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This week saw the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which culminated with Martin Luther King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech.

And right on cue, right wing talk show bigot Rush Limbaugh found a way to make it all about him.  Limbaugh spoke about being told how much he has in common with Dr. King.  

Yes, you read that correctly.  

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Limbaugh also spent time discussing Dr. King's "street sweeper" analogy, which appeared in a number of the civil rights leader's speeches.  Limbaugh incorrectly identified the speech he played on his show as having taken place in Philadelphia, but in fact it was in Chicago on April 9, 1967:

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The portion of the speech Limbaugh excerpted is below (and full text of this particular speech is here):

"What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.'

If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill

Be a scrub in the valley—but be

The best little scrub on the side of the hill,

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a highway just be a trail

If you can’t be the sun be a star;

It isn’t by size that you win or fail—

Be the best of whatever you are."

Rush Limbaugh cynically used King's speech as an argument against raising minimum wage, as an indictment of Obamacare, and as support for the notion that if you are unhappy with your lot in life, you need to stop being so damn ungrateful.

Limbaugh stuck close to the right wing narrative that poor/minorities who are struggling don't need help, they just need to struggle harder.

RUSH:  "So I was just watching a little bit of Jimmy Carter speaking at the Martin Luther King memorial.  This is unbelievable.  He's going through a litany of things that Martin Luther King wouldn't like about today. The Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court striking it down. Photo ID? Martin Luther King wouldn't like that, which is discriminatory, and would deny people the right to vote.

How in the world can that a photo ID deny you the right to vote, unless you're not who the photo is?  Anyway, he then said, 'And Dr. King would not like all of the high unemployment of black people, and high unemployment in black teenages.'  I'm watching this in stunned disbelief.  Well, who's running the show now?  Dr. King wouldn't like all the high African-American unemployment today?

We've only had four and a half years of the policies the first African-American president responsible for it. And, by the way, it wasn't that much better when old Jimmy was in the White House his self. When Jimmy his self was in the White House, we needed a misery index to keep track of how bad it was.  Now, this is 51 seconds.  This is Dr. King.  You're not hearing this message on The Mall today.  You're not hearing this message in the Lincoln Memorial.

[plays MLK clip]

And when you meet God, at the end of your life, you've been the best you can be at whatever your lot in life was.  This was a man... If I may translate this, this was a man speaking to the weak.  He wasn't coddling them.  He's saying be as strong as you can be. Be the best you can be. He was not coddling the weak. He was not excusing them. By 'weak,' I mean meek, whatever.  I'm not talking about weak in character.  It's clear what he's talking about."

What Limbaugh neglected to reveal is that in the very same speech, King also encouraged people to stand up and fight for what is right:
"Darker yet may be the night, harder yet may be the fight. Just stand up for that which is right."

Limbaugh won't tell his slack-jawed listeners that Dr. King's message is about getting people to have enough pride in their identities to demand respect.  

It's about not letting others tell you that you've achieved all that you can, so stop trying to overstep your boundaries and accept where you are.  It's about not accepting that the back of the bus is where you belong.  

In another "street sweeper" speech two weeks after he spoke in Chicago, Dr. King prefaced his street sweeper analogy with this:

"Now this is all I’m saying this morning that we must feel that we count. That we belong. That we are persons. That we are children of the living God. And it means that we go down in our soul and find that somebodiness and we must never again be ashamed of ourselves. We must never be ashamed of our heritage. We must not be ashamed of the color of our skin. Black is as beautiful as any color and we must believe it.

And so every black person in this country must rise up and say I’m somebody; I have a rich proud and noble history, however painful and exploited it has been. I am black, but I am black and beautiful.

[...]

We must not wait for the day of full emancipation before we set out to achieve certain basic developments in our lives."


These views are not consistent with Limbaugh's view of poor minorities--that they should stop advocating for themselves and accept the status quo, whether it's voting laws that take away their right to participate in elections or a minimum wage that makes it impossible to pay the bills.

But Limbaugh's right wing interpretation of King's message should not surprise anyone who has followed his views of African Americans and civil rights leaders.  The man who said earlier this year that the Civil Rights Movement could have been accomplished more quickly with guns has a long history of racist comments specifically aimed at the African American community.

Last month, shortly after using the N word on the air, Limbaugh said it is "preposterous that Caucasians are blamed for slavery," and that "if any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it's Caucasians."

Earlier this year Limbaugh spent two days mocking African American Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) with a series of slavery jokes because she had made the mistake of praising Congress for its part in freeing slaves:

Who owned her?

Who sold her?

Was it a good deal when he sold her, or did he just get rid of her?

She might have outlived her usefulness on the plantation.

Child-rearing years are over, so maybe her value had plummeted.

One of Limbaugh's favorite targets is the NAACP, a "racist" organization which reports say Limbaugh has referred to as the NAALCP (National Association for the Advancement of Lazy Colored People).  He has also suggested that the organization should "get a liquor store and practice robberies."  

The list goes on and on.  Suffice it to say Rush Limbaugh is no Martin Luther King, Jr.

In fact, the only comment El Rushbo made this week about Dr. King that bears repeating was his astute observation that the unscrupulous are apt to use MLK to sell just about anything.

Even, it turns out, right wing bullshit.

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Thanks to PS for ideas and research.

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