Wednesday, October 03, 2007

When Hate Radio Attacks...

Last Wednesday, right-wing pundit and "hate radio" pioneer Rush Limbaugh declared that U.S. troops who support withdrawal from Iraq are "phony soldiers." Limbaugh made the off-handed comment on his daily radio show while engaging in conversation with a caller about Iraq. As Media Matters first noted, Limbaugh said, "[I]t's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people" who call for a withdrawal. The caller replied, "No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media." Limbaugh interjected, "The phony soldiers." The caller agreed, replying, "The phony soldiers." Limbaugh's slap at "phony soldiers" appears to be a direct attack on seven members of the 82nd Airborne who wrote a New York Times op-ed in August, warning that Iraqis had been "robbed of their self-respect" as a result of the invasion and would "soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal." A poll conducted last December found that, at the time (prior to the escalation), 37 percent of the military believed we should not have gone to Iraq, while one in five felt we should have fewer troops on the ground.

...THE LEFT FIGHTS BACK: Limbaugh's smear has generated a fast and furious response from the left. Last Friday, the Democratic Senate leadership began circulating a letter on Capitol Hill that called on Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays, Limbaugh's employer, to repudiate the "phony troops" remark. The letter, signed by Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Patty Murray (D-WA), states that Limbaugh's comments were "outrageous" and "unconscionable." Mays has since responded, offering his "regret" for Limbaugh's comments. On Monday, Reid took to the Senate floor and challenged those senators who recently criticized a newspaper ad to condemn Limbaugh "with equal fervor." Also last week, Rep. Mark Udall (R-CO) announced that he would be introducing a resolution in the House criticizing Limbaugh. Several lawmakers have made comments denouncing the smear., a pro-military organization founded by veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, has released a series of ads, highlighting the faces of soldiers who oppose Bush's failed policy in Iraq. Additionally, retired Gen. Wesley Clark has called on activists to demand Limbaugh be taken off Armed Forces Radio.

...LIMBAUGH IMPLODES: As a result of having been forcefully condemned for his smear, Limbaugh has responded with revisionist history, claiming he was taken out of context. Limbaugh argues his "phony soldiers" remark was actually in reference to one man -- Jesse MacBeth -- who pretended to be an injured Iraq war veteran. But in fact, Limbaugh did not make reference to MacBeth on that show until nearly two minutes after talking about "phony soldiers" who opposed the war. Also, he used the phrase "phony soldiers" in direct response to his caller's complaint that we "never" hear from "real soldiers" who oppose the war, only troops who "spout" against the war "in the media." Moreover, when attempting to clarify his remarks on Friday, Limbaugh severely undermined his case by identifying Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), who earned the bronze star and two purple hearts during 37 years of service, as an example of a "phony soldier." Having been placed under the microscope for his smears against the troops, Limbaugh has begun lashing out, calling Reid a "nut." Rather than offer an apology to defuse the situation, Limbaugh instead fueled it by claiming  to apologize on behalf of Media Matters for creating a "firestorm over something that did not happen." And yesterday, Limbaugh took his defense to an even more insulting level, comparing an Iraq war veteran who criticized him to a suicide bomber.

...THE RIGHT WING CIRCLES THE WAGONS: Evidence of his powerful influence in conservative circles, Limbaugh has found no shortage of defenders on the right, including Fox News, Republican lawmakers, the Drudge Report, and right-wing blogs. While House Democrats were pushing a resolution to condemn the "unwarranted slur" made by Limbaugh, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) took exactly the opposite tact, offering a resolution to "commend" Limbaugh's "commitment to American troops." In the wake of the recent furor over a MoveOn ad against Gen. David Petraeus, 72 Senators stood to "strongly condemn any effort to attack the honor and integrity" of any member of the U.S. forces. But the Senate letter calling on Clear Channel to repudiate Limbaugh's comments have garnered only 41 votes, lacking the support of a single Republican and 10 Democrats. Right-wing radio host Melanie Morgan offered a full-throated defense of Limbaugh that echoed his smear. She called soldiers involved with the VoteVets organization "anti-America" "fake" "posers." Fox News has performed its obligatory spin on the incident, offering an unfair and unbalanced perspective that takes Limbaugh's side while attacking his critics.

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