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Military’s subsidy of Limbaugh insults taxpayers

Military’s subsidy of Limbaugh insults taxpayers

The Pentagon’s defiant pledge to stick with the Rush Limbaugh show, no matter what, demonstrates a few hard and insulting realities.

The Armed Forces Network (AFN) that carries the Limbaugh show is not a private business, corporation or proprietorship that can do whatever it pleases with its money, personnel, operations and policy. Every penny of the armed force’s bloated budget comes from taxpayers.

The AFN, which has supported the Limbaugh show for two decades, is funded to the tune of an estimated $27 million annually. Every penny of which comes from the pockets of taxpayers. Since the military is not a democracy, and decisions are made top-down, there was never any chance for taxpayers to have a say about their money subsidizing the naked bias of one radio jockey at the public’s expense.

The same rule applies to those in the military who have had Limbaugh shoved down their ears. They are the tens of thousands of servicemen and women who dial up the network. Many are young, well educated and just as important, female and minority. Blacks make up nearly 20 percent of the armed forces; Hispanics make up nearly 15 percent; and women make up between 10 to 20 percent of the four divisions of armed services.

Like it or not, Limbaugh’s war on, and trashing of, women and minorities is a daily feature on the network. Whether individuals tune in or out, the show is an established part of the military’s airwaves. It has political influence and impact that reverberate beyond the listener’s ears.

The network counters that it airs a “variety” of shows and views. It cites the liberal Ed Schultz show and National Public Radio to prove that Limbaugh is only one voice, and there’s a viewpoint for everyone. There are problems with this claim, too. Schultz’s show was added to the network’s talk show lineup in 2005, more than a decade after Limbaugh had ruled the military-talk roost.

It was only added after the first firestorm of protests from media groups that Limbaugh’s views were biased, bigoted, one-sided and hardly represented “balanced” news and information, which is the much touted mandate of the network.

The initial demand to then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the year before Schultz was added to the network, was to can Limbaugh. That wasn’t going to happen. Adding Schultz was how the AFN squelched the protests.

Another problem is that Limbaugh has been the flagship show on the network for a long time. The show airs for one hour each day and is heard by millions locally and globally. The AFN blew off every public squawk and complaint about the show through the years, not because it regards balanced views as a sacred broadcast right, but because of fear, badgering and intimidation from the GOP.

The show was plopped on the network in 1993, when dozens of GOP house members bullied then President Clinton’s Secretary of Defense Les Aspin into broadcasting the show. They didn’t stop at the radio show; they also demanded that it run his flop of a TV show on the network.

The AFN then, at least, was more honest and made no pretense to con itself, the public and military personnel that the show presented “balanced” news and information. It flatly admitted that the show was biased. But, it still went ahead and made it a fixture in its broadcast lineup while parroting the conservative pressure point that not to air it would be tantamount to censorship.

This Orwellian stretch was left dangling during the next decade of government. Supported and licensed, unabashed Limbaugh trashed and bashed minorities, women, gays, the poor and his favorite targets: Democrats. He especially bashed former Democratic President Clinton, and recently, with even more glee: President Obama.

The AFN has been bombarded with letters, emails, a petition and a flood of angry responses on its website, urging the cancelation of Limbaugh’s show. But the military brass is playing hardball. Limbaugh has been a fixture for too long, and for many military personnel. His phony flag waving, patriotism and misogyny fits in neatly with a military that has deeply embedded this thinking in its culture for decades.

If the military was a private outfit, it would still be open to attack for airing Limbaugh, but a taxpayer would not have much clout to make it change. But it’s not a private outfit, the military is bankrolled by taxpayers, and they have no obligation to subsidize bias, bigotry and slander in the name of balance. The AFN must dump Limbaugh.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.