A successful parody always risks being taken too seriously, and a parody ad targeting Rush Limbaugh's drug use may have received the ultimate accolade when it was featured on the website of an actual dealer in illicit drugs. To the satirist's dismay, his photoshopped image has now become part of a DEA investigation.
As reported on Tuesday by The Smoking Gun, "A web site featuring a phony Rush Limbaugh endorsement of OxyContin is the target of a Drug Enforcement Administration probe into the illegal online sale of prescription medication, records show."
The parody, which is reproduced in the DEA affadavit filed to obtain a search warrant against the site's proprietor, was created by photographer Dave Ward in October 2003, when Limbaugh admitted that he was addicted to prescription pain medications. It shows Limbaugh giving a thumbs-up next to an OxyContin bottle and is captioned, "OxyContin helped me deal with the pain of living in a world that just didn't resemble my perceptions or my claims."
"Limbaugh, 58, was once addicted to the pain medication and engaged in 'doctor shopping' to secure a steady supply of the drug," The Smoking Gun explains. "In a settlement with Florida prosecutors, a felony case against Limbaugh was dropped after he completed addiction counseling and avoided other criminal entanglements."
The 1oxycodone.com website went up on March 19, 2008, according to its domain registration. It was using the Limbaugh image as early as August 5, 2008, when one of its potential clients asked at a message board devoted to illicit drugs, "Anyone else use this source successfully? On their website is an endorsement by Rush Limbaugh w/ a picture of him giving a 'thumbs up' sign. (At least the owner has a sense of humor, I guess!)"
News of the federal probe struck the same message board like a bombshell on Tuesday. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" one poster moaned. "I was about to make an order this afternoon! I can't believe this man. what horrible timing. This was THE best benzo site I've ever come across. Xanapams are priceless. DAMNIT!"
Others worried that their own emails might by among those to which the DEA has now gained access, and one posted mockingly, "Head for the hills!! Smash your hard drives, the Gestapo is coming!"
When Raw Story alerted Ward to the misuse of his parody, he replied, "I had two gut reactions in quick succession. First was, "Oh boy, I hope I'm not in trouble for this somehow.' (But obviously I'm not, or somebody would have contacted me before now -- your email was the first I'd heard of this.)"
"The second reaction was dismay and disgust that some scumbag used MY political parody graphic to sell illegal drugs. I don't drink, don't smoke -- the only time I've ever been 'high' was from second-hand smoke at a Pink Floyd or Rush (the good Rush!) concert. So it bothers me a bit that somebody used my parody, which was intended to amuse other people who despise Lambaugh as much as I do, was turned around and twisted into a tool to PROMOTE drug abuse."
"I hope nobody, anywhere, for even one second though that Limbaugh actually was promoting or endorsing Oxycontin," concluded Ward. "It was a work of satire pointed at somebody who often railed against people who got caught up in drug addiction and calling them "worthless' and worse. I was essentially taking a big pair of his XXXL underwear and running them up the flagpole with the word 'hypocrite' writ large on the ass."
Ron Brynaert contributed research for this article.