My Speech Inducting Mark Levin Into the National Radio Hall of Fame
Now, folks, I need to beg your indulgence on something. I need to do something at the beginning of the next segment I was supposed to do Thursday night, but I wasn’t able to get to New York to do it. The annual induction ceremonies for the Radio Hall of Fame were in New York City on Thursday night, and my schedule was to leave here about 4 o’clock, 4:30. The thing kicked off at 8 o’clock.
I was to leave here about 4:30 and get up there and induct Mark Levin into the Radio Hall of Fame. There was an incredible list of talent being inducted that night. So I get off the air and I check in with the flight crew, and I find out that departures for New York have been delayed until at least 8 p.m. I said, “What?” “Yeah, they’ve got sleet and snow and it’s a mess in New York, and they basically shut everything down. They’ve grounded departures at least from south Florida to New York ’til after 8 o’clock.”
I’m privately asking myself, “Why am I just now learning this?” But I guess it’s ’cause during the day the forecast wasn’t for as bad or inclement as it got, and then (sigh) you know the details. People were spending the night in their cars, five-hour commutes for 10 blocks in Manhattan, a combination of snow and sleet. Levin himself, it took him five hours to get there from New Jersey. He was driving in, and he barely got there in time.
I don’t know if everybody intended to be there made it. But there was no way I could. It’s embarrassing, and there’s literally nothing that could have been done about it. Even if I had learned earlier in the day and had wanted to leave the earlier to beat the weather, it would have been a mess, the commute to get in. It worked out impossibly. And so I thought that I need to still do this. I committed to inducting Levin into the Hall of Fame; so I’m gonna do it in an abbreviated way when we begin the next segment.
You know, I have a special love for radio, and in many people’s estimation, radio — on a showbiz ladder — is near the bottom of the rungs. And I don’t want to, you know, debate that. But I want to speak up for radio because I think, used properly — done properly by talented people — radio can be one of the most intimate and therefore influential means of mass communication. The key is people who know how to do it. There are a lot of people on radio that never were on radio before they got their first jobs. I remember when I started, you had to…
There were rare exceptions, but you had to start tiny, little small markets and work and work and work, and get fired, get promoted. The way you grew was you’d move to a larger city. And in some cases — in my case — it took 16 years to experience my first success track. I say without bitterness that people now end up on radio on, quote-unquote, national syndication who have never been on radio before. They may have a book that sold or they may have been a guest on TV and someone says, “Wow, that person might work on radio.”
But you can always tell. Listeners can always tell seasoned broadcast specialists or talent. One of the reasons… You know, people always asked me, “Why don’t you do television?” Folks, I’m gonna tell you something. I’ve done it, and I’m telling you that for me and my chosen way of communication, radio is far more intimate and therefore has the potential to be far more influential, and it is so much more satisfying to me every day. The bond that must exist between a radio host and listeners for there to be success is not necessary on TV.
The pictures override whatever bond exists.
So the people that exceed and excel well in radio I think are really, really talented people.
RUSH: Back now to the induction into the Radio Hall of Fame that I missed on Thursday.
November 14th and a massive shutdown the city snow and ice storm, November 14th. And, as I say, it was embarrassing not to be able to get there. Radio is a very important medium. AM radio particularly has been pronounced dead I don’t know how many times. And technologically, it should be.
AM radio with the least fidelity, the demographic attachments that people have to AM radio. Everybody assumes that it’s only senior citizens that listen, which could not be further from the truth. This audience particularly is a broad-based spectrum and demographic that’s 48% women. People listen to this program have at least some college. Advertisers are stunned when we show them the audience research.
AM radio hasn’t died. Radio in general hasn’t died because it is a superior communications medium. And it really sings, and it really dominates and triumphs when you have people that know what they’re doing, who have built up a lot of experience, who love it, who understand the ability to talk to a microphone where there might be millions of people listening, but that microphone is one of them. The ability to create a bond with mass numbers of people, create trust, credibility, to be liked, respected, and so forth.
You just can’t throw anybody on. I don’t care if you got the smartest, most brilliant liberal or conservative or sports person. You put ’em on the radio and they work, they’ll get an audience, but really succeeding will not happen. Broadcasting is a skill. Radio broadcasting is far different skills than television broadcasting. And radio done well, people who excel at radio create a deeper bond with an audience than anybody on television ever will, precisely because there are no pictures on radio.
And despite the fact we’re all visually programmed, we all respond to pictures — you put a picture of a suffering child on the front page of the New York Times and people who see it are gonna demand that we do something about it. There aren’t any pictures on radio, except that there are. They’re some of the most vivid and powerful pictures people will ever see. They are the pictures they create themselves based on the ability of radio hosts to paint them by way of communication skills, by way of real honesty, real credibility, real empathy, and real love for people.
Radio, when done right, captivates listeners’ attention. It’s never on in the background, unless it’s music. But talk radio is never on in the background unless it’s no good. Television can be on in the background, you can have whatever going on in the background and family can be chitchatting away, talking, it’s just there, it’s noise. And something might happen and somebody, “Hey, look, look what’s on TV,” and you look at it, “Oh, wow,” could be some breaking news story.
But radio, you don’t get distracted from it if it’s good because there is no distraction. What I love about radio is that potential, to create an active rather than passive relationship with the audience. Tougher to do in music radio, but it can be done there. But with talk radio it’s mandated, mandated that that kind of connection be achieved. I’m talking about for stellar success. There are all kinds of degrees of success in radio like there are in any other business.
But the people who do this well have an innate sense, have an innate talent, have an innate ability to create a bond, to exist as real people to everybody listening. And that credibility that’s created and the trust that’s created is immeasurable. And it can be monetized. It can be used to grow the audience even larger. But more than that, it can be used for good. It can be used to tell people the truth. It can be used to affirm and confirm what people believe.
It can be calming. It can be exciting. It could be whatever the host wants it to be. But the most has to have these innate skills and talents. Some of them can be taught; most can’t. If they exist, they can be developed, they can be advised. Radio broadcasting, radio broadcasting success is a singular, I believe, ability that not everybody has.
Folks, it’s the most unusual thing in the world to do. Let me describe my circumstance. I’m here in a room by myself. I have a couple TV sets and I got a glass wall in there and there are two or three people on average on the other side of the glass wall and that’s it. And yet I am fully aware that right now I’m talking to an average of five 1/2 to six million people in every 15-minute sweep. And during the course of the three-hour program, 12 million different people are gonna listen at some point. The average time spent listening here is high.
But when I leave here, when I walk out the doors of the EIB Southern Command and get in my car, nobody’s gonna care, nobody’s gonna know, nobody’s gonna see me. So you have to sit here and, in order to be successful, you have to be confident, you have to be assured, you cannot sound unsure or insecure or any of that. But when you leave and you find out nobody really cares — meaning there’s not a mob out there waiting for you. So a lot of people in this business have some psychological problems because you tell yourself all those people are there, and they are, but unless you go where they are or where there’s a scheduled appearance where all of them are gonna mass, your day-to-day existence does not reflect the kind of connection you have with people.
And it takes a strong psychological resolve to live in these two worlds. It’s a very abnormal thing. I want you to try to think about going into a room in your house, just start talking and imagining thousands, 10, 15, 20, whatever number of people listening to you, it’s not what people do. Nobody does this except budding young radio people who practice or fantasize or what have you. We all did. I used to pretend to be doing play-by-play for the St. Louis Cardinals after Harry Caray and Jack Buck when I was very young.
But most people don’t do this. It’s a singular unique experience, largely misunderstood or not known by people who listen, the vagaries, details, the abilities, the talents. Like I say, the people who do it well make it look natural and easy. And Mark Levin is one of these people. Mark Levin has had an amazingly diverse life. He was the spokesman and liaison, he was the chief of staff for the attorney general Ed Meese during the Reagan administration. He is an accomplished lawyer. He started the Landmark Legal Foundation. It was a conservative legal 501(c)(3) activist group that represents conservative causes in courts all over the country.
But he grew up loving radio. He grew up loving talk radio. He grew up practicing talk radio, pretending to be on talk radio when he was driving around in his car. He would listen to people calling in to talk shows and ignore the host and answer them himself. He studied. I remember he wanted to come down and see me in Florida one day and just sit in and watch the program. He came down and did it, I said, “You want to go for a drive afterwards?” I wanted to show him Palm Beach. “No, no, I need to talk about what just happened. I need to talk about what I just saw.”
He was a student of it. He’s not one of these people that thought he could do it and knew it all from the get-go. He really studied it from the ground level. He has become one of the most listened to radio talk show hosts in America at night. His national show is from six to 9 p.m. and now has a Sunday night show on Fox. But his expertise is the Constitution. And what he’s done there — this is something that is crucial to succeeding in a mass media forum like radio. You’ve got to be able to take complex things, complicated things and boil them down to their essence to make them understandable. You cannot sit here and read magazine articles to people and then say, “This is important, listen to me, listen to me.” You’ve got to be able to explain it yourself. You have to be able to know it.
Mark Levin is a constitutional scholar, in addition to being a radio broadcast professional. And while it might be said he’s self-taught, he has studied from the best and really taken the time to learn it. He didn’t get into it to be famous. He didn’t get into it to be known, didn’t get into mass media like so many other people do. He got into it because he really believed the American people needed to know about things that he was passionate about, and he wanted to tell them about it. One of those things is the Constitution.
The Constitution can be a very esoteric, very deep. You let a bunch of lawyers and constitutional experts start talking about it and they will bore you silly. You will become disinterested in it and you’ll think, “It can’t be that complicated!” And it probably isn’t, but this is what intellectuals do. What Mark has done is take a scholarly and genuinely intellectual interest and expertise and understanding of the Constitution and not only made it understandable to a mass audience, he’s made it fascinating.
He’s made the governing document of our country fascinating to people who otherwise are like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They think the three branches, the three chambers are the House, the Senate, and the White House. Levin has one of the most educated and knowledgeable audiences in all of radio, and there’s no better use of the medium than that. To teach, to inspire, to inform. So it is with a great respect and honor that I induct Mark Levin into the Radio Hall of Fame. There’s a couple of them, but this is the big one, the Radio Hall of Fame.
And I regret that I couldn’t be there Saturday night when he actually went in. I was supposed to be doing this then. So I promised I would do it today since I couldn’t be there. And that’s it. It really is a special thing. And for people in radio, it is a tremendous honor. There are people who’ve been in radio for long time and still haven’t gotten in, for a host of reasons.
I got in in the early 1990s, before anybody knew what was going on, Sally Jessy Raphael asked if she could introduce me. And of course the Radio Hall of Fame people, “Oh, yeah, man, that would be great.” I mean the whole thing was gonna be broadcast live on the radio. Larry King was there. And Sally Jessy Raphael, when she stood up to introduce me, gave a speech explaining why I had no business being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Well, I know how special it is. I just smiled as I walked up. She looked at me defiantly from about 5’2. We went and got a picture of her from her TV staff with no makeup and we put that on my TV show to explain to people who may not know who Sally Jessy Raphael is. We tried to have fun with it.
But it is an honor to be in the Radio Hall of Fame. It’s something that can’t be taken away, that’s a singular designation of achievement and accomplishment in a business that, to a lot of people, is just there. You turn on the radio, you listen to it when you have time.
The people that are in it take it very, very seriously, love it to death and have a deep belief in it, as do I. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done. The greatest opportunity I have every day is right here, and that’s the same way that everybody I know in this business, including Mark Levin, looks at it. Thank you for indulging me in this, folks. I really appreciate it.
RUSH: And as I always say: “Having more fun than a human being should be allowed to have.” I had some people… I posited to some of my partners, “I’m gonna induct Levin on the air on Monday since I got blown out of the chance on Thursday.” “You can’t! You can’t! He’s a competing syndicator on different stations.” I don’t care. That’s the kind of thing the American people… “It’s gonna help. It’s not gonna hurt him. Don’t worry about it.” It’s the old way of looking at it. Besides that, I think it’s important for people to know levels of achievement that certain people reach.
There is a satisfaction about it. If you listen to somebody who’s been acknowledged and designated for entry into the Hall of Fame, which is very exclusively club, it’s a validating thing that you’ve chosen to listen to that person. It’s all good, and we in radio need and enjoy as many successful people in it as we can, like any other business. Everybody in this business is devoted, everybody that succeeded in this business is devoted to its ongoing success as an industry. So the people in it who do well, regardless how, are all appreciated.