Rush Limbaugh and Some Other Heartless Americans Make Light of the Plight of Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Victims

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

In recent days, Rush Limbaugh was heard making fun of Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims living in a refugee camp on his radio program. Rush seemed to think it was funny that the refugees had already organized a recycling effort at the camp.

RUSH: Did I really hear this? Did I really hear — Diane Sawyer is in a refugee camp in Japan. Play this again. This is almost like a kindergarten teacher talking to the 4 year olds. That is how old you are in kindergarten, right? Five? Five? Four? All right. This is — some of these people here for days, and look, look, it’s recycling — organized for recycling.

You can read more excerpts from Rush’s disturbing conversation with a caller at the Media Matters post Limbaugh Laughs in the Face of Human Suffering.

Limbaugh wasn’t the only American who made inappropriate comments about the Japanese in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that have devastated the island nation of Japan.

Rapper 50 Cent tweeted: “Look this is very serious people I had to evacuate all my hoes from LA, Hawaii and Japan. I had to do it. Lol.”

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried tweeted: “I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, ‘They’ll be another one floating by any minute now’,” and “What does every Japanese person have in their apartment? Flood lights.”

(Note: The 56-year-old comedian was fired by Aflac, an insurance company who used his voice in its ad campaigns.)

Dan Turner, the former press secretary for Governor Haley Barbour, was forced to resign after it was reported that he sent an email with the following message: “Otis Redding posthumously received a gold record for his single, (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay. (Not a big hit in Japan right now.)”

Glenn Beck thinks that God may have punished Japan with the earthquake and tsunami:

What is wrong with these people? There are animals that have shown more humanity than these individuals who seem to think natural disasters are humorous events.

Watch this video of a dog in Japan who stayed by the side of an injured companion after the earthquake and tsunami:

(Note: I read a report that both dogs have been rescued.)

Here’s a video of Tarra and Bella—an elephant and a dog who became best friends at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

The Elephant Sanctuary Web site

The Elephant Sanctuary Youtube Page

Click on the following link to watch a video of Owen, a baby hippopotamus, and Mzee, a 130-year-old Aldabra tortoise. Owen was separated from his family after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. He adopted Mzee as his “mother.” The ancient tortoise—who had long been a loner—accepted Mzee as his own.

Owen and Mzee Web site

Owen and Mzee slideshow

Two interesting nonfiction children’s books:


50 Cent’s Japanese jokes in bad taste (IOL Technology)

50 Cent, Gilbert Gottfried under fire for joking about Japan earthquake, tsunami (New York Daily News)

Gov. Haley Marbour’s aide resigns after Japan joke (USA Today)

Limbaugh Laughs In The Face Of Human Suffering (Media Matters)

35 thoughts on “Rush Limbaugh and Some Other Heartless Americans Make Light of the Plight of Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Victims”

  1. When I was a kid I lived in Utah, and the Boy Scouts was taken over by Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church). This, so called religion, practices underage polygamy, they send the boy s off on missions to divide the underage sisters among the dirty old men of the clan. Now when these underage girls get pregnant, these same dirty old men, send them to the state to get their welfare checks . You should see some of the palace homes that are paid with welfare checks (not on just one of course). By the way this is the newest religion that was created right here in United States of America, I guess their also in AZ, CA, NM, TX, NV, CO, OK. When someone hides behind religion to do or say something that is wrong we should stand up and point it out (right the wrong). Someone should ask Glenn Beck about it, he seems to have all the answers.

  2. Elaine,

    I have a feeling that the punchline was how bad the joke was.

    Gottfried’s whole stage Persona is deliberately constructed to be as obnoxious as possible.

  3. Gyges,

    I guess a lot of people failed to see the humor in his jokes. I found the one about a woman going floating by really unpalatable/offensive. A joke is supposed to be funny…right?

  4. Elaine,

    That his jokes went beyond the pale is the joke, or rather the anti-joke.

    Gottfried bills himself as a Comedian’s Comedian. As someone that plays Jazz for Jazz musicians, I can say that when your target audience is people familiar with the theory behind what you’re doing, you do things that are pretty unpalatable without that base knowledge.

  5. Elaine,

    I think they are technically funny. That is they have an appropriately disproportionate exaggeration to the setup. That does not mean I think they are appropriate nor to my tastes, even in gallows humor. Personally, I think that kind of too soon dark humor rates only slightly above practical jokes, which I don’t get the appeal of at all but rather look at as an invitation to an ass kicking. Dark humor is a dish best served cold. I remember hearing a couple of really badly timed (although technically funny) Challenger jokes after the shuttle disaster and my response was much the same as to these: “Okay. That was funny. But what are you? Besides a jackass?” I did stipulate that Gottfried’s jokes were both tasteless and ill-timed. Failures in timing I distinguish from failures in structure. They are two different skills. When one goes the tasteless route in humor, timing is everything. While formally correct, Gottfried’s jokes more than lacked in execution. I hope this clarifies what I meant when I said they were funny.

  6. Buddha,

    I beg to differ. I didn’t find anything the least bit funny about Gottfried’s jokes. Call me an old fart. So be it. And this is coming from a woman with a very snarky and sarcastic sense of humor. IMO, some things—like Gottfried’s jokes—go beyond the pale.

  7. In re Gottfried and AFLAC

    On AFLAC’s part, the decision was purely financial. I read somewhere they hold something like 80% of the Japanese health care insurance market in that country which – in dollar terms – dwarfs their business in the States. What did strike me as odd though is that in the duck is voiced by a different actor in Japan, not Gottfried. Had he been the voice in that market? Yeah, I’d understand the firing without reservation. Keeping him on could be easily misinterpreted as the company making light of their customer’s tragedy. However, as he wasn’t? It seems like a mild overreaction. They hired a comedian who – as Gyges noted – is partially famous for his tasteless humor. They shouldn’t have been surprised when he made tasteless jokes in public as it is his “day job”. Just because he does voiceover work for AFLAC doesn’t mean they have the right to censor this speech in the rest of his life.

    I read the jokes in question. Were the jokes tasteless? Why yes they were. Were they ill timed? Most certainly his timing was that of a complete douche bag but this is often the case with gallows humor. Were they funny? Why as a matter of fact they were. And if your day job is comedian? Funny is all that counts.

    That being said, Gottfried acted stupidly in rightfully exercising his free speech. That his poor choice in timing has a negative financial consequence for him – while an overreaction from AFLAC – is not inappropriate. While AFLAC doesn’t have the right to censor Gottfried, they do have a right to terminate their business arrangements with him. That it was his “other job” that served as the catalyst is not uncommon. People employed by multiple interests often lose one job or the other when those interests come into conflict. This is no different.

  8. Gyges,

    That I did not know. Thank you for pointing it out. I guess he’s at least consistent in the bad taste department.

    It’s not so much that I don’t find him funny but I can never listen to him long enough to really find out. His voice is like nails on a chalkboard …

  9. Elaine,

    There is a couple of key differences. Beck no longer bills himself as a comedian, and even when he was Beck had a completely different persona. Gottfried is known for pushing boundaries of all sorts, with him it’s an intentional act. Beck was a a wacky morning DJ who happened to cross the line a few times, more from a lack of knowing where that line is than for any sort of artistic reasons.

  10. Elaine M,

    I missed your post of 3/19 @ 2:37 – I like the wording above the drug addicts picture, “Recycled Garbage.” Very appropriate!

  11. Gyges,

    I agree with you to a point but, I think Gottfried should have waited a wee bit before he started in with the jokes.

    Could you imagine if he had made a similar joke within days of Katrina or 9/11?

  12. Gyges,

    A number of people defended Gottfried–including Joan Rivers. I think AFLAC didn’t want their insurance company to be associated with him once word got about the jokes he made. I’d say his jokes went past bad taste when one considers what happened in the aftermath of the the earthquake and tsumani that hit Japan.

  13. Elaine,

    I’m mildly surprised to see Gottfried on the list with the others. He’s a comedian, one known for telling dirty and rude jokes. While the joke was in bad taste, he makes his living telling jokes that are in bad taste. It’s his role in our collective psyche.

Comments are closed.