Mary Lynn Rajskub is a comedian and actress best known for playing Chloe O’Brian on 24 and Gail the Snail on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
In this excerpt from her new book “FAME-ISH: My life on the brink of fame,She reflects on a shocking interaction with the late Rush Limbaugh at a 2006 panel entitled “’24’ and America’s Counter-Terrorism Image: Fact, Fiction, or Does It Matter?”
In June 2006 I was invited to go to Washington, DC and participate in a forum on the subject 24. The show had a strong conservative audience, made up not only of regular television viewers but also of people in Washington. They liked the show’s nationalistic themes and its accurate portrayal of the complexity and seriousness of Homeland Security work.
The show itself premiered less than a month after 9/11. The event was sponsored by a right-wing political think tank, and it was really just an excuse for them to bring people from the show they loved to the Capitol. They flew some of us actors and producers to Washington, DC and showed us around. They had a big dinner for us. At dinner, I sat next to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.
As someone who had previously gone to therapy for social anxiety, I still didn’t have the ability to make small talk. (Here’s a hot tip: if you go to therapy, be prepared to talk about yourself! Don’t sit across from the therapist and ask her, “How are you today? What did you do after lunch ?” I spent $3,000 a year to help the therapist plan her son’s bar mitzvah.) I didn’t know how to talk to people I had things in common with, let alone high-ranking government officials. I had no idea where to start with this guy. I sprayed in some comedy, a few non-sequiturs to break up all the dry talk and fake humility going on around the place.
On the day of the event, I put on my seersucker A-line skirt that I bought for the occasion from Ross Dress for Less and headed to the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center Amphitheater.
The topic of the forum was “24 and America’s Counter-Terrorism Image: Fact, Fiction, or Does It Matter?” There was a discussion of whether the fictional techniques used in the television show influenced real-life government and military tactics. On the panel were both myself and the co-creators of 24, Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, producer Howard Gordon and a few people who have studied or worked with homeland security policy. Michael Chertoff gave the opening speech. Rush Limbaugh moderated the panel.
I don’t remember much of what was talked about or what I contributed, but while researching this event from my past I found an ABC News article written by America’s very own Jake Tapper and my experience was wonderful has held. He wrote that I exclaimed that I no longer knew what I was doing there, what was going on or who I was. He wrote: “Rajskub said being embraced by the power structure in Washington was ‘kinda weird you know? I don’t really know what to think of this. I’m really upset and speechless to be here, it’s really, really strange.’” He also noted that I called Judge Thomas and asked him what I should say. Apparently I said that if I get invited to Washington, I’ll have to start reading more.
Thanks Jake Tapper for your accurate reporting. We need journalists for that. I remember Rush Limbaugh walking behind us at the beginning of the panel and introducing everyone. When he came to me, he said “Hello” by leaning in behind me. I turned to look up and that’s when it happened. As I turned around, he came down to kiss me…on the lips?! I have no idea how he got his body ready for a long kiss so quickly. As it happened, tons of camera flashes went out. He must have known what he was doing. He knew there were 10 photographers there – I didn’t. I should have done it, but I didn’t. I didn’t know how to stop the kiss either.
In one of his cunning moves, an image went out into the world showing that I was a supporter of the right cause. I was not. It also showed that I found Rush Limbaugh attractive. I do not have. The kiss was weird. Intentionally for him and accidentally for me.
It was a big moment in the news cycle. I remember getting phone calls over the following days. Even NPR called me for an explanation. An ex-boyfriend of mine who had a lot of musician friends called me angrily, “How could you date Rush Limbaugh?” I told him several times that I wasn’t because he kept repeating it until he followed me up said the members of my favorite indie rock band were no longer fans of mine. He read that.
I took a lot of promotional material with me for work. I knew that if the show was in the spotlight, I was paying money for the show’s success to keep my job, stay on the air, and be in the spotlight. But becoming a right-wing darling was too much. Thank god it didn’t last more than one news cycle. I still don’t understand what Michael Chertoff did as Secretary of Homeland Security.
For more, listen to Mary Lynn Rajskub The Podcast “The Last Laugh”..
https://www.thedailybeast.com/when-rush-limbaugh-forcibly-kissed-24-actress-mary-lynn-rajskub?source=articles&via=rss When Rush Limbaugh forcefully kissed ’24’ actress Mary Lynn Rajskub