Is It "FAIR" To Attack Rush?
by L. Brent Bozell III
July 14, 1994
It's predictable to hear Bill Clinton's whining about Rush Limbaugh. What's surprising is the degree to which the media jumped on the bandwagon. Following on the heels of attacks by Clinton and Washington talk show host Diane Rehm, the national media are promoting a "study" by the self-proclaimed "Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting" (FAIR) charging that Rush is guilty of "sloppiness, ignorance, or fabrication" and has a "finely honed ability to twist and distort reality."
Let's put the FAIR manifesto in proper perspective. It documents 43 "errors" in its report. Imagine for a minute that all of these were documented, unquestionable goofs. Rush has been on the national airwaves for six years, adding up to more than 4,000 hours of radio shows. His television show adds another 200 hours. Add more than a year of "The Limbaugh Letter" and two best-selling books. Add hundreds of print and electronic interviews. Total it up and you might have a million sentences, all on the record, uttered by Rush. What reporter (or president) wouldn't trade for a record of 43 misstatements in an output that prodigious?
But many of these documented Rush "errors" are not errors at all. Try this example from FAIR's report: "If you have any doubts about the status of American health care, just compare it with that in other industrialized nations." Or this: "Women were doing quite well in this country before feminism came along." How about: "$14,400 for a family of four. That's not so bad." Liberals would surely disagree with these opinions, for that's what they are. Rush can, and does on a daily basis defend his opinions eloquently - which might explain why 22 million people listen to him every week.
And who appointed FAIR as the guardians of accuracy, anyway? None of the news stories publicizing FAIR's attack, be they Newsweek, The Washington Post, or the Los Angeles Times, chose to report FAIR's record of inaccurate and dishonest pronouncements.
Exhibit A is FAIR's leading role in fabricating The Great Super Bowl Hoax of 1993. On January 28, FAIR held a press conference in Los Angeles declaring that Super Bowl Sunday inspires domestic violence against women from football-watching men. Associated Press reporter Jeffrey Meyer wrote: "Some women's shelters report as much as a 40 percent increase in calls for help on Super Bowl Sunday and the following Monday, [said] Linda Mitchell of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a media watchdog group." A handout from FAIR's public relations agents, Dobisky Associates, warned women: "Don't remain with him at home during the game."
When Washington Post reporter Ken Ringle discovered that FAIR and others publicizing these claims had no scientific data to back them up, FAIR spokesman Steve Rendall told The Boston Globe: "It was not quite accurate...It should not have gone out in FAIR materials."
Exhibit B: The first edition of FAIR's newsletter Extra! proclaimed: "We do not work to prevent the airing of viewpoints with which we disagree. Our approach is to work for the inclusion of new viewpoints, not the exclusion of old ones."
Really? Recently Mr. Cohen wrote a long letter to Richard Carlson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, singling out the program "Reverse Angle," hosted by Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke. Before it ever aired, Cohen wrote: "FAIR recommends that this be abandoned." FAIR also hinted at censorship in its New York Times ad, saying that the stations that carry Limbaugh "can be held accountable if they broadcast falsehood...It is, in fact, a condition of their licenses."
Liberals in the media are making fools of themselves trying to ruin Limbaugh's credibility, banking on a group of hoax specialists to do it. After Los Angeles Times critic Howard Rosenberg suggested Limbaugh's accuracy needed work, the Times had to publish two corrections to his article.
Former NBC News President Michael Gartner charged in a USA Today column that Limbaugh "is to truthfulness as President Clinton is to faithfulness." Do we need lectures on truthfulness from the man who said the faked explosions in "Dateline NBC" were "fair and accurate," and for that reason is today its former president?
After charging Limbaugh was "tossing the raw meat of bigotry to people who need desperately to feel superior to somebody," Washington Post columnist William Raspberry wrote in a follow-up piece: "I've listened to major portions of two Rush Limbaugh radio shows, I've done heavy browsing of his new book, The Way Things Ought To Be, and now I'm finally ready to say it: Rush, I'm sorry." How many journalists attacking Rush today would be willing to say as much?
It matters little, for they aren't his judges. The ultimate judge is the marketplace, which can tune him in, or out, at will. Given that Rush Limbaugh enjoys the largest audience in the history of talk radio, I'd say the verdict is in.