Limbaugh maintains repeatedly that "I don't think I am known for my anti-gay comments. I have some outspoken opinions about the politics of the gay movement. I have simply opposed the politics of them."
This may come as a remarkable view to those with a somewhat different perspective of Limbaugh. In December, for instance, he unloaded on AIDS and abortion activists who disrupted services at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, commenting: "I say to those of you of the leftist, militant, homosexual crowd: Take it somewhere else. Get out of our schools. Get out of our churches. Take your deadly, sickly behavior and keep it to yourselves."
Asked about these comments, Limbaugh says they are accurate and that he stands by them, but that the framework of what he was trying to get across was that the activists should have been seeking the comfort of the church rather than attacking it. That is hardly likely to satisfy his enemies and critics, but he says viewers who watch his hour on CBS won't get a show heavy on social issues:
"I don't think people tune to late-night entertainment shows to listen to serious discussions of social ills and consequences. They're gonna be watching 'Nightline' if they're interested in that kind of thing. I'd like to find a way to mix issue-oriented discussions with humor."
Indeed he would. His CBS gig is vitally important to his attempt to crack into TV on a much wider scale. In a November interview with The Times, Limbaugh described himself as "a lovable little fuzz ball," "an entertainer first and a conservative second"--and said he'd like to do a TV talk show that mixed topical issues with humor: "I'd like to be a comedian and I don't mind being a serious talk-show host."
He's pursuing these TV goals actively, but says he's "written off" two recent attempts--one for a call-in talk show on Cable News Network, the other as a panelist on a new version of "To Tell the Truth."
As a nationally known conservative, he speaks with amazement of what he says a CNN executive told him: "Everybody here loves your tape. They just wish you were a little more liberal." Limbaugh interprets this as meaning that CNN thinks it is already well-stocked with such conservative commentators as Pat Buchanan.
But now there's the upcoming job at CBS, where the news department may tell Dan Rather or Andy Rooney to watch their step, but where network honchos tell Rush Limbaugh to just go ahead and do his thing.