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Limbaugh Labels Tablet ‘Radical Left-Wing’

Denies employing actors as callers; we never said he did

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Rush Limbaugh in January.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Greetings to Rush Limbaugh Show listeners! You may have heard your host mention us on the program today. For those who missed it, the subject of Limbaugh’s unhinged rant careful explication was Liel Leibovitz’s exposé, published nearly a month ago, revealing that Premiere Radio Networks, a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, has a service that hires actors to call in to radio talk shows (including ones syndicated by Premiere), read scripts, and pretend to be “real” people. “If he passed the audition,” Leibovitz wrote of one actor he spoke with, “he would be invited periodically to call in to various talk shows and recite various scenarios that made for interesting radio. He would never be identified as an actor, and his scenarios would never be identified as fabricated.” Leibovitz also mentioned that Premiere Radio—America’s largest syndication company—has in its roster Rush Limbaugh’s, Glenn Beck’s, and Sean Hannity’s shows.

Leibovitz’s piece does not allege that Limbaugh (or Beck or Hannity) have used this service; in fact, it implies that the service is mainly used for gags on ostensibly less serious programming, and then situates this plastic notion of authenticity in the context of that week’s Torah parasha. Keith Olbermann’s new blog, which yesterday highlighted Leibovitz’s article, also does not allege that Limbaugh has used the service, although it does make the point that Premiere conspicuously failed to deny that actors have called in to more serious shows.

Actually, Limbaugh is similarly curious on the question of Premiere’s non-denial. But he also labels Tablet Magazine a “radical left-wing operation” (take that, Philip Weiss!). Plus, some actual radical right-wing operation accused Leibovitz of being paid by George Soros to attack Limbaugh. (I have checked with Leibovitz, who denied any Soros connection, but suggested the billionaire liberal activist get in touch if he wanted to say thank-you.) An abridged transcript of Limbaugh’s remarks, as well as full tape, follows—courtesy of Media Matters (which, go figure, is Soros-funded). Enjoy!


You can’t do it any more! One of the great comedic arts of radio—and this is 20 years ago now—was dealt a fatal blow when the FCC said you can’t put people on the air without their permission. … People still wanted to do the bits. That led to hiring actors to portray the dupes, the objects of the bit.

… Why didn’t these people at Premiere deny, why didn’t they specify for this is for their prank calls in their morning shows, or whenever it happens during the day? [Ed.: Good point, Rush!] But it is not for talk radio. I have never heard of this. One of the cardinal rules here, from the get-go: Nothing is staged on this program, ever.

… But I still can’t figure out why Premiere did not specify—they let it stand out there that this is all happening as part of their talk-radio division, which it’s not, at least not here, and I can’t believe that it’s happening anywhere else. [Good point again!]

This story originally appeared in something called the Tablet Magazine, which calls itself ‘a new read on Jewish life.’ [True!] And Tablet Magazine is a radical left-wing operation [Not really!], and from Tablet Magazine, here’s one of the excerpts:

Michael Harrison, the editor of Talkers Magazine, the talk-radio world’s leading trade publication, said he knew nothing of this particular service but was not altogether surprised to hear that it was in place. There was, he said, a tradition of “creating fake phone calls for the sake of entertainment on some of the funny shows, shock jocks shows, the kind of shows you hear … ”

That’s exactly right, but not here! People doing pranks? I would consider it an insult.

Limbaugh Denies Paying Actors To Pose as Callers [Media Matters]
Radio Daze [Tablet Magazine]
Racketeer Rabbit Republicans [Fok News Channel]

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Didn’t the same thing happen with the Wurtzel/Lou Reed article: some hack journalist pretending they had something interesting to say, and it getting published on Tablet?

Dennis Gura says:

Great publicity! Are you going to let us know how high your web-site hits go now?

A “radical left wing operation” huh? I suppose he hasn’t read some of the Lee Smith pieces…
Whatever, thanks for the free publicity, Rush.

Steve Stein says:

He probably would have said that about the original 2 Tablets as well.

Old Rockin' Dave says:

The only tablet Rush likes is OxyContin, anyway.

rbmeritt says:

Rush would have hated my mother,of course not for being Jewish,but for because her left leg was shorter than her right leg, always made her lean to the left.

Conan says:

But isn’t that what Tablet is – an extreme left-wing publication — and isn’t that why we like it? If Tablet wasn’t as ultra-liberal as it is, I wouldn’t subscribe to it.

Eli, Old Rockin Dave and rbmeritt — thanks for quickly making this possibly the funniest comments section I’ve ever seen.

BTW, Howard Stern has famously had henchmen (usually just listeners doing it on their own) call in on “serious” talk and news shows for years to take the piss out of them.

Dan Klein says:

@Conan, you subscribe? Where are you sending your checks?

Steph F. says:

When I was on the board at my synagogue, someone who had already been on the board for many years assured me that so long as we were getting the same number of complaints that services were too traditional and that they were not traditional enough, we were striking the right balance and therefore doing our job right. Tablet, it looks like you’ve hit the balance.

c’mon Dan, it’s a new era. You can “subscribe” at the press of a button w/o paying — and unsubscribe, too. Or perhaps you’re unaware that you can get daily e-mails from Tablet.

E. saunders says:

When Mr.Limbaugh first went on the air, a number of years ago, he never stopped smiling. Coming from relative obscurity he had stumbled into a gold mine. The anti-Mensa crowd would make him rich. He did not believe for a moment in the nonsense he was sprouting, but it was the goods that sold.
Somewhere along the line, he began to believe his own PR. Now he thinks that he is the leader, and foremost teacher of the New World, and not just an entertainer, in other words, he is a raving lunatic.

J Carpenter says:

I’m trying to remember why “liberal” is such a bad word—same root as liberty, liberate . . . .

Old Rockin' Dave says:

J. Carpenter, you might also ask why conservatives are so against conservation.

beni says:

Funny. In all the world, “liberal” means right wing free marketer. In the US it means left-winger. I can’t even understand why.
By the way, yes Tablet mag is very left-wing.

You were “shmeared” by Rush because you presented the facts that made the net roots explode. It fits their pattern. Watch how Limbaugh so readily goes into the attack-the-messenger defense here when he is caught uninformed on Reagan’s tax hikes:

I think everyone who dislikes Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck wanted to believe they used faked calls because they note how these hosts have made propaganda legal in US broadcasts by eroding the post-WWII tradition of self-policing and responding to public criticism. They have been caught in deceptions before, so why not this?

Some who linked to your article made valid arguments supporting a “gut feeling” the hosts stage calls, though perhaps not necessarily using Premiere On Call. Your article was a catalyst for the discussion. But others botched the headline, like Crooks & Liars, for example, naming the hosts as the call planters instead of their bosses. Of course this went haywire on Twitter.

But it’s been very informative to have this discussion as new info has come pouring out – Gawker reports an industry insider witnessed Glenn Beck staging calls in the past, and Ed Schultz has come clean on faked call activity in his earliest days, outing Democratic Congressional offices who had interns secretly calling radio shows.

We’ve also heard claims of fake aviation experts on the air, and people saying Hannity’s call screeners asked them to set up calls. More to come, for sure.

I’d be curious to know how the Tablet editors and financial sponsors see themselves in terms of their political underpinnings and the manner in which their views are embodied in the publication. Leftist, centrist, rightist, neutral? Readers make their judgments based on their own predilections but in all media there is the hidden hand of some type of bias.
Frankly, I see nothing wrong in bias as long as it is transparent, committed and admitted. Calls by shills or actors, incidentally, have long been a staple of talk radio. It is also common practice in the comment sections of the net which is why people mask their real names.

I’ve said that least 4445969 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

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Derrick Hedberg says:

The commentary is good and told me specifically what I desired to find out. I am going to certainly pay a visit to again.


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Limbaugh Labels Tablet ‘Radical Left-Wing’

Denies employing actors as callers; we never said he did

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