In wake of Limbaugh's death, AFN reaps negative feedback for ‘Best of Rush’ programming
Not everyone is happy that American Forces Network is airing a compilation of late conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s programming in the wake of his death Feb. 17 from lung cancer.
“Best of Rush” on AFN is provided by Premiere Networks, a subsidiary of iHeartMedia, for an indefinite period in the same slot Limbaugh’s show occupied while he was living, according to a Feb. 23 news release.
The government broadcast service has been airing Limbaugh’s program since the 1990s, but the announcement of the “Best of Rush” show on AFN’s Facebook page received mostly negative feedback from commenters.
Though many cheered Limbaugh as a voice of the people, others disdained him as divisive and accused him of bigotry, sexism and racism. Of 180 comments on the growing thread Tuesday, the majority questioned or expressed disapproval of AFN’s decision to air the program.
“I don’t want the troops exposed to this horrible content anymore,” Paul Robinson, a retired IT manager with the Defense Media Activity, said in a comment Feb. 25.
In a conversation Monday with Stars and Stripes via Facebook Messenger, Robinson said re-running Limbaugh’s shows has no place in the current climate.
“It is certainly tone-deaf and not in step with leadership,” he said. “I do not advocate propaganda in any way, but simply removing such programming would reinforce the message from all leadership levels that extreme views are not tolerated. It is not okay, for example, to objectify women in the workplace, nor to bully others, but this is exactly what Limbaugh's program is all about.”
AFN responded in the comments on Sunday, saying it is airing the “Best of Rush” program based on ratings.
“AFN programs according to United States popularity, not viewpoint or content,” the broadcaster said in the comments section of its original post Sunday and in an email to Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.
“During the 25 plus years Rush Limbaugh’s radio program has aired on the American Forces Network, we have received a variety of feedback, both pro and con,” AFN spokesman George Smith wrote in the email. “The latest reactions are consistent with the past. The comments from Mr. Limbaugh reflect his opinions alone, and not AFN.”
Some commenters stood up for Limbaugh, who in February 2020 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Donald Trump during a State of the Union address.
“If people want to hear it, let them hear it,” David Tier, formally assigned to the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany, said in the comment thread Feb. 26.
Tier in a Facebook message to Stars and Stripes said he encouraged fighting “cancel culture” and that the program is “a First Amendment right.”
Some comments also noted that this radio special is coming in the middle of a military-wide stand down to address extremism in the ranks. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered every command in the Department of Defense to take a one-day break from normal operations to lead a discussion on extremism. The order was signed Feb. 5 and must be completed by April 6.
Controversial moments on Limbaugh’s show include suggesting female service members be grouped together so their “menstrual cycles sync” and they can be “ready to be banshees”; calling a woman who accused Duke University lacrosse players of raping her a “ho”; and playing celebratory sound effects while reading the names of people who died of AIDS.
Limbaugh later called the AIDS segment one of the “most regretful things I’ve ever done,” according to The New York Times.
Smith said AFN welcomes feedback from its audience and can be contacted through its website, myafn.net.
In Central Europe, the full three-hour “Best of Rush” show will air on AFN 360’s PowerTalk at 7 p.m. Mondays as well as 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. The first hour of the show airs on AFN 360’s The Voice at 6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
In Japan and Korea, the show airs at 3 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday on Power Talk. AFN airs the first hour of the show Tuesday-Saturday at 2 a.m. on The Voice.
PowerTalk and The Voice are two of the 10 talk, sports and music services streaming on AFN 360 Internet radio. Listeners may tune in by downloading the free AFN360 app at the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store for an Apple or Android device.