California Forum

Limbaugh and the spy who shouldn’t be black

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh recently stated that anybody who plays James Bond in a movie should be white and that British actor Idris Elba is not fit for the role because he’s black.
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh recently stated that anybody who plays James Bond in a movie should be white and that British actor Idris Elba is not fit for the role because he’s black. Associated Press file

Our fair city and radio station KFBK owe an apology to the rest of the country for inflicting Rush Limbaugh on it.

Limbaugh made a name for himself here several years ago and moved on to New York, where he has gone from belittling the people of Rio Linda to spreading misinformation on national politics and making comments that range from the outright racist to the downright ridiculous.

The bombastic talk show commentator was in the news again recently for declaring that anybody who plays James Bond in a movie should be white and that British actor Idris Elba is not fit for the role because he’s black.

“James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming,” Limbaugh said. “He was white and Scottish. Period. That is who James Bond is. But now (they are) suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton. But that’s not who James Bond is.”

First of all, what possible difference could it make that someone of a different ethnic background might play a fictional movie character? But following Limbaugh’s logic – and I’m sure it makes sense to what’s left of his listenership – there would be no black president, no black quarterbacks, no black coaches, no black CEOs. Who knows where he would take it.

In fact, he once said that one of the National Football League’s first black quarterbacks, Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles, was given a pass by sportswriters and sportscasters because they wanted a black quarterback to succeed.

“He got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve,” said the would-be sage of talk radio.

That little bit of brilliance cost him his gig as a commentator on ESPN television’s “Sunday NFL Countdown.”

He also once said that National Basketball Association games resemble a fight between the Bloods and the Crips, and described the teams as “gangs.” He suggested the league should be renamed the “Thug Basketball Association.”

But like all racists, Limbaugh insists he is not a racist, which, I suppose, leaves ignorance as the only other option. And Limbaugh, whatever you think of him, definitely is not ignorant. What he says amounts to more than an occasional slip of the tongue, or simple insensitivity. It doesn’t take much of a search of his comments over the years to establish that.

“I know it’s racist to probably point that out,” he said about his James Bond comments. Really? You think?

Before he was in Sacramento and before he became nationally known, Limbaugh was a disc jockey in Pittsburgh, and he once asked, “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?” He later told a caller, “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

Even so, he professed innocence in a later interview and declared that “I am the least racist host you’ll ever find.”

President Barack Obama has provided him with an irresistible target, and his criticism strikes me as having as much to do with Obama’s color as with his policies and his politics. Among other things, for instance, he once referred to Obama, alluding to the president’s mixed parentage, as an “Oreo cookie.”

He also has said that Obama “hates America” and has charged that the president was leading a war on traditional marriage.

More recently, he suggested that Obama was refusing to ban flights into the U.S. from Ebola-infected countries because the country “deserves” to be infected with the virus as a payback for slavery.

But racist comments are not his only stock in trade. Remember the time he called a young Georgetown University student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying before a congressional committee in support of women’s access to birth control? That cost him sponsorships and started a downward spiral in his audience.

The list of his provocative and mean-spirited comments could fill a book and range from hostility toward women, gays and Latino immigrants to anti-Semitism.

One of the nastier incidents in his dossier occurred when Bill Clinton was president. Limbaugh made fun of 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton’s looks and compared her to a dog. Out of bounds and repugnant doesn’t begin to describe that episode, no matter your political persuasion.

Only Limbaugh knows in his own mind how much of his bloviating is pandering to his largely right-wing, white, aging and shrinking audience, and how much he truly believes. But he obviously has found a niche audience and plays to them day in and day out, no matter how hurtful. He’s either preaching to the choir or singing along with it, in which case he continues to strike a lot of sour notes.

William Endicott is a former deputy managing editor of The Sacramento Bee.

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