Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Politically Incorrect Word that Launched Rush Limbaugh’s Career

Before Rush came to national prominence, before Rush had a show in Sacramento, in 1984, there was a radio host on KFBK named Morton Downey, Jr. The late Morton Downey, Jr. tilted towards the right end of the spectrum, but he really wasn’t making big waves at KFBK, as I recall, when he uttered a very unfortunate word, while telling a joke: Chinaman.
This was in the days before wiki, but wikipedia defines Chinaman as:

“Chinaman is a term that refers to a Chinese man. It was not defined as offensive by older dictionaries. Today, Asian American organizations and others have objected to the use of the term as offensive, and it has been defined as such by current dictionaries. The term has been used without stated offensive intent, and has also been used as a self-referential archetype by authors and artists of Asian descent.”

Mort’s use of the word “Chinaman” angered the sizable Asian community in Sacramento. As I recall, there was one Asian City Councilman in particular (whose name escapes me!), who called upon Mr. Downey to apologize for using the term and pressured the station for his resignation. ( I believe that it was really some liberals in that community who were looking for an excuse to rid themselves of the abrasive conservative Downey!) Downey refused to apologize and was forced to resign. (Or fired - take your pick!) That open up his nine to noon time slot for…Rush Limbaugh. And, as they say, the rest is history!
I will admit, that back in the ‘80s, I personally did not realize there was a problem with the word “Chinaman“ . Chinese laborers had come to California during Gold Rush times and were often given very dangerous jobs. The familiar term “Chinaman’s chance” came to denote nearly no chance at all! I had never really given it any thought that it might offend anyone. We call the Dutch “Dutchmen”. I thought it was similar, but I soon learned!

Looking back, I wonder if they could do it all again, if the liberals in the KFBK listening area would have put up with one small, unintended slur if it meant that Rush Limbaugh would not have had a platform in the nation’s 28th largest radio market*, on which to build his national show? I often think of this as one of the two biggest unintentional blunders that liberals have committed in modern times.

Cross Posted at Say Anything
*It was at the time. I believe they were up to 26th by 2005. Purists are welcome to correct me if I’m wrong!

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