Rush Limbaugh is often credited with the dubious honor of inventing conservative talk radio. And it is certainly true that Rush paved the way for Hannity, O’Reilly, and other pundits by perfecting the three-hour blatherfest.
But the true pioneer and undisputed king of conservative radio until his death yesterday at age 90 was Paul Harvey, a man who never required three hours and 36 commercial breaks to get his message across.
Since 1951, when he joined ABC News, the “largest one-man network in the world” quietly dominated radio. His show is carried on 1,200 radio stations and 400 Armed Forces Network stations around the world, and his column appeared in 300 newspapers nationwide. (His broadcasts and newspaper columns have been reprinted in the Congressional Record more than those of any other commentator.)
Despite his dominance, Harvey was often overlooked as a influence on conservatism even though he had millions more listeners than any other conservative on the radio (including Rush). His “Paul Harvey News and Comment” aired for 5 minutes in the morning and for 15 minutes before noon. Yet Harvey managed to say more in those 20 minutes than other hosts say in 180.
While other pundits preached to the choir, Harvey was an evangelist for the conservative perspective. His disarming folksy charm made his conservative views appear to be nothing more than good old common sense. Indeed, Harvey probably did more to promote non-ideological conservatism than any other figure in modern America. It would be hard to imagine the revolution of the Reagan era if he hadn’t converted so many Democrats to the cause.
As a communicator for conservative values he was without peer. And sadly, we are unlikely to see his equal for a long time to come. He will be missed. May he rest in peace.