Limbaugh claimed Republicans didn't challenge Cleland's patriotism in 2002June 18, 2004 10:27 AM EDT ››› ANDREW SEIFTER
Radio host Rush Limbaugh attempted to undermine Teresa Heinz Kerry's explanation that she left the Republican Party in 2002 out of anger over attacks by the Senate campaign of Republican Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) on the patriotism of the then-incumbent senator, Max Cleland (D-GA), a Vietnam veteran who lost three limbs during that war. On the June 15 Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh asserted, "[T]hat's not what the Republicans did, but the Democrats portrayed it that way":
LIMBAUGH: [S]he [Teresa Heinz Kerry] claims they -- they -- Republican Saxby Chambliss tarnished and challenged, Cleland's patriotism. He's a -- he's a multiple amputee from the Vietnam war, and -- and -- and that's not what the Republicans did, but the Democrats portrayed it that way...
Heinz Kerry's comments were reported by the Associated Press on June 14. As the article indicated, "The GOP had raised questions about Cleland's patriotism because of his position on legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security." Chambliss aired advertisements against Cleland that featured footage of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. As the Orlando Sentinel reported on June 13 and as Media Matters for America noted, "Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John McCain of Arizona -- both Vietnam veterans -- were so irate that they complained to their party about the ads until the Saddam and bin Laden photos were removed."