Howard Stern on Rush Limbaugh and Radio Sensitivity
March 25, 2012 2 Comments
Given all of the recent outrage provoked by Rush Limbaugh’s anti-female political proposals and his extended insults against Sandra Fluke, I found it interesting this past week when Howard Stern specifically criticized his fellow radio giant — not for his politics, but as a broadcaster.
Stern’s main complaint is that Limbaugh is a caricature…
I think people are way more interesting when they do open up. My problem with, like, Rush Limbaugh, is that he’s like this character who’s always a Republican shill and I’ve always said this. I’ve said this in interviews and I’ve said it here on the air, that if Rush Limbaugh would actually open up and talk about his struggles and talk about that he doesn’t always agree with the Republican party, that he’d be a way more interesting performer. And I’ve taken that advice to my own career. I’m not always going to be some hard-assed dude. That’s boring. To admit that you had a moment of sensitivity or that you felt something is way more interesting to me.
I agree, and certainly part of the reason I support the boycott of Limbaugh’s advertisers is because Limbaugh is much more of a partisan political figure engaged in political fights than he is an entertainer commenting on the political scene.
And what about Stern? After all, while he can be stellar on certain issues (such when it comes to excoriating Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann for their homophobia) his studio has also at times served as a setting for bigotry.
One of Stern’s arguments when asked that question has been that he provides a platform but does not endorse all the views expressed on his program. In the case of certain offensive figures, such as Ku Klux Klan member Daniel Carver, Stern’s express interest was holding the bigot up to ridicule.
More recently, and in a MUCH more mild case, a caller questioned why Stern hadn’t reproached supermodel Elle Macpherson during her March 13th visit. Stern had expressed concern that Macpherson would have a nude photo of herself displayed at home despite having teenaged children, and Macpherson had said…
I think you’re just being absolutely Jewish, because you’re being overprotective.
Now, this was hardly one of the more charged statements made in the Stern studio, and Howard told his caller that he didn’t feel it was the right moment to push Elle, and that it was a situation in which the listeners could judge for themselves.
And that’s my job, to open somebody up so that you get to know them. Whether you like them or not is your decision.
I don’t buy that argument for every situation, but there’s a significant difference to me between the tightly controlled hyper-partisan Rush, and Howard who, while also controlling, allows other voices into the mix, including those (like this caller) who think he’s wrong.
The caller also felt that Howard is losing his edge because he recently tweeted his sadness about his aging dog, Bianca Romijn-Stamos-O’Connell. (For those not in the know, Stern is good friends with John Stamos, who used to be married to Rebecca Romijn; Rebecca is now married to Stern superfan Jerry O’Connell.) Here’s the tweet…
New Macy Gray Cd really good. But why does music depress me so much? Bianca at my feet snoring and I get sad that she's so old.—
Howard Stern (@HowardStern) March 13, 2012
That’s the Howard I like the best, contemplative and thoughtful, the guy who goes to therapy three times a week and talks about it with his listeners. In fact, here’s the train of thought which led him to talking about Limbaugh…
You know, my dad was a very stoic guy. That’s how he got through life, you know, he didn’t show a lot of emotion. And I feel bad for my dad when I think about his life because he’s very afraid of emotion, you know. I mean, he had a really tough life, so I understand what his brain did. His brain shut down and said “Look, I can’t care about anything. If I do, I see too much sadness and I don’t want to see any sadness.” Very hard to confront your sadness, but I feel my dad missed out on a lot in life, being so stoic. I think he missed out on connecting with a lot of people. And I’m very much like my dad, you know. True you’re raised by him, but what I’m trying to do in therapy and stuff is to be a little less stoic, to be a little less — to find out who I am, as opposed to just following.
It’s a worthwhile path. When Stern is at his reactionary worst, going on some sort of law-and-order rant or the like, it’s remarkable how much he sounds like the impression of his authoritarian father that he does at other times. And I can often (but not always) accept those imperfections more readily when they’re admitted, shared, and worked on.