Writer launches 'Flush Rush' newsletter

December 15, 1993|By Steve Wiegand | Steve Wiegand,McClatchy News Service

Caesar had his Brutus. Sherlock Holmes his Moriarty. Bugs Bunny his Elmer Fudd.

Comes now a 32-year-old writers' agent, ready to become the archfoe of one of the 20th century's largest men of letters and social commentary, a media giant.

Yes, like it or not, Rush Limbaugh has his Brian Keliher.

"Actually, according to the demographics, I should be a big supporter of Rush Limbaugh," Mr. Keliher said in a recent interview in his office/apartment/publishing empire headquarters near the University of California, San Diego. "I'm white, heterosexual and a middle-class male."

But Mr. Keliher is something else, and he's not afraid to admit it: a liberal. He's also editor and publisher of the "Flush Rush Quarterly," a 12-page newsletter launched last March and devoted to providing an alternative to the "Rush Limbaugh" national radio show, the "Rush Limbaugh" national television show and the Rush Limbaugh national best-selling books.

It was Mr. Limbaugh's omnipresence, Mr. Keliher said, coupled with what he says is the national media's penchant to take Mr. Limbaugh seriously, that spurred Mr. Keliher to begin the newsletter, which prominently displays a front-page cartoon of Mr. Limbaugh either rising or descending into a toilet.

"It bothers me that people who should know better give Rush Limbaugh so much credibility," Mr. Keliher says. "He pontificates as if he knew what he was talking about. He doesn't. He's an entertainer. If we were going after [conservative commentator and journalist] William F. Buckley, we would have a much, much harder job, because Buckley is a smart guy and he knows what he is talking about. But Limbaugh is such a clown."

Produced on a personal computer, the newsletter is written mostly by Mr. Keliher who listens to -- "monitors" -- Mr. Limbaugh's radio program and reads -- "studies" -- his books.

The newsletter carries gossip about Mr. Limbaugh's personal life as well as correcting "mistakes" Mr. Limbaugh makes in his daily pronouncements. It's also chock-full of anti-Rush humor: "What's the difference between Rush Limbaugh and a whale? Fifty pounds and a sport coat."

Mr. Keliher says he's "not real comfortable" with the personal shots at Mr. Limbaugh, but defends them on the grounds that Mr. Limbaugh does the same thing to others, making fun of Attorney General Janet Reno's height, or Labor Secretary Robert Reich's lack of height.

"If he can dish it out, he should be able to take it," the tall, trim Mr. Keliher says.

With the exception of a $34 classified ad in the Nation magazine, Mr. Keliher says the newsletter has spread largely by word of mouth. An annual subscription costs $13.95, and Mr. Keliher says he has 7,000 subscribers. Another 4,000 copies are sold in book stores.

"If we had 25 subscribers, it still would have been fun," he says. "But I'm glad it's been a success. I'm a liberal, but I think making money is fine."

Mr. Keliher has never heard from Mr. Limbaugh. In the past, Mr. Limbaugh has said he will not respond to people criticizing him because he does not want to give them the publicity. Mr. Limbaugh could not be reached for comment.

But Mr. Keliher has heard from legions of "dittoheads," the term Mr. Limbaugh's supporters give themselves.

And he has received seven death threats, three of them, he says, from the same person. "Does it bother me? Well, I'm sitting here with my back to the window and the blinds open."

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