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Daniel Kurtzman

Wanda Sykes' Limbaugh Joke Stirs Controversy

By May 11, 2009

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Wanda Sykes' controversial joke about Rush Limbaugh at the White House Correspondents' Dinner sparked predictable outrage from Republicans and cheers from Democrats, while the White House distanced itself from her remark.

Sykes, the featured entertainer at the annual press gala, raised right-wing hackles when she likened Limbaugh to a 9/11 hijacker strung out on Oxycontin.

"He just wants the country to fail," Sykes said of Limbaugh. "To me that's treason. He's not saying anything different than what Osama Bin Laden is saying. You might want to look into this, sir, because I think Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was just so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight. ... Rush Limbaugh, I hope the country fails, I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? He needs a good waterboarding, that's what he needs." (Watch a video clip of Sykes' Limbaugh joke, as well as the full video of Sykes' performance at the WHCD.)

Obama chuckled at the joke during the dinner, but the White House distanced Obama from the remark on Monday. "There are a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection rather than comedy," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. "I don't think there is any doubt that 9/11 is one of them." (Watch video clip)

Republicans haven't gotten this worked up about a comedy routine since Stephen Colbert tore President Bush apart at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner. (Limbaugh, for his part, had nothing to say to Sykes in return.)

But did Sykes really go over the line? What do you think?

Update: The Daily Show weighs in on the controversy by mocking talking heads for defending torture while decrying Wanda Sykes.

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See Also:
Wanda Sykes Profile
Obama Kills at Correspondents' Dinner
Highlights from Washington's Silly Season
Rush Limbaugh Jokes

(Photo by Getty Images)


May 12, 2009 at 3:28 am
(1) James says:

Right-wingers have no sense of humor.

May 12, 2009 at 3:52 am
(2) twocents says:

When the White House has to issue a statement disapproving of Sykes’s 9/11 joke, you know she went way past anything Rush ever did.

May 12, 2009 at 3:55 am
(3) Fathead says:

Republicans are great at dishing out the harassment, yet when a few jokes are told about them, in the process of confronting them, they just can’t seem to take the same medicine.

May 12, 2009 at 4:08 am
(4) FloridaPete says:

Imagine if a conservative comic had made such a joke about a liberal commentator, accusing him of a being a drugged out terrorist and wishing he would die. The comments would immediately have been condemned as hate speech.

May 12, 2009 at 4:14 am
(5) JT says:

We will remember all this Republican outrage the next time Limbaugh sings “Barack, the Magic Negro” or calls Obama a “Halfrican American” or says stuff like: “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray (the confessed assassin of Martin Luther King). We miss you, James. Godspeed.” We look forward to hearing from you all then.

May 12, 2009 at 4:27 am
(6) Bill S. says:

Rush Limbaugh is an American hero and a patriot, and Wanda Sykes is nothing but a classless brain dead liberal!

May 12, 2009 at 4:59 am
(7) Ed says:

Oh boo hoo! Poor, little Rush Limbaugh! Let’s all run to this gentle soul’s defense. He would never joke about somebody like mean ol’ Wanda Sykes does.

He would certainly never mock someone who actually has Parkinson’s Disease:

Or someone who actually has a brain tumor:

Or someone who’s just passed away:

Or someone who’s been mugged:

Or homeless people:

No poor Rush is just an innocent victim. It’s sick to see people beating up on the “little guy” like this.

May 12, 2009 at 8:49 am
(8) charles says:

whats the matter no oxy. learn how to take a
joke fat boy…. can you hear me oops ! :)

May 12, 2009 at 11:14 am
(9) v0v says:

The racist jokes are the only ones I really care about. I do not see too many of those coming from anyone other then bitter “African Americans.

Everything else is fair game though, albeit in poor taste when talking of someons death. Of course it is obvious I have different ideals when it comes to social norms than a good portion of our society. Who would have thunk it.

May 13, 2009 at 12:50 am
(10) cks says:

I am very offended by Wanda Sykes’ joke about wishing Rush Limbaugh would have kidney failure. It’s not something to joke about! I just watched my Mother suffer and die from kidney failure (she passed away last Tuesday morning @ 4:30am while I was holding her hand-it’s the hardest thing I’ve very witnessed/gone through).

By the way, conservatives have wonderful senses of humor-not about people suffering and dying from diseases that are truely horrifying to witness. You should all visit a Dialysis Clinic sometime or visit a Hospice Facility where many die every single day from diseases like kidney failure.

Since “liberals” are all about treating people with respect, the rights of “everyone” (ACLU, etc.), free speech, love/peace for everyone-end the war-stop killing innocent people, etc… You’re all very contradictory! Party lines aside, get your priorities straight! The people who have kidney failure and patients dying and waiting for a transplant need to put themselves in their shoes for just a moment (and the families taking care of them). Be honest with yourselves, if the tables were turned, how would that make you feel? You’d never answer that question, because you’re all so dead set on being on the “left”/”liberal” side and against the “right”/”conservative” side. It’s not about doing the right thing anymore. It’s about being against anyone who’s views tend to be on the conservative side or the Republicans.

This hit home in a big way for me! Start thinking about what is humane and don’t ever joke about someones’ health. It could easily happen to you and a lot more “famous” people who don’t really care about the well-being of a human life, but then you have the “animal activist” who would rather save the animals (I’m also a huge animal lover), and the majority is for abortion.????? Doesn’t make a bit of sense. Also, they care more about “saving the children” and other charities like rebuilding disaster areas, but then think it’s funny about wishing Rush Limbaugh (btw, I’m not a big fan of him either) die from kidney failure. Most of the time the “celebrities” only do the “charity” stuff to make themselves look better because they’re so insecure and feel guilty-plus their publicists tells them to do it to make them look better and get better publicity/movie offers. That is very shallow and fake. If they’re making fun of an illness like kidney failure, they really don’t care about the people they offend, or the patients who suffer and die from these diseases.

I admit it I’m very offended and take this very personally-so don’t criticize me for letting you know that it was wrong for even “Wanda Sykes” to joke about kidney failure.

I’m serious, take a day to not voluteer at the humane society and local soup kitchen to feed the homeless, and take a visit to a Dialysis Clinic and Hospice House/Nursing Home. I challenge you to do so. See how it makes you feel when you talk to a Hospice Nurse/Nurse at a Dialysis Clinic about what these patients go through. It’s agonizing (for the families too). I wouldn’t wish that on my WORST enemy. Have a heart and apologize, or are you too proud and good? I’m not-I’ve been there & know what it’s like.

We need an entirely new political party that is for doing what’s right and not what’s popular. All the priorities in Washington and Hollywood are twisted and mixed up. Believe me Hollywood, the smart ones (public) out here know when you’re truly sincere and when you’re putting on for better “ratings”.

I shouldn’t leave out the media-same goes for you. You don’t tell the truth about a lot of stuff. Where are you getting/hiring these journalists from? They are horrible and misleading. They never get the story straight and mislead the public. I feel like you don’t do your homework/research. You’re losing a great deal of credibility. That’s usually the first to go before you go out of business-think about it.

May 13, 2009 at 4:58 am
(11) Al says:

I hope everything about Rush Limbaugh fails. Especially his dreaded show.

May 14, 2009 at 10:07 pm
(12) thebcman says:

rush limbaugh is a worthless pos .. why does anybody care what he says?

May 15, 2009 at 8:30 am
(13) jj says:

Oxybaugh is a professional trouble maker who makes way too much money speaking to his sheep. I doubt if he believe half of what he says. But it is hard to speak coherently when your mouth is being stuffed full of cash…
On the count of 3 – everyone say BAAAAAHHHH

May 16, 2009 at 3:45 am
(14) Free to Speak says:

The White House doesn’t have to issue an apology for Wanda Syke’s joke. She’s a lesbo and can say what she please. So can President Obama. IF they feel the need to distance themselves from WANDA, they are all a bunch of hypocrites. No one is apologizing for Rush Limbaugh’s nasty comments about any and everyone he so desires to trash, ESPECIALLY President Obama. The President should welcome those who can, saying what he can’t, in his defense. Nothing wrong with that.

May 16, 2009 at 4:37 am
(15) Free to Speak says:

The greatest line spoken at the dinner was the one President Obama made about his beautiful wife Michelle: “She has the “right” to bare arms”. Those long, lean, sculpted, dark chocolate arms are absolutely choice. That should shut the mouths of those who dare think they have the “right” to tell the first lady what she should or should’nt wear!

May 16, 2009 at 2:35 pm
(16) bert says:

Ed (#7) is absolutely right. Not only has Rush done everything conceivable to warrant some insults coming back at him, he doesn’t even care if he gets insulted. There is no injury to be concerned about. He knows certain people don’t like him, and he garners more support and audience for himself by identifying them.
The Rush enablers are the ones who are getting a free pass for degrading our society.

May 17, 2009 at 11:07 am
(17) chicken lips says:

this fathead(good name–he/she has no brain cells between the ears)failed to tell every-body that when a Republican or conservative says anything against obama they are RACISTS. If someone would render that mass of fat between his/her ears they may find one maybe even two live brain cells!!!!!!

May 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm
(18) Jinnye Koons says:

Rush Limbaugh is a narrow minded, bigoted, idiot. At least, Wanda Sykes is very entertaining. My own grandmother died from kidney failure and I certainly don’t think there’s anything funny about that. However, I have enough sense to know that she was only making a joke. Rush Limbaugh should just go somewhere and shut up.

June 17, 2009 at 1:33 am
(19) Vincent Bordini says:

This quote:

“You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray. We miss you, James. Godspeed.”

…is a lie. It’s a liberal article of faith talking point.


January 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm
(20) Burt says:

One thing that’s true about Oxycotin users, once a user always a user. Rush Limbaugh will get caught using the Drug again. its only a matter of time. He is a disgrace to America.

January 15, 2010 at 4:28 pm
(21) Scott says:

But it’s ok for Rush to wish that the Obama administration fail? I’m sure he’s not an idiot and knows that if any presidential administration were to fail it would affect millions of people.
So in effect Rush is wishing millions of people to be worse off than before.
Given his continued ugly comments I will never understand why anyone would ever listen to this scumbag.

January 15, 2010 at 4:41 pm
(22) Val says:

I happen to think that Wanda Sykes is very funny and I have absolutely no respect for the Rush Limbaugh’s of this world, as they are narrow-minded, bigoted, self-absorbed wackos, but that said, I still wouldn’t wish that someones kidneys would fail, no matter how much of a jackass they may be. Every time Rush Limbaugh opens he mouth he proves that he’s a jerk, especially with what he’s said about the horrible situation in Haiti, but as this is the U.S., he has a right to say whatever he thinks, even if he’s full of it. I don’t agree with anything he says and wish he’d shut up, but being able to express you opinion enables us all to do what we are doing now.

January 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm
(23) Rush is Wrong says:

What’s the big deal about his kidneys? He’s already had brain failure.

And lets get this straight…. He’s not an American hero. He’s a right wing opportunist, who is simply out to make money by not only taking advantage of hate and bigotry, but by promoting it as well. He attacks when convenient and drops into a whimpering quivering mess when he someone pokes a little fun at him.

He is not and never will be an American hero. A hero does not take advantage of those less fortunate. By definition a hero is a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

Most American heroes tend to fall from grace when they have been discovered to have drug habits. Rush condemned drug use up until the point he was caught. That simply makes him a hypocrite not a hero.

January 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm
(24) Lo says:

Regarding comment #4: Republicans have called Democrats and liberals terrorists many times. Conservatives called Max Cleland, a Democratic senator from Georgia (who had lost three limbs fighting in Vietnam) a terrorist because he had concerns about the Iraq war, John Kerry was accused of being a coward, even though he volunteered for service in Vietnam…the list goes on and on. Usually it’s Republicans who avoided military service in Vietnam who call people cowards. Ironic.

December 14, 2010 at 6:43 pm
(25) Mr. It's Important to Remember says:

It’s Important to Remember that very few Liberals listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. Most “know” only the sound bites and talking points as released by the Ruling Elite Media. The James Earl Ray Talking Point is unusual in that it is entirely fabricated. The standard protocol for misrepresenting Mr Limbaugh is to extract from its context something he actually said. This is simple, because Mr. Limbaugh does a lot of parody.

March 27, 2012 at 12:59 am
(26) bob says:

I hope her kidneys fail. She isn’t funny and she’s a racist liberal idiot.

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