recent anti-McCain ad.

Published September 19, 2008 6:36PM (EDT)

Rush Limbaugh is angry. (I know, surprising, right?)

Barack Obama's campaign took quotes from the right-wing radio host -- "stupid and unskilled Mexicans" and "You shut your mouth or you get out!" -- and used them in a Spanish-language ad that attacks John McCain. Limbaugh says his words were badly distorted. On Friday he took to the Wall Street Journal to argue his case. He also compared the Obama camp to the segregationists of old and wrote, "Obama and his advisers have demonstrated a pernicious contempt for American society."

Limbaugh is absolutely right about one thing. He makes a convincing case that the Obama campaign used his words in a fundamentally dishonest way. In both cases, the quotes were pulled from segments in which Limbaugh was clearly being facetious.

The rest of his Op-Ed, however, is patently ridiculous. Limbaugh writes:

Mr. Obama's campaign is now trafficking in prejudice of its own making ... What kind of potential president would let his campaign knowingly extract two incomplete, out-of-context lines from two radio parodies and build a framework of hate around them in order to exploit racial tensions? The segregationists of the 1950s and 1960s were famous for such vile fear-mongering...

The malignant aspect of this is that Mr. Obama and his advisers know exactly what they are doing. They had to listen to both monologues or read the transcripts. They then had to pick the particular excerpts they used in order to create a commercial of distortions. Their hoped-for result is to inflame racial tensions. In doing this, Mr. Obama and his advisers have demonstrated a pernicious contempt for American society.

We've made much racial progress in this country. Any candidate who employs the tactics of the old segregationists is unworthy of the presidency.

Come on, Rush. Really?

His tactic here is fairly obvious. The right often attacks African-American political figures for being, supposedly, racial-grievance mongers. (See, e.g., the way Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are treated.) They haven't been able to do that to Obama, at least not successfully, because the candidate himself rarely mentions race-based attacks against him. So Limbaugh's trying a different tack.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2008 Elections Barack Obama Rush Limbaugh War Room