Limbaugh on tsunami disaster: "[W]e do have a tendency to blow these things up"

Despite recognizing on his January 4 radio show that the December 26 earthquake and tsunami in South Asia was a “devastating disaster,” nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh also declared that “we do have a tendency to blow these things up.” Limbaugh questioned the reported death toll resulting from the earthquake and tsunami as well as “throwing lump sums of money” at the tragedy, claiming that “The people that are getting this money ... are [the ones] in charge of distributing it.”

Limbaugh then drew an analogy to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as another example of an incident where “we just threw money left and right,” and asserted that some of the families of September 11 victims “got $24 million; some of them got $10 million -- many of them are set for life here because so much money was given.” (In fact, according to a November 18 Associated Press report, "[t]he average award to families of those killed was $2.1 million, though the 2,880 individual payouts ranged from $250,000 up to $7.1 million.") Limbaugh prefaced his remarks by stating: “let me raise my hand and try to be called on, here, as insensitive.”

From the January 4 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: As long as the press and the Democrats out there are gonna accuse everybody of being insensitive -- let me -- let me raise my hand and try to be called on, here, as insensitive. I gotta tell ya something, folks. Ever since I learned that this number of three million homeless back in the '80s was jacked up, made up, amplified, never changes and so forth, then they finally did a homeless census and they found barely 300,000 truly homeless in this country, I have been suspicious of these numbers [of deaths in the tsunami] from the get-go. First day, 12,000; then 14,000; then 50. Then 60 then 100, then 140 -- there was even a number, 400,000 thrown around out there. And it just -- who's verifying this?

I mean, has anybody actually asked for a count? Has anybody done a count? Has there been a count? How do we know this? It may be true, but it may not be true either. And the number just gets thrown around, and bammo! It's accepted without question. It's -- this -- and the reason I'm startin' to question this is because, I'm seein' more and more stories about how -- it -- how do I put this?

I know I raised my hand. I wanted to be called on as insensitive, but -- I mean, since that's what the Democrats are doin' to us -- but there are more and more stories here about -- like, there's some guy that runs a hotel over there who said, would you please get the news out that we're open? That we've got full services. Our beach is open and everything else. We didn't suffer at all in this disaster. And, nobody's showin' up here because they think they whole country's been devastated, and it hasn't. It was just the coastline -- we're open and we're open for business.

It doesn't fit the story, so you don't see it in the news. The story is utter destruction and devastation -- we had the story yesterday from the vaunted New York Times, that the economic impact of this is gonna be marginal. That the economic impact in these countries where the tsunami hit is going to be marginal. This is not to say the human cost is not real and tremendous. But I -- you know, we're throwin' money at this left and -- 'cause it makes us feel good to do it.

But I -- you know what I'm reminded of? 9-11. When that happened, we just threw money left and right. And look at the end result. The families of the victims of 9-11. Some of them got $24 million; some of them got $10 million -- many of them are set for life here because so much money was given. You could say, “So what, Rush?”

Well, you could say this is more than was necessary. But it's not a criticism, this is just a fact that, people respond in an overwhelmingly compassionate way here. Which is why all of this nitpicking criticism of us, of our own country by our own countrymen -- I don't care what the French or the Germans or anybody say -- but when the U.S. media and the U.S. liberals and Democrats wanna attack this country -- for its stinginess, or for its lack of speed or sensitivity -- it is just bogus!


LIMBAUGH: I mean, if they're gonna start throwin' the charge “insensitivity” around to George [W.] Bush, I wanna be included here. Because it's a badge of honor to be criticized by these people. You think I've succeeded -- Snerdley thinks I've succeeded.

What -- with just questioning the death toll? I'm-how many of the rest of you are just

140, 160, 180 -- 120 -- where's the official count? How does anybody know this? I heard [United Nations secretary general] Kofi Annan the other day said we have 140,000 confirmed deaths. Fine -- well, I was waiting for the details of the confirmation, and I didn't get it. You know -- we're just supposed to sit there and accept this?

The reason that I have my -- I wouldn't say doubts, I'm just gonna wait to have this proven to me -- is that there are conflicting stories about how many of these places -- the damage was only along the beach and a mile inward. That's not nearly all of these countries. This is not to suggest the disaster is not real. Please don't put words in my mouth and don't -- don't do to me what I think is being done to the rest of us. Don't interpret me saying things I'm not saying here. I'm not suggesting it's not a true, devastating disaster and so forth. But you know, we do have a tendency to blow these things up. We have a tendency to rally around disaster; it makes us feel better to contribute to it. And I think this is a great thing everybody's doing. And it's real, as far as it goes. But all of this -- all of this criticism of us for not doing enough, it's 180 degrees out of phase.

We're doing enough and more so! We're doing enough and more. We're dong so much that they're requesting -- some of these aid groups, Doctors Without Borders, don't send us any more money. And now we've got the stories coming out of Sri Lanka that there's a working state of bedlam. The absence of coordination between aid agencies adding up to a man-made disaster.

That, to me, is just a plea for more money. They're pleading for more aid because we don't know where what we're getting is going. It's not gettin' to the right people. And these things are understandable in a crisis circumstance like this.


LIMBAUGH: Let me try an analogy to explain to you my -- my concern here about just throwin' lump sums of money over there, anywhere -- and expecting it to work magic.

Remember, it wasn't long ago we had -- it was just right before Christmas. We had the story about the lottery winner from West Virginia whose life was destroyed after he won the lot -- won the biggest Powerball jackpot. Forget this guy's name -- but he just descended into a drug- and alcohol-infested life. His family broke up -- all kinds of calamities. And, the Sudden Money Institute -- we learned of them. I never heard of them before. They're right here in Palm Beach Gardens -- Sudden Money Institute. Popped up on television, said if this guy would've come and talked to us we could've helped him out. Well, I think we need to send the Sudden Money Institute over to the disaster area because the effect of what's happening over there is, a bunch of lottery winners are showin' up.

People are winnin' the lottery -- and I'm not talkin' about the victims -- that's the problem. The people that are getting this money, that are in charge of distributing it -- you know, from looking at experiences in this country with the lottery winners. You throw a big pile of money at somebody, it just -- especially people who have never had it.

Or, in some cases, people who have had similarly large piles of money and want them again -- government leaders, bureaucrats, charitable “A” groups -- any number of people. You throw large sums of money at 'em, and I guarantee you, folks, you're gonna have things happen to that money that wouldn't dream of doing yourself if it got to you under similar circumstances.