Rush Limbaugh
Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

The worst of The Rush Limbaugh Show

As one of the most influential voices in Republican politics, Rush Limbaugh routinely mocked women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community, and misled listeners with lies and conspiracy theories.

People who didn’t look or think like Limbaugh were often the butt of his jokes. The host referred to women as “babes” or “feminazis,” and once remarked that “all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson.”

When the facts didn’t support his claims — on climate change, voter fraud, or COVID-19 — Limbaugh simply lied to his listeners. The host promoted incendiary messaging on abortion and gun control, and occasionally turned to conspiracy theories to entertain an audience that was one of the largest in right-wing media.

Below are some of Limbaugh’s remarks from more than three decades in radio before his death on February 17:

  • Sexism

  • Sexism was a staple of Limbaugh’s broadcasts. In 2012, Limbaugh faced widespread backlash and advertiser boycotts after he referred to Sandra Fluke, then a law student who testified in favor of health care coverage for contraceptives, as a “slut.”

    • In October 2019, Limbaugh argued that more women are enrolled in college than men because “men don’t want to put up with” being called “predators.”
    • In July 2019, Limbaugh discussed whether Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) was “wearing no bra” in a video of her protesting a Trump rally.
    • Limbaugh referred to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) as “some young uppity” in January 2019.
    • In December 2017, Limbaugh complained that “women are believed” when they say they've been sexually harassed.
    • In November 2017, Limbaugh dismissed reports of sexual misconduct by then-Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore as based on “the 40-year-old childhood memories of a wacky woman.”
    • In July 2012, Limbaugh argued that feminism was created to enable “unattractive women” to have “easier access to the mainstream.”
    • In October 2016, Limbaugh said that Democrats who were upset that President Donald Trump bragged about committing sexual assault were “acting like a bunch of prudes.”
    • After former Miss Universe Alicia Machado campaigned with then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, Limbaugh referred to her as “porn star Miss Piggy.”
    • In October 2015, Limbaugh claimed that Hillary Clinton’s “only accomplishment” is being a woman.
    • In April 2014, Limbaugh argued that "this equal pay for women thing” is “old hat and not even applicable anymore.”
    • In August 2013, Limbaugh claimed that feminism is rooted in “sexual perversion.”
    • In early 2012, Limbaugh attacked Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she testified in favor of health care coverage for contraceptives. Limbaugh repeatedly mocked Fluke for three days before issuing an apology.
    • Limbaugh commented on the appearance of female politicians in October 2011, stating that “there are plenty of lard-ass women in politics, and they get a total pass on it.”
    • Limbaugh repeatedly referred to then-first lady Michelle Obama as “Michelle, my butt” and once said that the presidential limo “weighs eight tons without Michelle.”
    • During an episode of Limbaugh’s television show, which ran from 1992-1996, the host compared then 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton to a dog.
    • Limbaugh referred to dozens of women on his program as “babe,” especially journalists and government officials.

    For more on Limbaugh’s sexism see here, here, and here.

  • Racism

  • Limbaugh claimed that immigrants crossing the southern border were trying to “invade” the country and that “the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons.” Before Barack Obama became president, Limbaugh argued that Obama had a shot at winning only because he was Black, and later suggested that Obama was secretly a Muslim and not born in the United States.

    • In June 2020, Limbaugh claimed white supremacists “are such a small number you could put them in a phone booth.”
    • After Trump referred to the House impeachment inquiry as a “lynching” in October 2019, Limbaugh defended Trump’s comments by arguing that “if you look at the definition of lynching, it doesn't have anything to do with African Americans.”
    • In August 2019, Limbaugh accused Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) of having a “hatred for Jews.” Limbaugh claimed, “I don't have to know them to know this. All I have to know is Sharia Islam.”
    • In April 2019, Limbaugh claimed that “whenever you hear” the left attack white supremacy, “what they're really talking about is the founding of the country and its roots in Christianity.”
    • In March 2019, Limbaugh declared that the United States has “now imported the third world ... and they have not assimilated.”
    • In June 2018, Limbaugh called outrage over Trump’s family separation policy a “manufactured crisis” that is “all about people attempting to invade our country.”
    • In August 2016, Limbaugh suggested that “Black Lives Matter is almost approaching unionized gang status now.”
    • The same month, Limbaugh argued that “minorities who haven't accomplished anything” are becoming “the power simply because they are the minority.”
    • In July 2013, Limbaugh claimed that “if any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it's Caucasians” because “they've done more to end it than any other race.” 
    • In June 2013, Limbaugh claimed that “the civil rights community wants perpetual discrimination, reverse discrimination.”
    • In January 2013, Limbaugh said, “African Americans today can be convinced that they are still slaves.”
    • In May 2012, Limbaugh suggested that Black people face no persecution in the United States.
    • In January 2011, Limbaugh mocked the speech of then-Chinese President Hu Jintao with a racist accent and fake Chinese.
    • Limbaugh repeatedly fed the racist birther conspiracy theory surrounding Obama during his first term in office.
    • In February 2010, Limbaugh called Obama “uppity.”
    • In September 2009, Limbaugh claimed that in “Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the Black kids cheering, ‘Yay! Right on, right on, right on, right on.’”
    • In June 2008, Limbaugh claimed that Obama's “only chance of winning” the presidency was because he is Black.
    • In March 2007, Limbaugh borrowed from an op-ed and repeatedly referred to Obama as the “Magic Negro” 27 times in a single episode of his show, and at one point sang “Barack, the Magic Negro” to the tune of “Puff, the Magic Dragon.”
    • In January 2007, Limbaugh claimed, “The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons.” Limbaugh made similar remarks about the NBA in 2004, saying, “I think it's time to get rid of this whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call 'em gangs.”
    • In May 2004, Limbaugh claimed that guards who tortured prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were just “having a good time” and “blow[ing] some steam off.”
    • During Carol Mosley Braun’s Senate tenure, Limbaugh would often play the theme song from “The Jeffersons” when discussing her.

    For more on Limbaugh’s racism, see here and here.

  • Anti-LGBTQ

  • After the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, Limbaugh described the decision as an “assault” on American culture. He once claimed that openly gay students are “trumpeting” their sexuality and “inviting dissent” and has referred to transgender people as mentally ill.

    • In February 2020, Limbaugh mocked then-Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s sexuality.
    • In June 2016, Limbaugh claimed Washington state may be recruiting children into “transgenderism” given changes to how the state’s public schools define gender.
    • In May 2016, Limbaugh argued that LGBTQ rights are “leading to the erosion of private property.”
    • In April 2016, Limbaugh complained that “all hell comes down” on states that pass anti-LGBTQ bathroom laws.
    • In June 2015, Limbaugh claimed the legalization of gay marriage would lead to polygamy.
    • In May 2015, Limbaugh blamed gay marriage for a decline in the number of Americans identifying as Christians.
    • In March 2015, Limbaugh defended Indiana’s anti-LGBTQ Religious Freedom Restoration Act by comparing gay marriage to bestiality.
    • In December 2013, Limbaugh complained that conservatives are terrified of criticizing the LGBTQ community because of its “militant political gay” element.
    • In March 2013, Limbaugh expanded on a caller’s argument by suggesting that if gay marriage is legalized, “who’s to say you cannot have sex with a child?”
    • In January 2013, Limbaugh referred to a transgender college student as an “add-a-dick-to-me babe.”
    • In November 2011, Limbaugh mocked then-Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), saying, “Somebody just told me that Barney would love being spanked in an election. No. No. No. Not in an election.” In January 2009, Limbaugh played a parody song titled “Banking Queen” which included an impression of Frank.
    • Responding to a caller in November 2004, Limbaugh claimed that openly gay students are “trumpeting” their sexuality and “inviting dissent.”

    For more, see here and here.

  • COVID-19

  • Limbaugh initially downplayed COVID-19 as “the common cold” and continued to minimize the danger the virus presented throughout the pandemic. He repeatedly claimed that Democrats and the media were using the virus to damage Trump and undermined public health experts.

    • In August 2020, Limbaugh promoted a conspiracy theory that Dr. Anthony Fauci stood to personally profit from a coronavirus vaccine.
    • In February 2020, as cases of COVID-19 were just emerging in the United States, Limbaugh claimed, “The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”
    • In March 2020, Limbaugh claimed that “the coronavirus has been weaponized by the media and by opponents of Donald Trump,” saying, “It’s almost as if the media and the left and the Democrats want to inflict damage on our economy.”
    • In April 2020, Limbaugh suggested that Fauci and other health experts are “Hillary Clinton sympathizers" who conspired to hurt Trump.
    • The same month, Limbaugh declared that “no matter how many people die from coronavirus, it’s not going to equate to the damage done to the U.S. economy.”
    • In June 2020, Limbaugh argued that journalists and hospitals are inflating COVID-19 case counts.
    • In May 2020, Limbaugh mocked both Fauci and Biden for wearing masks and referred to masks as a “symbol of fear.” Limbaugh later dismissed mandatory-mask orders and suggested young, healthy people should “go ahead and live their lives and spread herd immunity.”

    For more on Limbaugh’s comments on the coronavirus, see here.

  • Climate change

  • Throughout his career, Limbaugh insisted that human-caused climate change was a hoax. He suggested that hurricane forecasts were manipulated to “heighten” public belief in climate science, and claimed that young people were being “indoctrinated” through climate change propaganda.

    • In August 2019, Limbaugh claimed on Fox News that “there is no man-made climate change.”
    • In the same interview on Fox News, Limbaugh said climate change is being used to “poison the minds of young kids.”
    • In September 2018, Limbaugh claimed that hurricane forecasts were being used to “heighten the belief in climate change.”
    • In September 2017, after evacuating from the path of a hurricane hitting Florida, Limbaugh insisted there was “no way” that climate change could have made hurricanes such as Irma, Katrina, or Wilma “worse than what's come before it.”
    • In June 2017, Limbaugh claimed that young people have been “indoctrinated” to believe in climate change by propaganda from professors.
    • In October 2016, Limbaugh claimed the National Hurricane Center is “playing games” with hurricane forecasting to convince people that climate change is real.
    • In February 2016, Limbaugh said the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan would bring the U.S. “back to the Stone Age.”
    • In November 2015, Limbaugh claimed people who accept climate change science are “hoping” for more hurricanes in order to prove that climate change is real.
    • In July 2014, Limbaugh took credit for the result of a study showing Americans have “the highest amount of doubt about the conventional wisdom of climate.”
    • In January 2013, Limbaugh said global warming is “a hoax,” and “it’s already been established there is no man-made global warming.”

    For more, see here.

  • Abortion

  • Limbaugh once compared abortion clinics to death camps and claimed abortion is partly to blame for mass shootings. The host often directed his vitriol towards Planned Parenthood and argued that the organization seeks the “elimination of Black families.”

    • After the El Paso and Dayton shootings in August 2019, Limbaugh partly blamed abortion for the violence, arguing “You just cannot have abortion ... and have that not have some impact on the popular perception of the sanctity of life.”
    • In February 2016, Limbaugh asked, “How can anybody pro-abort be a mother?”
    • In January 2016, Limbaugh claimed Hollywood is attempting to “promote” abortion and “make pregnancy look like the disease.”
    • After a man killed three and injured nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado in November 2015, Limbaugh asked if Planned Parenthood should be blamed for the mass shooting.
    • In March 2014, Limbaugh told a caller that “the Black population is being aborted into further minority status with the assistance of Planned Parenthood.”
    • In November 2013, Limbaugh claimed that Democrats are turning women “into nothing but abortion machines.”
    • In April 2013, Limbaugh argued that to Planned Parenthood, “every pregnancy is a potential disease.”
    • In January 2013, Limbaugh compared the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders to abortion and said, “You know how to stop abortion? Require that each one occur with a gun.”
    • In August 2012, Limbaugh said if Planned Parenthood and NARAL are “not death squads, I don’t know what is.”
    • In November 2009, Limbaugh promoted the debunked claim that abortion is linked to breast cancer.
  • Gun control

  • A staunch opponent of gun control, Limbaugh claimed that most school shooters are “inspired by something to do with leftism” and that Democrats used Newtown parents as “human shields” to avoid criticism.

    • In August 2019, Limbaugh claimed extreme-risk gun laws, also known as red flag laws, are part of a larger plot to confiscate guns.
    • On Fox News in February 2018, Limbaugh dismissed the efforts of Parkland activists, arguing that the March for Our Lives would do nothing to stop school shootings.
    • Limbaugh claimed that Democrats were responsible for the June 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice where Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and three others were shot.
    • In December 2015, Limbaugh suggested that “there’s a bit of excitement” among Democrats when mass shootings occur because it enables them to criticize Republicans.
    • In October 2015, Limbaugh pushed false information about the percentage of mass shootings that have occurred in “gun-free zones.”
    • In June 2015, Limbaugh claimed that mass shootings have never been linked to right-wing media, but that shooters have been inspired by “left-wing music, left-wing politics.”
    • In December 2013, Limbaugh said, “Practically every one of these young kids shooting up schools is inspired by something to do with leftism.”
    • In September 2013, a day after a mass shooting in the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard, Limbaugh warned lawmakers against passing new gun laws. 
    • In April 2013, Limbaugh said Democrats are using Newtown parents as “human shields” to avoid criticism following the Sandy Hook shooting.
    • In January 2013, Limbaugh claimed then-President Obama was using children at the White House for an event pushing stronger gun laws as “human shields.”
    • In December 2012, Limbaugh dismissed the role of guns in domestic violence deaths.
  • Conspiracy theories

  • Limbaugh often promoted conspiracy theories, particularly ones which targeted Democrats. After the 2019 Christchurch, New Zealand, shooting, Limbaugh suggested it might be a false flag attack designed to smear conservatives. He made similar remarks after a Trump supporter sent pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and journalists in 2018.

    • After the 2020 presidential election, Limbaugh claimed that Joe Biden did not “legitimately” win the election. Limbaugh promoted the Dominion conspiracy theory and claimed that Democrats altered ballots to ensure a Biden victory.
    • Prior to the 2020 presidential election, Limbaugh suggested that Democrats would use mail-in voting to cheat.
    • After the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand in March 2019, Limbaugh suggested the attack may have been a false flag committed by a leftist to smear conservatives.
    • In August 2019, Limbaugh argued that warnings of a recession were just the “globalist elite” trying to undermine Trump.
    • In July 2019, Limbaugh claimed soccer player Megan Rapinoe and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein are all part of “the left's search for somebody to bring down Donald Trump.”
    • In January 2018, Limbaugh said “the deep state” may have faked evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in an effort to “damage” George W. Bush when he was president.
    • Three days after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, Limbaugh claimed that Democrats did nothing to stop the violence in order to advance their political agenda.
    • In September 2016, Limbaugh pushed the conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton had a body double.
    • In January 2016, Limbaugh suggested that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was worried Hillary Clinton would murder him if he criticized her too strongly.
    • In February 2015, Limbaugh suggested that the Obama administration’s arrest of ISIS supporters in the U.S. was a cover to push the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality regulations and a supposed plan to “ban the sale of bullets.”
    • In October 2014, Limbaugh claimed that people “at the highest levels of our government” think Americans deserve to get Ebola.
    • Days after the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, Limbaugh used the tragedy in invoking a debunked conspiracy theory alleging the Obama administration launched Operation Fast and Furious in order to pass stricter gun-safety legislation.
    • In the years before Barack Obama was elected president, Limbaugh repeatedly invoked right-wing conspiracy theories that the Clintons were involved in Vince Foster's death and suggested that Hillary Clinton had Foster murdered.

    For more on Limbaugh’s conspiracy theories, see here.