Friday, Oct. 9, 2009 | 5:19 p.m.
Art McMaster talks of the reasons the Miss America Organization contacted Rush Limbaugh to judge the 2010 pageant, and they all make sense -- until you remember that this is Rush Limbaugh we’re talking about.
“I want people to understand how the pageant judging happens,” McMaster, chief executive and president of the Miss America Organization, said during a phone conversation today after it was announced officially that Limbaugh would be one of next year’s judges. “We don’t just pick out seven names. We have seven different categories, and we need people who are experts in those categories.” As McMaster explained, the pageant always seeks a media personality to bring solid interviewing skills to the show, which is why Chris Matthews, Greta Van Susteren and Jim Moret have served as judges for past pageants.
“We’re all about trying to find the person who will help us find the right contestant,” McMaster said. “Rush is a person who will help us do that.”
Fine, though Limbaugh is hardly known as an adept interviewer. What he does is trumpet a specific political ideology every day to 20 million a.m. radio listeners across the country -- the famed “Dittoheads” -- and has become one of the nation’s more polarizing public figures over the past two decades.
“This is not about polarizing,” McMaster said. “We’ve had a lot of judges who have had things that they have said or things in their background we might not like. He has a lot of opinions, but so does Chris Matthews.”
One of those opinions Limbaugh brings to the tradition-steeped pageant, with “America” in its very title, is he hopes the president of this country fails. Of that, McMaster said only, “We know he’s very blunt. Look, we all know Rush Limbaugh, but when you look at what he brings and his influence, the kind of interest level he generates with a daily talk show that goes out to 20 million listeners, it’s good for our show.”
It might not be so good for Planet Hollywood, though. McMaster said the hotel is not part of the judging selection process (or any other production component of the show), and hotel officials, including CEO Robert Earl and President Tom McCartney, were notified yesterday that Limbaugh would be part of the P.H. entertainment culture next January. Suffice to say, hotel officials are not exactly performing cartwheels at this piece of news, but MAO and the pageant’s cable partner, TLC, are quite happy (the show airs from the Theatre for Performing Arts on Jan. 30).
“We reached out to (Rush) about two weeks ago,” McMaster said. “We’d like to have announced all of (the judges) at the same time, but then he started talking about it on the show, so we had to announce him early.” The rest of the field, the other six, will be known within the month. When I suggested to McMaster that the coverage of the judging panel would be dominated by Limbaugh, McMaster quickly said, “Oh, don’t be so sure.” Whatever, this promises to be one eventful sashay across the stage.
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.