Rush Returns to Radio

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, November 17, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Radio talk-show host, our friend Rush Limbaugh, he's back on the air today, more than five weeks after announcing he was addicted to prescription pain killers. Rush talked about his troubles and how treatment has changed his life.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I thought I was going into a treatment center to be treated for an addiction, opiates, to painkillers. And I was, but it's so much more than that. It is about so much more than that.

I tried to treat myself twice for my addiction. I detoxed myself twice and tried to do it by force of will, which is not possible. This is something someone cannot do alone.


HANNITY: And joining us now from Boston, Michael Harrison. He is the editor and publisher of Talkers magazine. And from our D.C. bureau, radio talk-show host G. Gordon Liddy.

Michael, I think you were quoted as saying, "This is going to be -- he's going to have three times his normal 20 million listeners today."

MICHAEL HARRISON, TALKERS MAGAZINE EDITOR: No, he doesn't have 20 million listeners a day. He has them per week.


HARRISON: So of that body of listeners, a lot of them were listening at the same time.

HANNITY: Yes. Why? Because just a curiosity factor or...

HARRISON: It's compelling drama. It's showmanship, and it's real- life soap opera. It's happening right before our ears. And you know, talk radio, as it is, is sort of a blend of reality and show business. Well, this is that concept to the highest extreme.

Plus, look at the amount of publicity that this situation has garnered in the press. You can't buy that type of publicity for a radio show. All focused on the same time, 12 noon E.T., newspapers, television, all-promoting this happening. You couldn't buy that many billboards or advertisements. It was amazing.

HANNITY: Yes. G. Gordon, I don't think it would have been Rush's choice, but I think Michael is right. But I don't think it would be his choice to have it be this way.

I've known a couple of people in my life, Gordon, that have gone through this: legitimate physical issues, doctor prescribed medication. And this stuff is highly, highly, highly addictive.

G. GORDON LIDDY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, it is indeed. First of all, I want to say that I agree with my good friend Michael Harrison. Believe me, he's an expert on talk radio.


LIDDY: He runs Talkers magazine, and there's few people who know it as well as Michael does.

There's something that we haven't hit upon yet and that is I watched the ABC evening news this evening, and it was quite clear that there is coming an attack on Rush Limbaugh by Peter Jennings and ABC News.

Now, if I were producing the Rush Limbaugh show, I would pay good money to see to it that he was attacked by Peter Jennings. If you think he's got a good, solid core audience now, they are really going to love him after that.

HANNITY: Yes, I guess.

You know, I guess anybody that takes an opinion -- Michael, this is what we do for a living. G. Gordon does it; Alan does it; I do it; Rush does it. You take a strong opinion, and half the people listening probably aren't going to like what you say. I'm just getting used to it. I'm still a little thin skinned, but I'm getting used to it.

HARRISON: But this is -- That's an important point, Sean, that a lot of people don't realize, is that being a talk show host is not like an elected official. You can have people listen who hate you, people who just find you amusing, and it's their listenership that's a vote. It's not anything more or less than that.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Gordon, you've been the subject of controversy a few times in your career.

LIDDY: Yes, indeed.

COLMES: How do you feel Rush is handling this?

LIDDY: I think he's handling it very well. He's doing it with dignity, and he's doing it with humility.

And what this does is this humanizes Rush. Rush previously, one could say, had an almost superhuman persona with respect to the vast audience. He now has a very human persona. We all have troubles. We all have problems. And people relate to that, and I think there's going to be just a lot of sympathy for him.

COLMES: Michael, a lot of people tuned in to see if there was a new Rush. And he had a very funny line, he said, "I'm not a linguini-spined liberal" as a result of what happened.

He doesn't have to become a liberal. Does he have to change his point of view? Does he have to be a different Rush Limbaugh than the one we knew up until now?

HARRISON: Well, he is a different Rush Limbaugh. It sounded very strange hearing people calling Rush and asking for advice on how to handle relationships. It was almost like "Ask Dr. Rush" for a while.

And even though his political position is going to remain the same, he said up front that from now on, his show and his personality will be peppered with different pieces of information and insights, because that's who he is now. That it has to be his priority.

So yes, there is a new Rush. It's a bit of the old Rush and something that's evolving that's going to make it even more interesting. And as I said, it only increases the level of his attraction as a radio personality.

COLMES: Gordon, I get into fights and I don't mind. My harshest critics are my fellow liberals who think that I should be attacking Rush, and I wish him nothing but Godspeed and good health.

And I would think that any broadcaster, we know we owe a debt of gratitude to Rush Limbaugh for what he created in this business for us, for you and I to be able to do every day.

And that we, you know -- I say, you know, we don't need to add the word "compassionate" to the word "liberal." We should offer him compassion at this time.

LIDDY: Well, I certainly agree with you. And anybody who attacks you for being compassionate and what have you, is way out of line. I mean, you and I differ politically, but I think you're one of the nicest guys that I've ever met.

HANNITY: You don't know him as well as I do, Gordon. Let me...

COLMES: I'm stunned to hear Gordon Liddy say something like that.

LIDDY: I've already seen you get a rise out of Sean.

COLMES: Is Rush going to get increasing listenership? Is he going to get -- He'll take the show to a whole new level. Will he attract, maybe, listeners who never listened to him before?

GORDON: Yes, he will. He will.


GORDON: Yes. Definitely.

HARRISON: I'm sorry.

COLMES: Michael, go ahead.

GORDON: I think I spoke over Michael. I'm sorry.

HARRISON: I'm sorry, I spoke over you.

COLMES: Michael, Michael Harrison.

HARRISON: I think that Limbaugh has an opportunity to take his show to higher levels of listenership, because this is interesting. And people are talking about it and it relates to real-life situations, and suddenly realizing that he's facing this challenge makes him more compelling.

HANNITY: You know something, Mike and Gordon? You know, he's been great for our industry. He's a good friend, and it was great to hear him today.

We're glad he's back, and we do wish him Godspeed. And he's going to be absolutely fine for all the liberals out there that don't like him.

Good to see you both. Thank you.

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