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Posted by on Sep 28, 2007 in Media, Politics | 11 comments

Rush Limbaugh And Media Matters Exchange New Charges

Rush Limbaugh has responded to the furor surrounding his comment suggesting that those in the military who don’t support Iraq policy are “phony soldiers” charging that his comments were and are twisted out of shape by Media Matters and his critics.

(SPECIAL UPDATE: Time Magazine’s Karen Tumulty reports that Senator John McCain has condemned Limbaugh’s remarks, although with a qualifier. And so has former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.)

In the YouTube segment below, Limbaugh also says that:

–Media Matters is also going after Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly for O’Reilly’s “innocent” comments about a restaurant owned by blacks.

–Media Matters and produce most of “the content’ for MSNBC.

Part of his response is clearly addressing the issue of accuracy. But most of it is an attack on “the left,” MSNBC, Media Matters and the news media in general. Despite this, Limbaugh will remain an icon to many since he has set the tone for the kind of politics practiced in the U.S in campaigns, on radio and in some of the “new media.”

But Media Matters responds that Limbaugh’s response was peppered with selective editing — and inaccuracies:

In response to Media Matters’ documentation of his recent description of service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as “phony soldiers,” Rush Limbaugh claimed that he had not been talking “about the anti-war movement generally,” but rather “about one soldier … Jesse MacBeth.” Limbaugh then purported to air the “entire” segment in question. In fact, the clip he aired omitted a full 1 minute and 35 seconds of discussion that occurred between Limbaugh’s original “phony soldiers” comment and his subsequent reference to MacBeth.

Read Media Matter’s post in entirety for the parts that were cut out.

CBS Public Eye’s Matthew Felling
points out something that may explain both Limbaugh’s rush to deny and explain his original quotation — and a tidbit that critics may seize on in coming weeks: Limbaugh is carried on Armed Forces Radio….the outlet that originally had such qualms about carrying progressive talker Ed Schultz (who was eventually picked up):

Maybe it’s because my father was a Marine. Maybe it’s because my brother has been deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq in the past few years. But suggesting that a soldier who has qualms with the military’s operations in Iraq and chooses to vocalize those reservations is phony … well, it tips this reader’s scale.

It’s too early to know how much is going to be made of this story, but it’ll be interesting to see how the coverage of Rush belittling some soldiers compares to’s ad criticizing General Petraeus. (Labeled a “misstep” here.) He might not generate the media buzz he once did, but Rush still ranks as the number one most influential talk show host… and is heard on the Armed Forces Radio Network.

Regardless of how zealously (or not) they support our military engagement in Iraq, each and every soldier deserves our respect – a sentiment echoed in polls commissioned surrounding the Petraeus testimony. Are their wounds or scars “phony” if they take issue with our foreign policy?

Coincidentally or not, I see a small left-generated online campaign has begun to urge the Armed Forces Radio Network to remove Limbaugh from its airwaves. And the network’s website today indicates that “there was a hard drive failure yesterday” at the site.
Stay tuned.

Our view?

I used to listen to Limbaugh and loved him when the first President George Bush was in office. He blasted Democrats AND the Bush administration. He was becoming a problem for Bush 41 on his right flank. But then Bush invited him to sleep over in the Lincoln bedroom, and Limbaugh’s pitch seemingly changed. He became an almost rip-and-read defender of the RNC, with his shows seemingly being one long press release. He did a kind of talk show try out on CBS which ended in a disastrous confrontation (VIDEO HERE) and his show turned more and more to All Republicans Good All Democrats Bad all of the time.

But he was also a potent part of conservatives’ longtime dream to counter the mainstream media. He is one of the few modern broadcasters credited by bigwigs of a political party for helping them actually win elections. His show became a rally cry and gathering point for Republican activists and also won some listeners over because they liked him as a broadcaster and he became a trusted friend. So when he talks, they listen.

These days, all Democrats (except these days Joe Lieberman) are bad. Moderates who don’t totally support the White House are wusses.

He helped turn “liberal” into a virtual curse word so now liberals use the world “progressives” instead — without many pausing to ask why “conservative” should be considered such an inherently blissful label and a political badge of courage.

Limbaugh has an audience for a reason: He has a long broadcasting background and is a talented broadcaster who knows how to befriend and entertain an audience and his show is paced quite well. As a broadcast, it’s a well-run ship. That’s why some Air America shows are so tedious — because some of the hosts (not all) are not top broadcasters. (The progressive talker who runs the same paced show is Ed Schultz, who is not Air America).

Now, due to the ad (which several writers on this site strongly condemned) he moves front and center — because the GOP saw the MoveOn ad as a huge political blunder and forced votes in Congress on it to put Democrats on the spot. And, in the manner in which American politics now operates, Limbaugh to many said essentially the same thing — and he and those who condemned the MoveOn ad are now being called on it. One Democrat now wants Congress to vote to condemn him for his comments the same way it condemned More details HERE.

(For the record: we find his comments reprehensible, just as we found the MoveOn.Org ad reprehensible).

Limbaugh has come to represent a necessity for many on the right. “But Rush says…” is as frequent in their conversation as “But under Clinton….” And to those on the left, he has become the embodiment of the worst of the GOP.

But he is above-all a broadcaster — one who now seems doomed to continue to preach to the choir, an audience that already believes as he does. Which, given the way politics operates these days, probably means he’ll remain a huge success (most people want to hear and read thing with which they already agree).

If he wanted to expand his audience, he’d address the accuracy contention and leave it at that. But his response is yet one more attack on MSNBC, the mainstream news media, liberals, the left and Democrats — yet one more exercise in 21st century attack-mode politics.

He has an audience. He makes money for radio stations. When he opens his mouth, those who aren’t true believers thinks he sticks his foot in it, or feel his mouth is on the southward part of body where the sun don’t shine.

But when he opens his mouth and those who agree with Rush hear him, he is the voice of logic, the voice urging them to make sure they vote to protect America from those terrible, Machiavellian, ill-motived people whose ranks apparently do not include people who may simply disagree and have different perspectives.

The fuss over Rush won’t end in his being yanked off the air. Stations love him because he gets the ratings and they’d lose listeners en masse if he was bumped. Partisans who were sick of him may even listen more now.

But the fuss over Rush is one more sign of how principles (how DARE anyone impugn the loyalty and motives of someone who serves in the military) are tossed out the window and qualified when someone on the same political “sports team” gets into trouble. If your guy does it, you look for a way to say it isn’t the same thing so it’s OK. And the bar on political discourse is lowered yet another notch.

So the partisan wagons will circle around Limbaugh, he’ll get media coverage, demonize those who are going after him.

And he’ll be on the air tomorrow. And tomorrow after that.

But he’ll have ever-less credibility among those who aren’t in his choir, more than ever.

Which won’t make any difference to those in his choir or to those who pay the rent to provide him with the broadcast church because the choir is putting so much green stuff into the donations basket.

UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune’s The Swamp blog has a detailed analysis as well. Here is a small taste:

Radio’s Rush Limbaugh, catching flak for his allusion to “phony soldiers’’ this week, insists he really was speaking of only one “genuine phony soldier’’ at the time.

Yet today, Limbaugh expanded his roster of “genuine phony soldiers’’ to include Rep. Jack Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, a retired Marine colonel, decorated and wounded veteran of the Vietnam War who served for 37 years and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Again: so because Limbaugh disagrees with Murtha, he is a “phony soldier.”

It certainly sounds exactly the kind of thing this site soundly condemned in posts when we sat the MoveOn.Org ad. Another part:

Limbaugh today maintained that he was not speaking on his show Wednesday about soldiers who oppose the war in general, but rather one “phony soldier.’’ That would be Jesse MacBeth, who stoked opposition to the war last year speaking out about atrocities he committed as an Army Ranger. MacBeth, 23, of Tacoma, Wash., claimed to have killed more than 200 people, many at close range, some at prayer in mosques.

The only problem with MacBeth’s story was MacBeth himself: He had finished only six weeks of Army basic training, was never a Ranger and never deployed in Iraq. After conservative bloggers exposed him last year, he faced further trouble: Pleading guilty in June in federal court in Seattle to one count of making false statements to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The only problem with Limbaugh’s story today is what he said on his show earlier in the week – an excerpt follows below. It appears – to those looking at the words on paper – that he was speaking about soldiers who oppose the war. Yet today, denouncing the “phony soldiers’’ story as a phony story and a “smear,” Limbaugh insisted he was talking about just one phony.

Limbaugh and his fans would probably respond that this blog is part of the mainstream media (which would therefore excuse and eradicate any points the mainstream media made about accuracy).

–The White House seems to be judiciously distancing itself from Limbaugh’s comment.

–Meanwhile, the satirists have started taking aim. Here part of a post from Unconfirmed Sources:

Comedian and political pundit Rush Limbaugh today received a commendation and special award from the U.S. Senate for his help in identifying “phony soldiers”. Limbaugh had earlier in the week declared on his talk radio show that troops who return from Iraq and criticized the president or his war policies were simply, “phony soldiers”. Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina stepped forward to publicly thank Limbaugh and offer a plaque in appreciation for his remarks and promised to push through a nonbinding commendation for his efforts.

Both promised to expedite the resolution through the Senate, and push for its overwhelming adoption in the House of Representatives.

“I believe the recent nonbinding condemnation of the dastardly ad from MoveOn will make it much easier for senators to approach this resolution in a more positive and bipartisan fashion,” stated Senator Graham. “What’s more, as an active reservist, I think that this is something we need to take a very close look at both in the active duty military and reserves. It would be invaluable to identify “phony soldiers” very early on and take steps to reform them.”

“Mr. Limbaugh is just speaking from the heart,” stated a tearful representative Boehner. “He’s just expressing feelings common to a lot of us in the House; feelings that we have frankly been afraid to express since the Democrats have ruthlessly seized power, and thwarted our attempts to shut down all forms of dialog and debate.”

The Gun Toting Liberal gives his take on the emergency defense efforts underway for Rush Limbaugh, urges his readers to contact Limbaugh’s advertisers and provides and extensive list for those who want to get started.

Rick Moran (writing on a blog that truly deserves a better and more accurate name):

First of all, I would say to my lefty friends that anyone who tries to draw some kind of equivalence with Rush Limbaugh referring to anti-war military people as “phony soldiers” and Moveon’s “Betray-us” ad is an idiot.

There is no comparison between the two. None. To make a comparison, is to stretch the point to breaking – a sure sign that any equivalence is manufactured out of whole cloth.

Having said that, Limbaugh is a goose for saying it. And he owes an apology not just to anti-war military people (and ex-military) but to the entirety of the United States Armed Forces.

Read his ENTIRE post. Here’s a bit from his update:

I think what happened is that Limbaugh realized the hot water he was in and tried to backtrack later. He wouldn’t be the first radio host who tried the tactic and he won’t be the last.

Of course I agree that Media Matters blew this thing way out proportion and tried to massage the remarks into an example of equivalency with the Petraeus Moveon ad. As I mentioned, there is zero equivalence between the two. None. Zilch. The remark is bad enough standing on its own. We don’t need some kind of childish “gotchya” game that the left never tires of playing in order to see what needs to be done; Limbaugh apologizing.

Center Right blogger James Joyner’s extensive MUST-READ POST echoes some of what we have said here many times about Limbaugh. Some of it:

To Limbaugh — at least Limbaugh the radio persona — if you disagree with his views, you’re not a Republican. If you say you’re a huge fan of his show but you disagree with him on this one issue, you’re a Democratic plant sent in with talking points, posing as a loyal listener to get past the call screener. If you claim to be a veteran or currently in the military and differ with him on military issues, you’re not really a soldier. Similarly, anonymous soldiers quoted in the press criticizing the war are fictitious. Liberal journalists fabricate them to spice up their stories.

He’s an exceedingly bright fellow — you don’t make yourself into a household name, basically invent a new medium, and last two decades doing three hours a day doing radio call-in otherwise — so my guess is this schtick is just an act used to bait the opposition and score points with his loyal listeners. I don’t think he actually believes this nonsense.

Regardless, it’s an infuriating and dishonest stance.

And at the end:

There, is, however a not unimportant distinction in the Petraeus ad and Limbaugh’s outrageous attacks on Kerry, Hackett, and Hagel: The latter are/were politicians engaged in partisan contests to win political office while the former is a serving military officer constrained by his office from fighting back in kind.

Once one has taken off the uniform and entered the political fray, the gloves come off. Being a war hero doesn’t and shouldn’t give one a free pass in the political arena — although those who haven’t served should tread carefully, lest the attacks backfire. The attacks on the patriotism and military service of the likes of John Murtha, Max Cleland, Kerry, and Hagel are despicable; no more so, though, than other smear tactics (push polling, gay baiting, the race card) that have become routine in our campaigns.

Read it from the beginning to the end.

Political scientist Steven Taylor notes how Limbaugh even thinks in polarizing terms:

Really, to me the more telling element of the whole affair is the basic dichotomization of the world into two camps (something Limbaugh excels at and has, sadly, inculcated/exacerbated in the minds of many of his listeners). The most obvious is the “real” soldier v. the “phony” soldier dichotomy, the notion that if any member of the military isn’t in lockstep with the administration, then they aren’t really soldiers (even if their only “crime” is that of having an opinion, yet otherwise doing their duty). The other dichotomy, also of the “for us or against us” type can be found if one reads the transcript. The first caller challenges Limbaugh on the notion that any Republican who wants to end the war isn’t really a Republican and is therefore a Democrat who “want[s] to lose the war.” Limbaugh dismisses the fellow and tells him that there is no way the fellow is a Republican.

Of course, part of the fallacy reasoning springs in the first place from the notion that what we have on the table are “winning” and “losing”–if only it was that simple…

On a political note, if Limbaugh really wants the litmus test for one’s Republican-ness to be full support for the war, he must not be interested in the party achieving majority status again any time soon, a if all those phony war critic Republican are ousted elections will be rather depressing events for the GOP for some time to come.

Ed Morrissey says a lot of the blogs that are blasting Rush tried to rationalize or minimize the ad. He writes in part:

Now, I will say that Rush should have mentioned that some real soldiers oppose the surge strategy in Iraq, and some oppose the deployment altogether. However, the media seems to fixate on Jesse MacBeths and Scott Beauchamps, who served but lied about their experiences, and then never give the refutations anything close to the same coverage they gave the lies. Jesse MacBeth had served as the Left’s poster boy for several months, but his guilty plea has not made much of a splash in the Leftosphere — certainly not the fanfare his fantasies received.

That’s the context of Rush’s remarks. That’s the context that his critics seem to ignore. Even if Rush had said what they claimed he said, they also managed to avoid asking why they felt so outraged over it when most of them defended MoveOn’s slanderous accusations of treason against an American Army officer. It’s on a par with last week’s howler about how George Bush didn’t know Nelson Mandela was still alive. Phony, indeed.

Central Sanity’s Pete Abel (a TMV co-blogger but he has not posted on this so):

To be perfectly clear, I’m not a member of either of those camps. I support the current strategy in Iraq and I fully support, applaud, and appreciate our military. However, from observation, I think it’s clear that while the ranks of the “anti-military” camp are filled with the disillusioned and (frankly) the despicable, the “anti-this-particular-war” camp counts a number of decent, well-meaning, pro-military people, including a fair number of Republicans (with names like Hagel, Snowe, Paul, and Baker III).

I wonder if Rush would consider James Baker a “phony Republican”?

–The popular liberal site Firedoglake’s post will surprise many who have demonized it due to this part of its post:

Coming so soon after Congress voted twice to condemn a political organization for expressing an opinion in a newspaper, in a political debate about a general’s credibility, it is tempting to ask whether that same Congress will now consider a similar resolution condemning Rush Limbaugh, and indeed, any one else who might slander American soldiers in such an offensive and degrading manner. Surely Limbaugh’s comments deserve at least the degree of official condemnation Congress visited on MoveOn, don’t they?

The answer should be a resounding NO. Congress made an egregious error, showing utter contempt for the First Amendment, violating their oaths to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, by officially censuring a political ad by a political organization. Those who voted for censure should themselves be censured by the public and media for seeking to intimidate the free exercise of political speech. As Jane so clearly stated, it’s Congress’ job to defend free speech. Indeed protecting America’s liberties such as free speech, and free press, and the right to petition the government — including the rights of those like Limbaugh who have never served and have no clue about what the First Amendment means — is one of the most legitimate reasons why we have armies and ask them to fight.

–Daily Kos has THIS VIDEO of VoterVets responding to Limbaugh.

Aziz on Dean’s World has a graph and writes:

good job, Rush! way to make the case on the merits! that there trend is shaping up nicely… oh, wait. Well, guess there are a lot, LOT less genuine Republicans than there used to be.


And, of course, criticism of George Bush and his “policies” is not unpatriotic, a point few righties seem to be able to wrap their heads around.

A few right-wing blogs have weighed in, all huffing and puffing indignantly at the liberal smear of Rush. They note that Rush didn’t explicitly say, word-for-word, “Service members who support U.S. withdrawal are phony soldiers.” Someone else brought up soldiers who express criticism of the occupation to media, and Rush interjected “phony soldiers.” See, that’s entirely different.

The Democratic Daily has an extensive roundup.

Completely Unnecessary thinks using up Democratic energy on this is silly and indicative of a larger problem:

Moveon’s ad was stupid. ‘Betray us’? That’s just dumb, and bad punnery to boot.

Rush Limbaugh is also stupid. He’s paid to be an asshole to the left.

Is there maybe a fois gras ban Congress could pass or something? Because the Chicago City Council is actually starting to look more productive than the Hill.

Not to mention that this tit-for-tat nonsense has a net effect of eroding free speech, as Congress seeks to delineate what we can and cannot say about this person or that group. If Democrats are going to allow the Republicans to play them at this game, it’s not going to be long until we’re not allowed to condemn religious hate mongers like Phelps, anti-abortion groups, etc.

How many more will die in Iraq, Sudan, Myanmar (Burma), Zimbabwe and America (to name a few) while they ‘debate’ this idiotic, retaliatory posturing?

Read the entire post.

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