Over the years, Rush Limbaugh has raised his profile by deliberately violating various taboos. This excites his fans, who process transgressiveness as bravery, especially if it angers the left. It garners attention from Limbaugh's critics too. Outraged, they declare that he is racist, or sexist, or homophobic -- charges that prompt conservatives to rally around him, insisting that their favorite radio host isn't a bigot, just another victim of political correctness. The cycle has characterized Limbaugh's career for decades.
Limbaugh isn't always in the wrong. Sometimes his pointed satire is unobjectionable, at least insofar as it isn't racist, sexist, or homophobic, but his eager ideological antagonists declare it it to be anyway.
But too often his commentary, whether bigoted or not, is clearly odious, and for a distinct reason. At his very worst, it is beside the point to adjudicate whether Limbaugh is guilty of prejudice, because he guilty of something much worse: exploiting the racial anxieties of Americans for profit. He deliberately provokes racial controversy, both for his audience and the blowback.
Here's an example from a 2009 Limbaugh monologue:
It's Obama's America, is it not?
Obama's America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now.
You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, "Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on," and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he's white. Newsweek magazine told us this. We know that white students are destroying civility on buses, white students destroying civility in classrooms all over America, white congressmen destroying civility in the House of Representatives.
Does President Obama's tenure have anything to do with violence on school buses? No. Are white kids getting beat up more? No. If they were, would everybody say that they deserved it? No. Would Newsweek? No. Limbaugh is just fabricating an epidemic of black-on-white violence and implicating the first black president in it. It is an entirely irredeemable piece of talk radio.