Interview with Zev Chafets, Author of Rush Limbaugh: Army of One
Published By: All Right Magazine on August 3, 2010
Editor’s Note: In this exclusive interview, Zev Chafets discusses his book Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One, the speculation that Rush Limbaugh will be “destroyed eventually,” Rush’s Fox News connection, and more.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: Your new book is Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One, and people will be surprised about some of the biographical content therein. What would you say surprised you most about the man during the course of your studies?
ZEV CHAFETS: The thing that surprised me most was Rush’s willingness to let me into what has been a somewhat closed world. He gave me a huge amount of time, and while I doubt he spilled every secret, he never lied to me about anything, which, in my professional experience, is unusual. As far as his biography is concerned, I was impressed by the degree to which Rush’s worldview was–and remains–shaped by his father. A large part of Rush’s life has been dedicated to winning his father’s respect and approval.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: In particular, one surprising aspect is the picture you paint of Rush’s youth. The composite sketch is one of a young guy who just simply lacked confidence. What do you think was the turning point in his life?
ZEV CHAFETS: I don’t think Rush lacked confidence. As a teenager he was unhappy, an adult personality locked in a kid’s body. He was out of step with the values of the sixties, and he was sensitive about being overweight. By the end of high school, he couldn’t wait to get out of Cape Girardeau. But I I think he always knew he would be great broadcaster and of course he was right.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: One line that raises an eyebrow says that Rush resembles Jesse Jackson. How so?
ZEV CHAFETS: They are both highly ideological figures and great communicators.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: On the issue of race, you write that Rush “came armed with the belief in color-blindness that had been in vogue twenty-years earlier.” Is color-blindness not the true goal of society, and if not what is?
ZEV CHAFETS: American society is extremely heterogeneous, and I doubt that it has a single “true goal.” If I had to choose one that is worthy, I think it would be genuine equality of opportunity.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: Rush’s humor is a major subtopic within the book, a subject on which you give him a mixed review. What do you think were his funniest gag and his least funny, and why?
ZEV CHAFETS: I think Rush is a terrific political satirist and a highly inventive radio comic. I give a lot of examples in the book. Like all satirists he blows it on occasion. I think his “caller abortions” was an example. More recently, I haven’t cared for the “Banking Queen” parody song about Barney Frank. On the other hand, his Al Sharpton parodies are hilarious. Even Sharpton admits they are funny.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: Conversely the most serious moment of the book is Rush’s sentiment that he “will be destroyed eventually.” Do you think that is a real possibility?
ZEV CHAFETS: When the President of the United States publicly laughs at a joke about your death, it has a chilling effect, which is what happened in the incident you mentioned. I wrote about Rush’s concern, which he expressed privately to me. Readers can judge for themselves how realistic it is.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: You refer to Limbaugh as the “Godfather of the Fox Approach.” No one could ever accuse Rush of being “fair and balanced,” so what does this mean?
ZEV CHAFETS: Limbaugh invented conservative talk radio, and he also invented conservative talk television (his producer was Roger Ailes, who subsequently created Fox News). The Fox commentators–Beck, Hannity, Greta, even O’Reilly (who Rush calls ‘Ted Baxter’)–owe their jobs to Limbaugh’s pioneering work with Ailes.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: This book was not highly sought after, to say the least, by New York publishers. They have to have been in the business long enough to know that just that name in the title will sell. Were they willing to pass on the profits just to wait for a derogatory Limbaugh book, or was something else the issue?
ZEV CHAFETS: The fact is, only one publisher was interested. As I mention in the book, a friend in publishing explained that he couldn’t do a Limbaugh book because he has to eat lunch with his colleagues every day.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: On a personal note, you did some research in Rush’s hometown Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and there seemed to be a bit of culture shock. What was shocking about your time there?
ZEV CHAFETS: Nothing shocked me. I grew up in Pontiac, Michigan at about the same time Rush was growing up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and the two towns weren’t that different (they are now). Some people in Cape were a little thrown by a “New York author” researching a book on Rush, but they got over it.
ALL RIGHT MAGAZINE: Finally, how can people get a copy of the book or otherwise follow your work?
ZEV CHAFETS: The book is available on line at Amazon, and in bookstores.