Sports Writer Says He's Right Even if Limbaugh Smear Quote Is Wrong
Published: 10/14/2009 2:15 PM ET
Wednesday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an "Editor's Note" on their sports pages about the false quote attributed to radio host Rush Limbaugh, that Limbaugh had supposedly said that slavery "had its merits." The paper says the quote came from a left-wing book that offered "no specific details" about its origins and that "the Post-Dispatch continues to research the origin of the quote."
Back on October 7, Post-Dispatch sports writer Bryan Burwell was the first to inject the quote into the debate about whether an investment group including Limbaugh should be able to buy the St. Louis Rams; in his latest column, Burwell suggested it didn't really matter if the quote was a "fabrication."
So what are we left with? Well, essentially, I think we just threw a deck chair off the Titanic. There is still a huge pile of polarizing, bigoted debris stacked up on the deck of the good ship Limbaugh that he can't deny or even remotely distance himself from.That doesn't sound very contrite for a writer who jump-started a nasty round of character assassination with a quote that his own newspaper says needs further "research" to confirm. How would the paper react if any other public figure - Barack Obama? Bill Clinton? Keith Olbermann? - was smeared with such an inflammatory quote that could not be verified? Aren't editors supposed to keep unverified slander out of the newspapers in the first place?
Here's the full editor's note as it appeared in the October 14 Post-Dispatch, followed by an excerpt from Burwell's October 14 column:
Now some of Burwell on Wednesday suggesting that he's right even if the quote he used in making his case was "a horrible fabrication":A quote in Bryan Burwell's column Oct. 7 attributed to Rush Limbaugh about the merits of slavery in the United States came from the 2006 book "101 People Who Are Really Screwing America" by John Huberman. The book does not provide specific details about the quote. Limbaugh, who is part of a group bidding to buy the St. Louis Rams, said Monday that he did not make that statement, which has been widely reported in recent days.
The Post-Dispatch continues to research the origin of the quote.
So now the man who for the last 20 years has used the words of others like a mallet, is finding that the world is a little less comfortable when he ends up on the business end of that same swinging cudgel. Limbaugh is being damned by his own words. His many critics - and I happen to be one of them - have collected some of his greatest hits and thrown them back in his face for scrutiny. And what do you know? Limbaugh apparently wasn't so keen on becoming the poundee after excelling for so long at being the pounder. One particular quote seemed to bother him the most:END of excerpt.
"Let's face it, we didn't have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: Slavery built the South. I'm not saying we should bring it back. I'm just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark."
That particular quote was reported in the 2006 book by Jack Huberman, "101 People Who Are Really Screwing America." I repeated it in a column last week. The quote was so in character with the many things that Limbaugh has said before that we didn't verify it beyond the book. The quote was repeated in the ensuing days as NFL players began to express their uneasiness with Limbaugh as a potential owner.
Limbaugh at first said he couldn't remember saying it, then after his researchers were unable to find any evidence beyond the book - which listed no sources - he stepped up his game and on his Tuesday radio broadcast said the quotes were lies. In an e-mail to the AP on Tuesday, Limbaugh said, "The totally made-up and fabricated quotes attributed to me in recent media reports are outrageous and slanderous.''
Fine, let's play along for the time being and take him at his word that he was inaccurately quoted in the Huberman book. Heck, let's go along for the full ride and believe that it was all a horrible "fabrication."
So what are we left with?
Well, essentially, I think we just threw a deck chair off the Titanic.
There is still a huge pile of polarizing, bigoted debris stacked up on the deck of the good ship Limbaugh that he can't deny or even remotely distance himself from.
-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.