Rush Limbaugh v. Al Sharpton over Steinbrenner "cracker" crack


Radio talker Rush Limbaugh is back in the headlines over remarks concerning the death of New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. Limbaugh’s comment that “That cracker made a lot of African-American millionaires” provoked equal and opposite reactions from many, including Al Sharpton.

Here is the first part of Limbaugh’s own transcript, from his website, of the program segment in question:

RUSH: George Steinbrenner has passed away at age 80. That cracker made a lot of African-American millionaires. George Steinbrenner, the classic capitalist. Everybody around him became wealthy. Like most successful capitalists, he made the people around him wealthy, and a lot of African-American millionaires along the way, and at the same time he fired a bunch of white guys as managers, left and right. Steinbrenner hasn’t been himself for the past two or three years, but nevertheless what a man he was and what a fixture and a character he was in Major League Baseball.

RUSH: George Steinbrenner. Now, this is an example, my friends, of the kind of news that I’m going to impart here that will just infuriate liberals, it will ruin their day. George Steinbrenner, that cracker was a great capitalist, and he made many African-Americans who worked for him millionaires, as a lot of capitalists do.

But he also, as a good capitalist, knew when to die. There is no death tax. George Steinbrenner’s family this year will not have to cough up 55% of what they inherit and perhaps lose the New York Yankees. How sad it is we’ve come to this point in America? How much you want to bet, the liberals try to get around this, pass a special law or something to get the Yankee tax money.


Al Sharpton’s comments: “The statements made by Rush Limbaugh about George Steinbrenner were repugnant and offensive whether they were intended to be facetious or tongue and cheek. The fact that he could make these comments less than 24-hours after Mr. Steinbrenner’s death makes it even more offensive. For the last 20-years I have known George Steinbrenner and we have quarrelled over diversity and community programs but I always found him fair, direct, and genuinely prone to do what he felt was right. He generated a lot of money for a lot of players as well as for baseball as a whole and should not be disparaged in any matter. In later years, in a twist of irony, his granddaughter and my daughter became close, which only brought me closer to knowing him and we developed a mutual respect. Mr. Limbaugh and his broadcasters owe his family an apology that the first day of their mourning to have to be subjected to this type of rhetoric. To think that just a year ago Mr. Limbaugh sought to be an owner of an NFL team and has now said this about a legendary baseball team owner. This says more about Mr. Limbaugh than it does Mr. Steinbrenner.”

Limbaugh responded the next day that this particular program segment was a “grand slam” and that once again he was being taken out of context. He noted that the term “cracker” has been used of late by members of the New Black Panther Party, and that those who didn’t get the reference were not well-informed enough to be aware of that fact.

RBR-TVBR observation: Should anybody be surprised about any of this? No. Rush makes his living by being provocative and there’s an entire cottage industry of attempting to follow Limbaugh into the large-font bold-face portion of the ensuing reports by expressing the resultant outrage that Limbaugh frequently inspires.

Regardless of what you think about the substance of this matter, it does go to show that Limbaugh is not a journalist – those of us in that particular profession know that you start a thought in mid-stream at your own peril. An audience coming in cold cannot be expected to know what you’re referring to at the top of a segment – and while maybe Limbaugh’s regular listeners were in on the reference, others coming to it cold had no reason to know where he was coming from.

We would also point out that NBPP is a fringe group, not a mainstream political force, and we would caution anybody from taking their language cues from any fringe, regardless of which side of the political spectrum they come from.

But that’s one way to make controversial talk work, and if making a big splash is part of the game, it’s just a matter of time before the next installment of this particular ongoing story will be ready for the headlines.