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Monkey Business

So, a caller to Rush Limbaugh's radio show says that her twelve-year-old daughter thinks Barack Obama looks like Curious George, and Rush laughs. Later he issues an apology, claiming "I never heard of Curious George until that caller...  I don't care how old Curious George is, I never heard of Curious George. Had no idea what she was talking about. Now they tell me Curious George is a monkey. Well, whoop-de-doo."

Never heard of Curious George? Really? My own informal survey suggests that everyone, with no exceptions of any kind, has heard of Curious George. That said, I was initially inclined to give Rush the benefit of the doubt that, while he almost certainly was familiar with Curious George, he might not have made the immediate connection that the caller was comparing a black politician to a monkey--especially given that she presented the observation as one that was made by her young daughter.

But then I listened to the audio, and I'm no longer so sure. Rush's laugh is a kind of conspiratorial snigger, which he cuts short by saying, "Don't make me laugh. I can't, I can't laugh. The point I was going to make to you is, you're going to be very careful how you try to dis--you don't have to disabuse Republicans of Obama." The laugh, the suggestion that he knows he shouldn't be laughing, and the immediate segue to what starts out sounding like a warning to be "careful" about how to criticize Obama all seem to hint that Rush was perfectly aware of the racial connotations of the comment. But perhaps it's just me. Listen here and see what you think.

--Christopher Orr