A Rush to Ruin
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When the people who want to marginalize and then silence Limbaugh start a public-relations campaign, the liberal media has even ignored the basics of Journalism 101. In a September 26, 2007 conversation with a caller to his program who claimed the media never interview “real soldiers,” but just “these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.” Limbaugh interjected, “The phony soldiers.” Less than two minutes after that exchange, Limbaugh elaborated on what he had meant, explaining exactly who he was thinking about when he offered the term: Jesse Macbeth, a left-wing hero on YouTube for describing the horrors he’d seen American troops commit – but was then charged and convicted of falsifying a military record and falsely applying for veterans’ benefits. He’d never served overseas, and was dismissed from boot camp. ABC’s Brian Ross had done a story several nights earlier, and called Macbeth a “phony soldier.”
The left and Democrats im Congress then mangled Limbaugh’s comments to claim he had said that any servicemen or women who might oppose the war in Iraq in public had been defamed by the talk show host as “phony soldiers.” They typically made no reference to the actual “phony soldiers” Limbaugh was talking about.
■ “Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh says veterans who support withdrawing the troops are ‘phony soldiers.’ Those are his words.”
“Welcome back to Hardball. Democrats in Congress are going after Rush Limbaugh after the radio talk show host called those who served in Iraq but then came home to oppose the Bush administration’s war policy as ‘phony soldiers.’”
“Let me go to Ed Schultz on that. Do you think Rush Limbaugh was right to call people who opposed the war who have served ‘phony soldiers’?”
— MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Hardball on September 28, 2007.
■ Chris Matthews: “I think think you both agree that it’s wrong for any commentator to refer to pol-, the political views of soldiers who come back having faced the action and been shot at and, in many cases wounded, that they have a right to speak in this country, generally. Don’t you agree with that, Heidi?”
Talk show host Heidi Harris: “Absolutely.”
Matthews: “So we’re agreed, so we all disagree with Rush Limbaugh.”
— MSNBC’s Hardball on September 28, 2007.
■ Host Keith Olbermann: “Comedian Rush Limbaugh tries to back out of his quote: Servicemen protesting the war are quote ‘phony soldiers.’”
Rush Limbaugh: “I never said what you think I said.”
Olbermann: “Not only did he, now he said something similar about the Congressman and Vietnam vet Jack Murtha.”
— MSNBC’s Countdown, September 28, 2007.
■ “A top Democrat is coming out guns blazing against conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. It’s an angry new shot in the dispute over the war in Iraq and Limbaugh’s charge that some veterans who are criticizing the war are, in his words, quote, ‘phony soldiers.’”
— CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room, October 1, 2007.
■ “Why don’t you just brush off these comments by Limbaugh, like an annoying gnat, instead of legitimizing them and bringing more attention to them?”
— Co-host Meredith Vieira to former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, who was pushing to get Limbaugh removed from Armed Forces Radio, on NBC’s Today, October 3, 2007.
“Phony soldiers” were only an interesting comment when Democrats were trying to get Limbaugh marginalized. A Nexis database search at that time found no story on the scandalous, falsifying career of Jesse Macbeth on CBS, NBC, NPR, Time, Newsweek, USA Today, The Washington Post, or The New York Times. Vieira wasn’t kidding when she suggested NBC was going to treat his charges like he was an “annoying gnat.”
Then came Limbaugh’s current bid to seek ownership of the St. Louis Rams. On October 7, the demonization began with St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports writer Bryan Burwell, whose column demonized the entire country, as he claimed these words were Limbaugh’s: “I mean, 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.” Burwell then added: “I know how those words play out in Idiot America. They are embraced as gospel.” But NFL players wouldn’t tolerate them, he said. No one asked them to tolerate them, and no one in the media seemed to ask Burwell to actually verify them with an airdate or an audio clip.
When the Post-Dispatch backed away from the claim, Burwell was completely unashamed of his recklessness: “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.”
The Post-Dispatch found the quote came from a book by liberal author Jack Huberman called 101 People Who Are Really Screwing America (a concept and title ripped off from author and former CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg, whose original was 101 People Who Are Really Screwing Up America). Huberman has also written the books Bushit and The Bush-Hater Handbook, edited the book The Quotable Atheist, and has titled his weblog “Well to the Left of Attila the Hun.” But he was an agreeable source for the liberal media.
The national onslaught began on October 11, when MSNBC welcomed Dave Zirin of the radical magazine The Nation to spread the quote that Limbaugh believed “slavery had its merits.” Zirin, who was described only as a “sportswriter,” charged that players “don't want an owner who has said slavery was a good thing because it made the streets safer.” Anchor Contessa Brewer accepted the claim as true, wondering about Limbaugh’s bid: “Is there anything the NFL commissioner, or anybody else for that matter, can do to stop it?” Zirin added that NFL players “don't to see a swine owning a ram.” He closed the interview by deriding the radio host as someone who has “open, publicly-stated contempt for people with dark skin.” MSNBC didn’t ask him why Limbaugh has often used black professor Walter Williams as a substitute host on his radio show.
Later that day, MSNBC’s David Shuster repeated a version of the fabricated quote. “An NFL spokesman says the Rams have not agreed to sell to anyone and that there are other bidders. Meantime, the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior says Limbaugh should be denied the privilege of owning an NFL franchise for comments like ‘slavery had its merits.’” The on-screen graphic ran the fake quote “Slavery Had Its Merits” and the source was “Cited by James Farrior, Pittsburgh Steelers.”
CNN anchor Rick Sanchez joined in on Monday afternoon: “Limbaugh’s perceived racist diatribes are too many to name. Here’s a sample. He once declared that ‘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.’” The on-screen graphic offered this incredibly vague footnote “Rush Limbaugh On The Radio.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Sanchez returned to the subject, not to retract the quote or offer any evidence of its authenticity, but merely to note that they had run the quote the day before and read Rush Limbaugh’s denial that he ever uttered the quote. Sanchez dismissed the idea of accuracy as germane, as long as black liberals remained offended: “Obviously, that does not take away the fact that there are other quotes which have been attributed to Rush Limbaugh, which many people in the African-American community and many other minority communities do find offensive.”
MSNBC merely repeated the phony quote on Tuesday. Anchor Tamron Hall said NFL players “cite Limbaugh’s litany of racially charged remarks over the years and those include, quote, him saying this, ‘Slavery has its merits.’ That is a quote.” Hall then had the audacity to claim that “David [Shuster] and I are very careful about this, because you do not know a person’s heart. You cannot speak for a person’s motivation. But you can use their words in defining their character.”
Hall’s guest, Karen Hunter, compounded the fake quotes: “He even said that Dr. Martin Luther King, his killer, James Earl Ray should have a medal given to him, a medal of honor given to him. He says, ‘We miss you, James.‘ You can go online as to the top ten Rush Limbaugh racist comments.” The absurd charge that Limbaugh praised the convicted killer of Martin Luther King also emerged from Jack Huberman’s 101 People book. When you get called racist by the guy who says the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. should get the Medal of Honor, consider yourself honored. Also, nauseated.”