When I named Rush Limbaugh hunting and fishing’s Villain of the Year in the current issue of Field & Stream (December 2009-January 2010), some readers immediately fired back at the magazine—and me—with angry letters. Some wanted their subscriptions canceled. Some accused me of being a Democrat and a Communist. Some alluded to a physical impossibility involving where they believed my head resided. Some were even unpleasant.
As I explained in the story, Mr. Limbaugh received his honor for having produced two public service announcements in April on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). What was disturbing about this was that we have come to expect support for anti-hunting groups when it comes from the usual suspects: teen movie stars or vegan leftwing whackjobs. But Mr. Limbaugh is someone whom we might have assumed knew better than to provide aid and comfort to the likes of HSUS.
In one of the PSAs, Mr. Limbaugh spoke of his vast affection for the “treasure” that is his little cat Punkin, promising ominously that if anyone ever did harm to her, “they would be punished” by him personally. He went on to claim, though, that the HSUS was there to help other animals not under his direct protection and to praise it as an “ally” of law enforcement in the “animal realm” when it came to the crime of dog fighting. (Never mind that the manager of the HSUS’s “animal fighting campaign” has been reported by The New York Times as having been convicted of animal-rights vandalism and as describing himself as a “graduate” of the Animal Liberation Front, which is identified by the FBI as a terrorist group.) In the PSA, Mr. Limbaugh also managed to repeat the HSUS’s sinister and dubious statistics about dog breeders being known associates of dog fighters and other violent lawbreakers—a ploy the HSUS uses in a continuing crusade to prohibit the breeding of all pets. Don’t forget to spay and neuter, folks!
PSA number two was, if anything, only weirder. Mr. Limbaugh took note of what he termed a “new alliance forming out there” that is a “positive one for the sake of America’s traditional values.” This alliance is based, according to Mr. Limbaugh, on a “new faith outreach program” instigated by the HSUS that, according to the HSUS, “seeks to engage people and institutions of faith with animal protection issues.” (Forgive the cynic in me for sensing more than a whiff of sanctimonious hypocrisy on the part of the HSUS.)
In a way, it might be understandable that some Field & Stream readers—those who revere Mr. Limbaugh as a conservative role model, radio legend, irreverent slayer of sacred cows, and American patriot—would be outraged to see him attacked or even questioned on any grounds. On the other hand, from the viewpoint of dedicated hunters and anglers, it is utterly incomprehensible to believe that it’s no big deal for Mr. Limbaugh to lend his considerable support to the HSUS, or that the HSUS isn’t such a bad organization and that it even does some genuine good for animals. This is what is commonly referred to as “magical thinking.”