For the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, it's hard to gauge whether Hu Jintao's trip to America is going well. That's because Hu, the president of China, isn't speaking in English for his public appearances; he's speaking a Chinese dialect that Limbaugh doesn't understand.
That didn't stop Limbaugh from approximating the Chinese language on his show Wednesday. "Hu Jintao, he was speaking and they weren't translating," said Limbaugh, referring to a recent press conference where Hu appeared. "Normally, you'd have somebody translate every couple of words, but Hu Jintao was just going--" Then Limbaugh spouted off nonsense syllables for 17 seconds, as you can hear in the clip below.
No one seems to appreciate Limbaugh's impression of the foreign dignitary, least of all those leaning left. Here's some of the opprobrium Limbaugh's comments have drawn:
- 'Pungent as an Unmucked Stable' Salon's Anrdew Leonard gives Limbaugh a thorough dressing-down, calling his outburst "the most abominable display of evil Oriental stereotyping this side of Fu Manchu." Leonard goes on to guess that "the clip is already surging through the Chinese Internet, and hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens are contemplating the fact that one of the heroes of the newly ascendant Republican party is a nativist ignoramus intent on purposely humiliating the current leader of the world's next great superpower."
- Pretty Blatant, Even for Rush Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo writes that "Limbaugh is known for often using coded racist language, then accusing people of race-baiting if they complain. But this time... he's just gone for some straight-out racist caricature."
- Like Something From Another Era Cynthia Tucker at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Limbaugh's impression consisted of "the childish and stupid faux Mandarin that was typical of bad Hollywood slapstick of the 1920s and '30s." She calls it "a low ebb" for the radio host.
- Here's Your GOP, Folks "This racist shock-jock is what passes for the heart of the Republican Party in 2011, and GOP officials who dare bother Limbaugh invariably scramble to apologize," writes Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly. "It's worth emphasizing that displays like these--last week he said lunatics who try to assassinate Democratic lawmakers enjoy the support of the Democratic Party--will have absolutely no bearing on Republican leaders remaining desperate to be on his program."
- Conservatives Will Denounce This, Right? Mediaite's Jon Bershad looks back to 2006, when Rosie O'Donnell repeatedly used the phrase "ching chong" to perform an impression of a Chinese news anchor. Right-wing commentators rushed to slam O'Donnell when that happened. So, wonders Bershad, "will the same people who urgently called for O'Donnell to apologize or be fired appear again this time? ... Will Rush Limbaugh be held to the same standard as Rosie O'Donnell?"
- Here's What Limbaugh Said, More or Less Rob Beschizza at Boing Boing offers a by-ear transcription of Limbaugh's "imaginary Chinese vocabulary." According to Beschizza, it was "CHING CHONG, CHING CHOW CHONG CHA, CHONG CHANG, CHING CHONG CHIBABABA, OH CHONGHING CHI CHIGARAI, CHENG CHI CHI. CHING ZHA BABA CHENGA CHENG CHI CHI CHI. CHANGI. OOOOOO. CHING CHOLABA BABA. GE CHOW CHOW BA."
- 'It Sounds Like All the Same Word' Rob Quinn at Newser notes that later on in his show, Limbaugh also said: "I found myself trying to write down what Hu Jintao was saying in Chinese. Phonetically, so I could repeat it to you... Well, it's a--it looks like chicken scrawls. I said, 'I wonder to people who can't speak English, what does it sound like to them?' Because when I hear Chinese or Japanese, it sounds like all the same word. And I can't comprehend anybody understanding it."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.