The late Rush Limbaugh has been away from the airways now for just over a year and no one yet has been able to fill his shoes. Brett Winterble worked for Rush from 1995 till 1999 on the business end of the EIB Network and then from 1999 until 2006, Brett was on the inside of the program, first as a call screener then working as one of the Rush Limbaugh Show’s producers.
Brett sat down recently with the Bill McIntosh Show to discuss what Rush Limbaugh was like as a host and a man. Brett later moved on and in 2008 he started the Brett Winterble Show which is heard Monday through Friday from 3:00-6:00 PM on News Talk 1110 & 99.3 WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Rush Limbaugh brought political and cultural talk radio to a new level in terms of syndication and its impact on commerce and the very AM band that has been frequently cited as being saved thanks to Limbaugh. Before he hit it big, however, Rush was fired several times and even told to try sales as (according to one radio general manager) he’d supposedly never be a success in broadcasting!!
That proved spectacularly wrong as his thousands if not millions of enthusiastic “ditto heads” who called (or listened) and who felt agreement with previous callers who praised Limbaugh, Limbaugh actually gave preference to those callers who disagreed with him. These callers were put at the head of the line. Many of these would be jokingly referred to by Limbaugh as “seminar callers” because Limbaugh would often engage in a lengthy conversation that was frequently characterized by long seminar like explanations about conservatism; the nature of America’s founding and its very identity.
Millions were listening and as a result of these lengthy soliloquies, a constant of his show soon became callers thanking him for changing their minds from being a liberal to becoming a conservative due to Limbaugh’s cogent reasoning and compelling presentation of facts.
Limbaugh was controversial often just by coming out and saying things people were thinking but too scared to articulate. One of the best examples of this trait was the case of Georgetown Law School Student Sandra Fluke who argued before Congress that the cost of birth control should be covered by her employers’ health insurance plan. Limbaugh referred to Fluke as a “slut” but later backpedaled on it and apologized by stating:
“My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”
He also quipped that he “illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation.”
But it was this very candor and wit that helped propel the show to tremendous heights. Eventually The Rush Limbaugh Show would have over 650 terrestrial radio stations in its syndication lineup and be listened to by over 14 million listeners weekly according to Talkers Magazine. Limbaugh at one point signed a whopping $400 Million deal with Clear Channel in 2008. A show this successful not surprisingly had a team behind it. Concerning the staff of the show Winterble commented:
“He had an incredibly talented team….And the team was extremely tight knit people. People didn’t leave that show, as James [Golden] notes in his terrific book that’s out now. People didn’t leave that show. I left the show. But people by and large, did not. I wanted to pursue a show of my own. And I went out to the West Coast. And that’s that’s how I ended up kind of making the journey I made. [But Rush was] a guy that got along with people pretty well, was very much a very loyal team…he was at his core, you know, and he was, he was a guy from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, you know, he was he was he was the heartland of America in many ways….So, yeah, people didn’t quit, people didn’t quit. I didn’t see people fired. If people wanted to be there, and he was, he was careful and who he selected to be on the program and and put together a really good team. Yeah, not everybody was like, you know, have one mind and didn’t have disagreements on content or things like that. But it was a professional team of people that were amazingly talented, amazingly talented.”
Limbaugh’s program made generous use of mimicking people to cut them down to size and of song parodies by artist Paul Shanklin whose adaptations of lyrics and songs made gleefully enjoyable versions of popular tunes poking fun at presidents and politicians. It wasn’t until President Donald Trump recognized Limbaugh at his third State of the Union address on Feb. 4th, 2020 by bestowing on him the Presidential Medal of Freedom that Limbaugh received the national recognition that his great work behind the microphone deserved.
President Trump stated:
“Almost every American family knows the pain when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness. Here tonight is a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans who just received a Stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis. This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet. Rush Limbaugh: Thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country. Rush, in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I will now ask the First Lady of the United States to please stand and present you with the honor.”
Brett Winterble’s website is www.brettshow.com and his podcast is called Devious Motives.