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Off Limits

Rush to judgment: Boulder's Aaron Harber was a popular fellow at the National Association of Broadcasters' convention in Las Vegas last week. That's because the johnny-come-lately to talk radio had just beaten Rush Limbaugh--in the courtroom, if not in the ratings.

Twenty months after Limbaugh's attorneys sued Harber for $20 million over a variety of offenses that basically boiled down to the fact that Limbaugh didn't appreciate Harber naming his hour-long weekday gabfest "After the Rush," U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch--yes, the Oklahoma bombing judge--dismissed the case. Not, however, before Harber made an easy concession--one that Matsch himself had inspired at a hearing a year ago. Limbaugh's lawyers, "nasty people," says Harber, "were explaining to the judge that there was no title I could use which they would find acceptable if it included either the words Rush or Limbaugh." Not even "Against the Rush?" Matsch asked. "They flatly said no," Harber recalls.

But Harber said yes, and last August he changed his show's name to exactly that, making it clear he was no Limbaugh clone. That was enough for Matsch to throw out the core of Limbaugh's case at a hearing April 12; Limbaugh's lawyers dumped the rest. "We have a right to use his name, and that's a victory," says Ed Ramey, Harber's ACLU attorney.

Harber first tuned into Limbaugh in 1990, "on a dry, dusty road somewhere outside La Junta," when he was campaigning as a Democratic candidate for secretary of state. The radio ranter was yammering about feminazis, and Harber recalls wondering, "Just who is this guy, and is anyone responding to him?"

And how. Today Limbaugh is heard on 650 stations. "Those numbers are just frightening," says Harber, who's been offering his own "progressive" show for two years through Talk America Radio Network and has been formally picked up by 31 stations. Although his legal victory may not even the odds anytime soon, Harber's already won new fans. One is a man who'd also heard from Limbaugh's attorneys. His crime? Selling "Rush Lipbalm."

The numbers game: At the Oklahoma City memorial Friday, the crowds (if not the TV commentators) observed 168 seconds of silence in memory of the 168 people who lost their lives in the tragedy. But the federal indictment handed down last August--and on whose charges Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols will ultimately be tried in Denver--only mentions 159 of those victims. Why? Because it doesn't include the names of people who actually died outside of the federal building. (The eight law enforcement officials killed in the line of duty are listed twice, however, since the death-penalty portion of the case is tied to them.) That means if the two are acquitted in Denver, they can still be tried for nine more deaths--a defense attorney's nightmare. But even if they are convicted, the county attorney back in Oklahoma has vowed to charge them with the murders of the rest of the victims. That trial, at least, won't be in Denver.

Hair today, gone tomorrow: This week Gregg Moss, the affable Denver Business Journal reporter who's been doing double duty on Channel 9's early-morning show, signs off TV for good. He's heading to Fort Worth and the weekly business paper headed by former DBJ publisher Maureen Regan Smith (whose departure inspired several laudatory front-page DBJ stories). The opportunity was too good to pass up, says Moss: "I leave town Saturday, never to return."

Not to TV, anyway. At one point during Moss's tenure, KUSA exec Dave Lougee reportedly told him he didn't have a future in television--not enough hair.

 
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