Media Matters played lead role in public debate over Rush Limbaugh's presence on AFRTS
October 27, 2005 (Washington, DC) - Media Matters for American lauds Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) for introducing legislation that would require the American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) to establish an Office of the Ombudsman and satisfy its own mandate of providing fair and balanced political programming. Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been the sole political radio commentator broadcast regularly on AFRTS, a service funded by public tax dollars that reaches nearly one million U.S. troops every day in more than 175 countries. Media Matters sparked public debate over Limbaugh's presence on the AFRTS after his May 2004 praise of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq; Limbaugh called the abuse a "brilliant maneuver" and compared the acts to a harmless fraternity prank. Harkin's amendment would put an ombudsman in place to offer suggestions to AFRTS management on maintaining balance in its programming and present an annual report to the Secretary of Defense and Congress.
"The Harkin measure is a significant step in right direction, but there is no way to truly provide 'balance' to Limbaugh's hateful rhetoric, which ranges from calling people 'feminazis'; to saying 'A Chavez is a Chavez. These people have always been a problem'; to praising torture as a 'brilliant maneuver'; to claiming that women 'actually wish' to be sexually harassed," said David Brock, president and CEO of Media Matters for America. "The Defense Department requires political balance in their own programming guidelines, and that remains to be seen by the brave men in women in the armed forces whose morale has no doubt been damaged by this man's racially-charged, sexist comments. The next step is to remove Limbaugh from American Forces Radio. Bottom line: the American taxpayers should not be forced to pay for Limbaugh's vitriol and hate."
On his May 4, 2004 radio broadcast, Rush Limbaugh compared the horrendous abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison to a "Skull & Bones initiation." In response, Media Matters launched an online petition effort calling for public support for the removal of Limbaugh's show, garnering over 45,000 signatures. Media Matters then launched an aggressive TV ad campaign in the Washington D.C. area spotlighting Limbaugh's reckless and disturbing comments. Brock wrote two letters to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld calling for the removal of Limbaugh from the AFRTS in light of the repeated trivialization of the abuse, torture, and rape at Abu Ghraib. As a result, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed an amendment introduced by Senator Harkin demanding that AFRTS provide political balance in its public affairs programming, as mandated in Defense Department guidelines.
More of Media Matters' extensive work exposing Rush Limbaugh's hateful commentary and false claims can be found at http://mediamatters.org/issues_topics/people/rushlimbaugh