U.S. conservative talk radio: little fondness for Kennedy legacy

August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy’s polarizing political legacy was on full display on Wednesday as some U.S. conservatives showed little restraint in their hostility for the veteran liberal senator who died late on Tuesday. 


Conservative talk radio hosts blasted away at the policies of Kennedy, a towering figure in the Democratic Party and a standard bearer of liberal causes who died at age 77 after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.

Nationally syndicated talk show host Rush Limbaugh said the political left was “exploiting his death and his legacy” to advance President Barack Obama’s agenda for healthcare reform, which was also one of Kennedy’s signature issues.

“The greatest tribute would be that every American would get the same healthcare option that Ted Kennedy got. Ted Kennedy did not have to face death panels,” Limbaugh told his listeners, referring to persistent but incorrect rumours that, under the reforms now being debated, “death panels” would have a say in whether ailing senior citizens would get life-saving care.

Others took issue with a range of liberal causes linked to Kennedy, saying his policies had sullied his legacy in the conservative heartland.

“The entire Kennedy family was right on civil rights in the 1960s but ever since that it’s been about the perpetuation of the racism that is affirmative action,” said Mark Davis, a conservative talk radio host in Dallas.

“The Democratic Party has even gotten to the point now where they’re even wrong on civil rights so this is a tough legacy to muddle through.”

One woman called into his show asking if it was appropriate for Kennedy to have a “huge, Catholic mass” for his funeral because of his support for abortion rights.

In its article about Kennedy’s death, the Vatican newspaper praised him for his battles in favor of immigrant rights, gun control and higher minimum wages, but regretted his “unfortunate” support of abortion.

Other U.S. conservative responses took a distinctly different tone.

Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, said: “…by the end of his life he had become irreplaceable in the institution he loved and in the affections of its members. He grew up in the long shadow of his brothers, but found a way to be useful to his country in ways that will outlast their accomplishments.” 

Photo credit: Reuters/Micah Walter (Radio show host Rush Limbaugh)


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Radio Talk Show Host = Irrelevant, except for the enormous compensation afforded to stoke self important lynch mob mentalities. It could be construed from the content of this article that the radio personality is exploiting this event fully for personal gain.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Jeez, the man is not even buried and we have all this back and forth.
If he was so awful, the people of Massachusetts would have gotten rid of him along time ago.

Posted by John K | Report as abusive

Rush Lim”nuts” will only be a very minor footnote in history while Ted Kennedy will hold a place of stature! Too bad that Medicare and the VA health care are so successful otherwise the “death panel” nuts might have a leg to stand on.

Posted by robert | Report as abusive

Norm, that so-called “death panel” of which you speak is nothing more than what private insurance companies already do. So just why are you for it when the insurance companies do it but against it if the public health care option ever gets passed?

Posted by borisjimski | Report as abusive

Right-o, Ralph Jacobs! Good job, john paul! dom youngross, I guess you missed that Kennedy was against the Iraq charade from the beginning; pity you don’t gain information before spouting an opinion. Bush’s mandate didn’t exist in 2000, and even in 2004 he didn’t get above 300 electoral votes and only won the popular vote by a few percent, not a 10% margin. bens demise, left wing talk radio has only a fraction of the audience share as right wing rant radio has, so comparing the effects of the two is scarcely a fair fight. ItsPhilD, same to you plus do you consider Fox to be part of this vast left wing media (excuse me, “ultra” left wing media) you keep propounding is out there? If there’s such a large left wing media supposedly in the tank for Obama, why is the health care reform issue in such trouble? No lie too big, no exaggeration too vile for the right wing true believers.

Posted by borisjimski | Report as abusive

“proven fact”? “total control”? Gee glenn, you should listen to yourself some time.

Posted by borisjimski | Report as abusive

I have had personal experience with people who have fought and died after being diagnosed with cancer. I can tell you of two who would have lived longer had their insurance companies not refused to pay for medicine and/or care. Only the most hard hearted people would allow someone else to suffer and die before their time. With regard to “death panels”, no one should be forced to pull the plug against their will, and insurance should pay for whatever it takes to respect the sick person and their families’ wishes. Regarding those who object to Medicare paying for care for the elderly, they have paid into Medicare and Medicare should pay for them. This whole thing is preposterous. Kennedy has worked for 40 years to improve health care coverage, do it already!

Posted by mom | Report as abusive

For the last two days, Limbaugh has done nothing but besmirch the name of Ted Kennedy for the sole purpose of advancing his own twisted political (anti-healthcare reform) agenda. He was even on his show yesterday perverting about a Kennedy “waitress sandwich”. A man has died, yet Rush can’t resist spitting on his grave to make political cheapshots.

Limbaugh has proven to be a man of bad taste and flawed character — and he’s the mouthpiece for the GOP (go figure). THIS is what the republican party has regressed to?

It’s pathetically unAmerican and pathologically indecent. Yet Rush still has a bastion of dittoheads willing to defend his every insult to humanity. That says more about his listeners than it does about him.

Posted by JD | Report as abusive

Rush tries to make Kennedy out to be….well, Rush! Saying Kennedy destroyed people’s lives by attacking those who couldn’t fight back, making fun of Kennedy’s concern for the little guy while being fabulously wealthy and connected (as if they are mutually exclusive), and how Kennedy was the start of the “hate”…the public polarization we see now (I guess that’s what he means by “the hate’).

These are of course perfect descriptions of who Rush is, not Kennedy. All Rush EVER seems to talk about is himself, even when he thinks he’s talking about someone or something else!

Posted by AlbertCat | Report as abusive

As for Kennedy..WGAF? Obviously not most of you. It looks like highschool mudslinging over somones grave.

Posted by jon | Report as abusive

Yeah for the legacy of Ted Kennedy!
The bashers and the hashers of the far right are so busy with their bad mouths that they have no time for doing good or really caring about any thing other than lining their own pockets, for grandiose self indulgence.

Posted by glasshoe1 | Report as abusive

Legacy, you mean the legacy of self-indulgence, affairs, and lets not forget Chappaquiddick. I wonder if Mary Jane feels so nostalgic. Yeah for Rush, he says what thinks and tells it like it is. Put the cool-aid down and do your own research about what kind of man Kennedy really was. Don’t take Rush’s word for it.

Rush is an example of why the rest of the world view Americans as stupid, arrogant, deliberately rude, and condescending. “SHAME ON YOU” for your incendiary remarks against Ted Kennedy. Do you need help remembering that you were an admitted Oxycontin addict who plea-bargained his way out of a drug conviction, who mocks the less fortunate, who was detained on a Dominican Republic vacation for carrying Viagra without a prescription?
It would be nice to see Rush bouts of intergity and courage that lasted more than three hours daily!

Posted by Peter K | Report as abusive

Ted Kennedy was a rich guy who didn’t need to work yet he got up every day and went to work for nearly 50 years to help the little guy. Ted Kennedy supported a woman’s legal right to an abortion yet was part of a family that’s produced scads and scads of kids. Ted Kennedy was supposedly this horrible human being but the teetotaling Mormon Sen. Orrin Hatch absolutely loved the man.
Rush Limbaugh is a rich guy who gets up every day and goes to work for the $50 million dollars he gets paid yearly to convince little guys to support rich guys. Haven’t seen many kids from the Limbaugh clan. Don’t know any screaming liberal, Senator or not, who loves Rush Limbaugh, the human being.
Wake up and smell the hateful snow job from the Right, folks. And if you believe in redemption, give Ted some credit and some respect; stop being so ruthlessly petty. Because in the end, Teddy Boy turned out to be a pretty amazing man who touched an incredible number of people with his kindness, his thoughtfulness, his compassion, his decency. It took a while, but he sure got there. RIP EMK. Thanks for not giving up.

I am guessing that the friends and family of Mary Jo Kopechne have little fondness for the Kennedy legacy. He caused the death of a 28 year old woman in Chappaquiddick and he never apologized for it, in fact he acted like he was some kind of victim for driving while intoxicated and going off a bridge into the water where he escaped, but didn’t call for help to try and rescue Mary Jo. He is not a man who deserves our fond memories.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

Dear Jason: Yes, you are guessing, and you guess as you do because it serves your purpose of using a dead 28-year old woman as a prop, a club, with which to bash a dead Ted Kennedy, forty years on. You don’t know anything about what apologies Ted Kennedy made or did not make to the poor woman’s family, only that he didn’t apologize adequately to *you*, whoever you are and whatever your standing in the matter is/was. Probably none, based on your ‘guessing’ comment; *my* guess is you weren’t even close to being born yet in 1969, as your judgmental post has the ring of youthful and indignant self-righteousness. Despite your closing sentence telling us all how we should approach it, there are millions — that’s a number followed by six zeroes — who will forever carry fond memories of Ted Kennedy and feel gratitude toward the man. Some people are reluctant to reduce a 77-year life to the events of one awful night. Go figure, Jason.

Ted Kennedy as a champion of the little guy? What hypocrisy, Ted Kennedy was a champion of any cause which would keep him firmly in office and would be the first to do a 180 degree turn if required to keep himself seated. The character of the man was in clear public display on the morning after Chappaquidick. We as Americans will continue to pay dearly for the damagaging bills chaampioned by ol Teddy. What about the thousands of voices stilled by the abortion doctors, another cause “Championed” by Teddy. He will not be missed.

Posted by john | Report as abusive

I am with John Paul that “this country has become wad of ungovernable, proudly ignorant, hateful, hostile, venemous mouthbreathers who actually believe they are christians”. What ever happened to intelligent debate and meeting in the middle? What ever happened to truth and plain old doing what is right?

Posted by Ellie | Report as abusive

To bensdemise:
I did my homework and it appears that my gut recollection regarding the uncritical coverage in the two weeks following Reagan’s death was exactly right.

An exhaustive analysis of media coverage by Fairness and Accuracy in the Media shows that the mainstream media tiptoed around any potential landmines of Reagan’s legacy including the support of Right Wing governments in Central America in spite of their murdering of tens of thousands of their own citizens, his silence during the early part of the AIDS epidemic, his honoring of Nazi soldiers, his involvement in trading arms for hostages (which his mind, if not his heart, admitted to on TV), his passing on of huge deficits (doubling the existing deficit) to future generations, etc. All of these things were given a pass in the mainstream news by former friends–including the media elite reporters themselves.

Compare this to round table discussions on Fox on Kennedy’s legacy accompanied by video reminders of Chappaquiddic and the lack of reticence of any of the networks to mix criticism along with praise of Kennedy.

Clearly, Reagan’s death was politicized (Nancy wanted to support stem cell research) just as Kennedy’s was regarding health care. Reagan supporters also jumped at the chance to mythologize his life, and ensured a glowing and uncritical legacy in the American mind.

And what’s the counter evidence? Mike Malloy and Alex Bennett and an article in the Huffington Post? If you want to be honest, provide a link and explain how these guys (never heard of them) are representative of the mainstream media (e.g., ABC NEWS, CNN, FOX) echo chamber that represents what most Americans actually hear or read on a given news story.

Here’s my link to some people who actually did extensive research on this point.
http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Ronald _Reagan/Reagan_Myth_Lives_On.html

Posted by ben | Report as abusive