Limbaugh Got Off Easy, Paint Him Intolerant of "Drug Addiction" --5/1/2006
2. ABC Leads with "Arrest," Olbermann Delights in "Cuffed" Rush
3. Walters Makes It Official: O'Donnell New Co-Host of ABC's View
4. New Ramesh Ponnuru Book Features Chapter on Pro-Abortion Bias
ABC's World News Tonight on Saturday contended that Rush Limbaugh got off easy because he could afford a high-priced lawyer and painted him as a hypocrite for previously condemning drug users, but ABC didn't offer any evidence Limbaugh has ever denounced those hooked on prescription pain medication. "Rush Limbaugh cuts a deal," anchor Jim Avila teased at the top of his newscast, propounding: "Was this drug suspect treated like any other Florida first offender?"
After a soundbite from Limbaugh's lawyer, Roy Black, who contended that "with anybody...addicted to pain medication, it is really unfair to prosecute them or to make some sort of a big case out of it. The idea is to help the person overcome the addiction," ABC reporter Jeffrey Kofman countered: "But Limbaugh himself has not been so tolerant of other people's problems with drug addiction." Viewers then heard an audio clip of Limbaugh from more than ten years ago: "The people who are caught doing this stuff ought to be sent away. They ought to be punished." What, however, was the "stuff" to which Limbaugh referred? Kofman did not specify in delivering his broadside, but if Limbaugh was condemning users of illegal hallucinogenic substances, such as cocaine or heroin, that's quite a bit different than obtaining an excessive level of legal drugs to control pain. Kofman also suggested Limbaugh bought his deal: "Limbaugh received the lightest of punishments. Criminal defense specialists tell ABC News that a man without Limbaugh's access to top lawyers would likely have seen a harsher outcome." Yet earlier in the story Kofman had related how Limbaugh "benefitted from a state program that gives first-time offenders a second chance."
[This item was posted Saturday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To add your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
Like Kofman, in Saturday's New York Times, reporter Jeff Leeds, who cited no quotes, issued an uncorroborated broadside which didn't differentiate between illegal mind-altering drugs and legal, prescription-controlled pain relievers: "Before his own problems with painkillers surfaced, Mr. Limbaugh had regularly told listeners that drug users should be jailed." See: www.nytimes.com
Check today's CyberAlert item #2 below for a rundown of Friday night coverage of Limbaugh's "arrest" and more on the agreement he made with the local Florida prosecutor.
The April 29 World News Tonight story in full, with the closed-captioning corrected against the video by the MRC's weekend warrior, Brad Wilmouth:
Anchor Jim Avila, in the opening teaser: "Rush Limbaugh cuts a deal. He's smiling for the cameras in his mug shot. Was this drug suspect treated like any other Florida first offender?"
Avila soon arrived at the first segment story, over Limbaugh's smiling mug shot on screen: "Now back home to the latest on Rush Limbaugh. The law-and-order radio host responded to an arrest warrant by turning himself in to the Palm Beach County sheriff. The charge, prescription drug fraud. It's all part of a carefully orchestrated plea deal. Tonight, ABC's Jeffrey Kofman looks at the layers of irony in this story."
Jeffrey Kofman, with each element of the deal displayed on screen: "Rush Limbaugh had good reason to smile in his mug shot. His three-year ordeal with drug charges is finally over. Under the deal, Limbaugh agreed to be booked on a single felony charge: prescription drug fraud. That charge will be dropped if he continues drug treatment for 18 months. Limbaugh also agreed to pay $30,000 for the public cost of the investigation and to submit to drug testing."
News broke on MSNBC at approximately 6:15pm EDT Friday night about the "arrest" of Rush Limbaugh on a "prescription fraud" charge. While the 7pm EDT Situation Room on CNN led with the "Breaking News" of the "arrest" -- which was really more of a booking session that did not put Limbaugh into handcuffs or any jail -- reporter John Zarella reported how it was really part of "a deal" between Limbaugh and the Palm Beach County prosecutor's office and CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin soon told anchor Wold Blitzer by phone that "the winner here is very clear: Rush Limbaugh. They cut themselves a very sweet deal." But while the reports on the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News conveyed how in exchange for 18 more months of drug treatment by Limbaugh, the one single charge would be dismissed, World News Tonight viewers were left assuming Limbaugh was in dire trouble. (ABC's West coast feed was more-informed.)
"Rush Limbaugh, one of the most popular and influential radio talk show hosts in America, was arrested in West Palm Beach today. The charges involve allegations of prescription drug fraud," anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced at the top of the ABC newscast. Brian Ross explained: "He turned himself in today, Elizabeth, about 4:00 this afternoon. He was held for an hour and has since been released on $3,000 bail. What this involves is whether he used phony prescriptions to get oxycontin and other highly addictive prescription painkillers." Without anything about the deal, Vargas repeated the charge against him: "The allegations that he was doctor shopping, going to several doctors at once for big, big numbers of prescriptions." Ross affirmed: "Exactly, and the term 'prescription fraud' would apply to that directly."
On the CBS Evening News, Bob Orr outlined: "According to a statement put out by Mr. Black's office, this is the result of a deal. Apparently Mr. Limbaugh will agree that the state can go ahead with one charge that he shopped for a doctor to obtain prescriptions, with the understanding that after 18 months, the charge will be dropped, as long as Mr. Limbaugh seeks treatment." NBC avoided the term "arrest" as anchor Brian Williams referred to how Limbaugh had "been booked." Williams noted then charge and then observed: "His attorney said the charge will be dismissed in 18 months, as long as Limbaugh stays in treatment."
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann opened with a "we have mug shot!" celebration of how Limbaugh has gone from "one half his brain...tied behind his back" to "both his hands cuffed behind his back." Olbermann's opening teaser for MSNBC's Countdown:
Later in his show, Olbermann snarkily set up his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment: "And what a twofer in this news hour, Rush Limbaugh arrested and Bill O'Reilly urges his listeners to telephone a dead guy. First, time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World, those two bottomless cups of coffee of worstness notwithstanding."
[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Transcripts of the April 28 EDT/CDT distributions of the broadcast network evening newscast coverage of the late-breaking news, gathered with the assistance of the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
# ABC's 6:30pm EDT World News Tonight led with the development:
Elizabeth Vargas: "Good evening. We'll get to news about the economy in just a moment, but we begin this evening with breaking news from South Florida. Rush Limbaugh, one of the most popular and influential radio talk show hosts in America, was arrested in West Palm Beach today. The charges involve allegations of prescription drug fraud. ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross is with us. You've been following this story for the 2-and-a-half-years that authorities have been investigating. Mr. Limbaugh has admitted being addicted to painkillers, but denied any fraud in getting those drugs."
In the West coast feed of World News Tonight, ABC aired a nearly-identical conversation between Ross and Vargas, but Ross caught up with what the other networks noted earlier. Ross reported that "what's happened here is a deal that he's made with the prosecutors" in which "he pleads not guilty to this charge. And if he is free of addiction for 18 months, the charges will be dropped, he'll face no prison time, and merely pay a fine of $30,000. His lawyers are calling this a huge victory for Mr. Limbaugh." Ross also relayed: "As one lawyer said, Mr. Limbaugh's nightmare may well be over."
A transcript of what aired on the West coast feed, which I caught in an 11pm EDT re-play on Washington, DC's NewsChannel 8 all news local cable channel owned by DC's ABC affiliate:
Elizabeth Vargas: "Good evening. We'll get to news about the economy in a moment, but we begin this evening with breaking news from South Florida. Rush Limbaugh, one of the most popular and influential radio talk show hosts in America, was arrested in West Palm Beach today on one count of prescription drug fraud. ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross is here now, and this has been a 2-and-a-half year investigation. Mr. Limbaugh has always admitted being addicted to prescription drugs, but denied until tonight that he was ever committing fraud in getting them."
Schieffer, anchoring from Washington, DC with the Capitol in the background, then arrived at Limbaugh: "In Florida, law enforcement officials say radio commentator Rush Limbaugh has been arrested on prescription drug charges. CBS News correspondent Bob Orr is in our Washington bureau with more details on this. Bob, what have you found out?"
Bob Orr, at CBS's DC bureau: "Well, Bob, the story is still developing, but this appears to be a resolution to an investigation that goes back a couple of years. Many people will remember that Mr. Limbaugh was under suspicion for possible prescription drug fraud. This afternoon at 4:00, apparently he showed up, turned himself in to authorities in Florida with his attorney, Roy Black. And according to a statement put out by Mr. Black's office, this is the result of a deal. Apparently Mr. Limbaugh will agree that the state can go ahead with one charge that he shopped for a doctor to obtain prescriptions, with the understanding that after 18 months, the charge will be dropped, as long as Mr. Limbaugh seeks treatment. Now, this has been a very big deal for a lot of people for a couple of years because, as you know, Bob, Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk show host, has a huge audience. According to Arbitron, 14 to 20 million people listen to his show every week."
The AP's story, "Limbaugh Reaches Settlement in Drug Case," also noted that as part of the agreement Limbaugh will pay $30,000 to defray investigative costs: news.yahoo.com
The Washington Post showed its liberal colors Saturday morning by running this copy in their "Inside" text box. "Rush Limbaugh Arrested: The talk radio icon surrenders on a charge of committing fraud to obtain prescription drugs." The headline for the story on the front of the Style section was also suggestive: "Rush Limbaugh Turns Himself In On Fraud Charge In Rx Drug Probe." The online link was "Limbaugh Charged With Prescription Drug Fraud," accurate but incomplete.
A casual reader of headlines could easily conclude that Limbaugh was admitting guilt, with words like "surrenders" and "turns himself in." But it was a part of a deal with no admission of guilt. The story by Peter Whoriskey noted: "The agreement is not an admission of guilt to the charge." A less inflammatory set of headlines would have said "Prosecutors, Limbaugh Strike Deal."
Whoriskey underlined hypocrisy in his story, saying the drug probe "has hovered over the law-and-order conservative." Deeper in the story, he notes, without noting Limbaugh's critics are on the left in any way: "The news that Limbaugh, a savage critics [sic] of others' moral behavior, was addicted to drugs was taken as a sign of hypocrisy by his detractors."
END Reprint of NewsBusters posting
For the April 29 Washington Post story: www.washingtonpost.com
[This item was posted, with video of the Walters/O'Donnell exchange, Friday night on the MRC's NewsBusters blog. The audio/video will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert, but in the meantime, to view the Real or Windows Media video, or to listen to the MP3 audio clip, go to: newsbusters.org ]
A Friday CyberAlert item on how O'Donnell would replace Meredith Vieira who is moving over to NBC's Today, recited some of O'Donnell's more obnoxious left-wing outbursts ("This President invaded a sovereign nation in defiance of the UN. He is basically a war criminal. Honestly. He should be tried at The Hague.") and featured links to some audio/video clips, including O'Donnell's infamous 1999 confrontation with Tom Selleck: www.mediaresearch.org
Barbara Walters: "What's doing?"
The two kissed and walked off the stage together as ABC went to a commercial break.
(The MRC's Tim Graham noted in a NewsBusters posting: "Roger Friedman, who writes the 'Fox 411' for FoxNews.com, reported Saturday that Barbara Walters decided to pick Rosie O'Donnell to replace Meredith Vieira after being touched to tears at a screening of Rosie's HBO documentary about her gay-family cruises." See: newsbusters.org ]
National Review Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru's new book The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life, takes on the news media in his chapter, "Scribes of the Party of Death." This is a great line about the New York Times: "The kids at Hogwarts speak the name of Voldemort more freely than the Times editors use the phrase partial-birth abortion." Ramesh brings in his media-elite expert: "Longtime Newsweek correspondent Kenneth Woodward points out that if the editors of the Times really believe the phrase should be avoided because it's not a medical term, they should also remove references to 'heart attacks' from their pages as well. If they want to avoid it because one side of the debate objects to it, 'female genital mutilation' would have to go as well. The result is not only confusing stories; it is, as Woodward writes, that 'every story is framed as a narrative of assault on Roe v. Wade.'"
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, who noted how Ponnuru "cites my study with Rich Noyes on partial-birth abortion coverage, and how the networks rarely explain what on Earth happens in one" ( www.mrc.org ), was posted Sunday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org]
For NR's bio of Ponnuru: author.nationalreview.com
Amazon's page for Ponnuru's book: www.amazon.com
The bias was there from the start. Consider the New York Times's role in its state's 1970 liberalization of its abortion law. The Times consistently referred to liberalization as "reform" and its advocates as "reformers." It referred -- in the news pages -- to the existing law against abortion as "rigid." Its articles stressed the Catholicism of abortion opponents without delving into the religious views of its supporters. They uncritically accepted Cyril Means's false claim that the state has banned abortion only to protect mothers' lives...
The paper ran puff pieces about the advocates of "reform." It even ran a long profile of Planned Parenthood president Alan Guttmacher in which the chief question was if voluntary birth control and abortion would suffice to fight the population explosion, or if coercive methods would also be needed. (Noting that a birth took place somewhere in the world every half second, the reporter called it "a frightening statistic.") It was furing this period, incidentally, that the Times editorial page established the tone of contempt with which it treats pro-lifers. When its favored bill passed, it credited its leading proponent, who had previously been the subject of one of its puff pieces, with "calm, persuasive argument in the face of intense emotional opposition." In all the years since the newspaper's op-ed page has never featured a regular columnist who is pro-life.
END of Excerpt
The press has not gotten notably more even-handed in the years since. The Times still runs puff pieces about abortion advocates. Its readers discovered in 2005 that Kelli Conlin, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice America's New York branch, is a "dedicated mother hen." (See this TimesWatch item: www.timeswatch.org )
A similarly sympathetic portrait of a pro-life activist will have to await the apocalypse.
-- Brent Baker