Did Rush Limbaugh Utter All These ‘Racist’ Statements?

A list purportedly documenting racially questionable statements made by the conservative radio talk show host is lacking in evidence.

  • Published 2 October 2003
  • Updated 4 February 2020

Claim

A list documents racist statements made by conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Rating

What's True

Some of the statements included in the list are correctly attributed to Limbaugh.

What's False

Some of the statements included in the list lack sufficient supporting evidence to confirm whether or not Limbaugh said them.

Origin

Ever since 2003 readers have inquired of us whether the following list of statements was accurately ascribed to conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. Keep scrolling to see our analysis for each:

Top 10 Racist Rush Limbaugh Quotes

1. “I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”

2. “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray [the confessed assassin of Martin Luther King]. We miss you, James. Godspeed.”

3. “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”

4. “Right. So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela — who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing.”

5. “Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”

6. “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”

7. “They’re 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?”

8. “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back (to an African American female caller).”

9. “I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve.”

We looked for documentation for each of these statements. Here’s what we found:

“I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”

The only source we’ve turned up so far that putatively documents this quote is the 2006 book 101 People Who Are Really Screwing America, which attributed it to Rush Limbaugh but cited no source. On his program of 12 October 2009, Limbaugh disclaimed this quote as a fabricated one:

There’s a quote out there that I first saw it in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week that I somehow, some time ago, defended slavery and started cracking jokes about it. And, you know, you say a lot of things in the course of 15 hours a week, over the course of 21 years. We’ve gone back, we have looked at everything we have. There is not even an inkling that any words in this quote are accurate. It’s outrageous, but it’s totally predictable.

It’s being repeated by people who have never listened to this program, they certainly didn’t hear it said themselves because it was never said.


“You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray. We miss you, James. Godspeed.”

Likewise, this statement is attributed (without sourcing) to Limbaugh in 101 People Who Are Really Screwing America. Although it is often cited as something he said on his radio program on 23 April 1998, we haven’t turned up any references to this quote from earlier than 2005.


“Right. So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela — who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing.”

Media Matters for America documented this statement (with an audio clip) as one made by Rush Limbaugh in the course of his radio program on 21 August 2007.


“Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”

Rush Limbaugh is credited as saying this in the transcript of his radio program on 19 January 2007.


“The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”

This putative statement dates at least as far back as 1992, so the only documentation we’ve been able to locate for it is indirect. All the sources we’ve found that reference it cite the January 1993 issue of Flush Rush Quarterly as their source.


“[Blacks are] 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?”

This statement has been indirectly referenced as something Rush Limbaugh once said on the air since at least as far back as 2000, but we have found no documenting source for it.


“Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”

“Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

Rush Limbaugh acknowledged making these statements in a 1990 Newsday article (although the latter, at least, occurred not on Limbaugh’s now-familiar talk and political commentary radio program, but at the beginning of his broadcast career back in the early 1970s when he was hosting a Top 40 music show under the name “Jeff Christie” on either WIXZ or KQV in Pittsburgh):

For all his bravado, however, Limbaugh is immensely sensitive to charges of insensitivity. When asked about the racist they-all-look-alike connotation of a statement like “Have you ever noticed how all newspaper composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?” this professional talker from a family of lawyers pleads total innocence.

“You may interpret it as that, but I, no, honest-to-God, that’s not how I intended it at all. Gee, don’t get me in this one. I am the least racist host you’ll ever find.” Recalling a stint as an “insult-radio” DJ in Pittsburgh, he admits feeling guilty about, for example, telling a black listener he could not understand to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”


“I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve.”

Rush Limbaugh made this statement about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb during a September 2003 broadcast of ESPN television’s Sunday NFL Countdown program. The controversy generated by the remark prompted Limbaugh’s resignation from his position as a commentator on that show.