February 18, 2021

On The Reidout, Joy Reid spoke with Dana Milbanks and Charlie Sykes about Rush Limbaugh's legacy. Everyone agreed that Limbaugh had a great deal of influence in shaping today's Republican Party and paving the way for Trump to become president*. This included Limbaugh normalizing racism, misogyny and other bigotries for conservatives. The part that made me spit coffee on my monitor was when Sykes came out with this:

Absolutely. There's no question about it. You can't overstate Rush Limbaugh's role in basically building up the entertainment wing of the GOP to be absolutely dominant. So it's a little bit painful, talking about it the day on the that he dies, because I've been working on a piece in which i argue that right now we are all living in the world of Rush Limbaugh made in his own image. When you think about what he did. and the influence that he had. He was an entertainer. he was not a deep thinker. He was not a thought leader. but he shaped so much of the way the right wing transformed itself, over the last few years. He popularized what -- you know, he popularized conservative ideas, but he also played a very central role in the derangement of it.

So his legacy is a conservative movement that is, in fact, more dishonest, more open to dishonesty, crueler, dumber than it was before. And you can't understand Donald Trump without understanding that Rush Limbaugh was in many ways, not just the guy that laid the groundwork for him, but in many ways, a role model in the way that you could twist truth. The way that you could use insults and ad hominem attacks instead of actually dealing with ideas. because, you know, the bottom line.

Dirty secret about Rush Limbaugh is he was utterly uninterested in ideas. He was much more interested in the kind of smash mouth, own the liberals politics that Donald Trump was so good at. And he was also really one of the pioneers in convincing conservatives to look the other way about conspiracy theories. It is a dark legacy. and one of the real tragedies here, because it's a human tragedy, is that even when he was confronted with his own mortality, he saved the worst for the last. Some of the things that he did in the last six months of his life were among the most indefensible things he ever did. and right now, you look around us, and everything can be traced back to Rush Limbaugh and his influence.

What made me do the spit take was not what he said about Limbaugh, which is absolutely true, but that Sykes ignored his entire past in doing the same damn thing.

Sykes was an extremist right wing radio squawker in Milwaukee for over 20 years. He helped form today's GOP as much as Limbaugh did, giving us the likes of Scott Walker, David Clarke and Ron Johnson. In fact, RoJo wasn't going anywhere until Sykes started to give him traction and a free platform as he kept raising him up in the Republicans' eyes.

Like Limbaugh, Sykes was no stranger to all forms of bigotry, especially racism. He reached his pinnacle when he actually got himself and his employer sued for libel and racism, when he accused a accusing a man of being an organizer of a violent protest against another hate radio squawker:

Charlie Sykes, a talk radio host and blogger for WTMJ-AM(620) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wrote an essay on his blog that criticized Robert Miranda, editor of the Spanish Journal. According to press accounts of the dispute, Sykes alleged that Miranda had in October 1991 been "one of the organizers of what became a violent shout-down, during which coins, hard candy and ice cubes were thrown at [conservative radio host Mark Belling] during a Pro-America rally at [the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee]." Sykes based his statement on an email he received from a listener. When he learned that the e-mail contained factual errors, he removed the posting from his blog within hours on November 12, 2004. Nevertheless, the posting was still available through Internet searches several months later.

On January 3, 2005, Robert Miranda sued Sykes in small claims court for libel, claiming that the posting was false and misleading. Sykes' employer, Journal Communications, offered a $5,000 college scholarship as a settlement ($5,000 is the maximum available award in small claims court) and the case settled just prior to trial. The scholarship is to be awarded to a South Division High School student who wants to study journalism.

A fun fact is that the lawsuit almost cost Sykes his job but managed to keep it thanks to his union, which he turned around and started bashing with the other unions.

Hell, like Limbaugh, Sykes has also had extramarital affairs and has married at least three times.

You know, with all the money and dark money that Sykes has raked in over the years, one would think he could at least afford a mirror. He probably could, but doesn't like looking into them for fear of what he would see.

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