On and off for a few years, we at Metro Times had the honor of hosting Michigan-born, New York-based writer Tracie McMillan at our office as a Metro Times "fellow." While she occupied a desk in the back of our office, she was hard at work reporting for and finishing up her new book The American Way of Eating. The conceit of the book was that McMillan, a working-class Michigander who grew up in Holly, would work behind the scenes in America's food industry and try to prepare healthful meals on the wages earned. McMillan worked as a picker in the fields of California, as an expediter in the kitchen of an Applebee's in New York, and in the produce department of a Wal-Mart in suburban Detroit.
The book came out a few weeks ago, and we've enjoyed seeing a lot of admiring writing about the book, including a very favorable review in The New York Times. The flurry of coverage was heartening, and it appeared the release of the book she'd spent years working on was off to a good start.
And then Rush Limbaugh went batshit crazy.
Now, we've always thought Limbaugh was a nutter. But recently, Old Man Limbaugh has been showing increasing signs of what we call Seriously Losing Your Shit Syndrome. For instance, observe his recent on-air remarks about Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke, whom he called a "slut" and alleged was "having so much sex, it's amazing she can still walk."
The backlash was quick and fierce: People offended by Limbaugh's attacks began pressuring advertisers on his show to withdraw their sponsorship. (Dozens of companies had dropped their ad buys by yesterday.) The host released a mealy-mouthed apology that didn't pass muster with many.
And then, this Tuesday, Limbaugh went after Tracie McMillan.
We're really not sure what Limbaugh's complaint was. Maybe he felt he was defending free enterprise. Maybe he felt the need to take a bullet for Wal-Mart. But for almost a half-hour, Old Fatpants railed against McMillan, perhaps opposed to the idea of young, single women who go out into the world and get shit done. (Honestly, we think he's back on the pain meds.)
McMillan's reaction on Tuesday was measured incredulity. “It’s totally bizarre,” she said, speaking to Forbes magazine. “I had no idea that Rush Limbaugh knew that I existed. My grandmother would be thrilled, because she’s a fan of his.”
The irony here is that, even as he attempted to damn McMillan with his bully pulpit, what he has actually done is thrust McMillan into the rush of the 24-hour news cycle. Since Limbaugh's remarks Tuesday, McMillan has been featured on Detroit's local TV news, last night on The Rachel Maddow Show and this morning on MSNBC's Jansing & Co (at 6:08). In fact, McMillan has been putting in overtime responding to press calls while touring to promote her book.
So, at least on that count, thanks, Rush.
UPDATE: McMillan says that tonight, March 8, she will be on Al Sharpton's MSNBC show (6 p.m. EST) and maybe even Countdown with Keith Olberman (8 p.m. EST).