Compassion for conservatives

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 12, 2003

On a recent trip, I picked up a copy of Al Franken’s new book, &uot;Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.&uot;

In it, Franken, best known as a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live and who is fast becoming the left’s top defender, hilariously exposes the lies, distortions and hypocrisy of rightwing blowhards like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly – O’Reilly even lies about where he was born. When I finish, I plan to lend it to News-Herald columnist Robert Pocklington, who once gave me a copy of one of O’Reilly’s lying books.

As someone who enjoys Franken, you’d think I’d be reveling in the admission Friday by conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh that he is addicted to painkillers. One of Franken’s earlier books was titled, &uot;Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.&uot;


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But such is not the case. I’m a Limbaugh fan. While Limbaugh is at the least the equal of Hannity, Coulter and O’Reilly where lying is concerned, at least Limbaugh is funny. The others are just obnoxious and mean.

It’s not a liberal or conservative issue for me. When I read, watch television and listen to the radio, I’m mostly seeking entertainment. Franken and Limbaugh, while both thought-provoking, are also funny. And whether or not I agree with their politics, I appreciate and respect the humor.

Limbaugh’s drug of choice appears to have been Oxycontin, an effective, though particularly insidious pain reliever, the abuse of which has reached epidemic proportions in some areas. It’s prescribed in pill form, but addicts were quick to find that it could be injected for more intense effects.

Those areas are mostly rural, where the work is physical and hard and where work-related injury is common. West Virginia, where I’m from, is such a place and Oxycontin has become kind of a hillbilly heroin.

In my wife’s hometown, Craigsville, W.Va., population about 800, abuse of &uot;Oxy&uot; is rampant. I personally know people who have had marriages and families wrecked. Their homes are empty because they’ve sold everything they have to get more Oxy. Many have turned to crime.

Recently, I was reading the Associated Press wire and came across a story datelined Craigsville in which a young woman of about 20 was caught trying to sell her baby to an undercover officer for a few hundred dollars so she could get more Oxy. I called Cathy and was reading it to her. It turns out the girl was actually a cousin of a close friend of ours.

Because of its potency, Oxy appears to be making its way out of the hills and hollows of places like Craigsville to more affluent areas. No doubt, it will soon be coming to a town near you.

It’s unlikely that Limbaugh’s $30 million Palm Beach estate is void of furniture. But his desire for the drug drove him to crime – he apparently obtained it illegally. On Friday, he said he was checking himself in to a detox center for 30 days to try to shake the habit. Addiction experts doubt that is enough time, Oxy’s hold is that powerful.

Limbaugh’s critics have pointed out past statements of his that drug users should be &uot;sent up the river.&uot; While the irony is obvious, there’s nothing humorous about what’s happening to Limbaugh.

Most addicts like him are not dangerous criminals, merely sick people in need of help. I pray for his recovery and quick return to airwaves where someone with his influence could help change public policy for the better.

And I hope Franken and other comedians refrain from kicking him when he’s down. I’ve seen Oxcontin’s effects and there’s nothing funny about what’s happening to Rush.

Now if it had been Hannity, that would be funny.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via e-mail at