Limbaugh gave baseless interpretation of Clinton speech to claim she was "demeaning" blacks

Video ››› ››› ADAM SERWER

Loading the player reg...

On the April 23 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) made a "demeaning reference to the fact that [African-Americans are] janitors, or custodial workers, or cleaning people" during her April 20 speech at the National Action Network annual convention by saying the following: "The abuses that have gone on in the last six years -- I don't think we know the half of it yet. You know, when I walk into the Oval Office in January 2009, I'm afraid I'm going to lift up the rug and I'm going to see so much stuff under there! You know, what is it about us always having to clean up after people?"

Limbaugh did not air the subsequent lines from Clinton's speech: "But this is not just going to be picking up socks off the floor. This is going to be about cleaning out the government." According to an April 21 article in The Journal News (Westchester County, New York), Clinton's audience was "composed largely of black women." There is no evidence in either the excerpt Limbaugh aired or in what he left out that Clinton was talking to audience members as though they were "janitors, or custodial workers, or cleaning people." Rather, she appeared to be referring to the fact that women have traditionally borne the responsibility of housecleaning. Indeed, the News reported that this portion of Clinton's speech "got some of her loudest applause." Limbaugh acknowledged that Clinton received a "big standing 'O' and so forth."

Limbaugh went on to compare Clinton to former radio talk show host Don Imus, who was fired from CBS Radio and MSNBC after referring to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." Limbaugh said of Clinton's speech: "It's no different than when Don Imus called Gwen Ifill [then] of The New York Times, 'a cleaning lady.' " He added, "[T]he liberals are sharing [with] us their perception, their vision of what black America is all about. And -- downtrodden, maids, custodians, janitors, chauffeurs. You know, this kind of thing." Limbaugh then said of "black American[s]," "[T]hat's how they want to see themselves -- as constantly downtrodden."

From Clinton's April 21 speech to the National Action Network:

CLINTON: We have to reform our government. The abuses that have gone on in the last six years, I don't think we know the half of it yet. You know, when I walk into the Oval Office in January of 2009, I'm afraid I'm going to lift up the rug and see so much stuff under there. You know, what is it about us always having to clean up after people? But this is not just going to be picking up socks off the floor, this is going to be cleaning up our government. Cleaning out the deadwood and the political cronies, the people who left all of our fellow citizens along the Gulf Coast to fend for themselves, and to this day, have not made a commitment to rebuild New Orleans. We're going to get to the bottom of these no-bid contracts, and all these special interests, and all these favors that have transferred billions of dollars into the pockets of all of these big companies in Washington, the most prominent of which is Halliburton.

From the April 21 Journal News article:

The Democratic front-runner said the Bush administration had squandered the progress made during the 1990s and skewed the government toward helping only those who were already privileged or powerful. She got some of her loudest applause when she promised to reform government and joked about being afraid to "lift up the rug" in the Oval Office.

"I'm going to see so much stuff under there," Clinton said to the audience, which was composed largely of black women. "You know, what is it about us always having to clean up after people? But this is not just going to be picking up socks off the floor. This is going to be about cleaning out the government."

The context of Clinton's remarks was reported by several media news outlets, including The New York Times' weblog The Caucus and the New York Daily News.

The National Action Network is a civil rights organization founded by Sharpton.

From the April 23 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: All right now, on to Reverend Sharpton's National Action Network convention. Last Friday, this is Mrs. Clinton.

CLINTON [audio clip]: The abuses that have gone on in the last six years -- I don't think we know the half of it yet. You know, when I walk into the Oval Office in January 2009, I'm afraid I'm going to lift up the rug and I'm going to see so much stuff under there! You know, what is it about us always having to clean up after people?

LIMBAUGH: Oh, hardy-har-har-har. You're the last person, Mrs. Clinton, that ought to be talking about what anybody would find on the Oval Office rug. Of all the things to say! Not only do we not want to know what we'd find -- if anybody knows what's on the Oval Office rug, it would be Mrs. Clinton -- on it or under it.

But here she is, using this black dialect again -- and, by the way, this demeaning reference to the fact that they're janitors, or custodial workers, or cleaning people. Yeah, I mean this is -- she sits there and says, "You know, what is it about us always having to clean up after people?" When's the last time you cleaned up after anybody but your husband in those assorted messes of his? And we're not talking about dirt, soil, that kind of thing.

But I mean this is just -- it's just so -- it's demeaning. It is -- it's pandering. It's no different than when Don Imus called Gwen Ifill of The New York Times, "a cleaning lady," getting the White House or something. What, Mr. Snerdly? What? What? What do you mean, not if you believe it? What -- well, I know -- do you really think -- oh.

Snerdly says that that's her view -- that America looks as black -- that black people as cleaning. I think she's telling us her view, not America's view. Is that what you mean? OK. It's her view. All right, then the liberals are sharing [with] us their perception, their vision of what black America is all about. And -- downtrodden, maids, custodians, janitors, chauffeurs. You know, this kind of thing. That's how they see them. And that's how they want them to see themselves -- as constantly downtrodden. And, of course, [she] gets this big standing "O" and so forth.

Network/Outlet
Premiere Radio Networks
Person
Rush Limbaugh
Show/Publication
The Rush Limbaugh Show
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.