Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh, citing news "bulletins" from 12:19 p.m. to 6:52 p.m. ET on September 21, falsely claimed that the Associated Press and Reuters news services provided more "updates" about anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan during that time period than they did about Hurricane Rita. In doing so, Limbaugh said, the "anti-war activist" wire services "collaborate[d]" with Sheehan. This claim is both misleading and false.
It is misleading because Limbaugh was citing the captions of photographs delivered on the AP and Reuters news photography wire, and a single event can result in many different photographs. The number of photographs of a particular subject is only loosely related to the number of articles that the wire services produce on that subject. In fact, during those six hours, AP and Reuters news articles about Hurricane Rita far outnumbered those about Cindy Sheehan 35 to 3. Even comparing the number of Sheehan-related and Rita-related photos belies Limbaugh's claim: there were 35 AP and Reuters photographs about Hurricane Rita and the ongoing preparations for the storm, as opposed to the 17 photos about Sheehan; 16 of which Rush misleadingly cited as "bulletins."
From the September 22 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, with each of the "bulletins" Limbaugh quoted linked to the actual photography wire service entry*; each photograph's original posting time is shown in this captured search results page:
LIMBAUGH: But listen, here are the AP bulletins, and this is just -- from yesterday and into, you know, last night from both the AP and Reuters. "12:19," and remember, in every case, she's identified as anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. I'm going to eliminate the anti-war activist just to save time here but just -- every time you hear her name, understand that these AP and Reuters bulletins, without exception, referred to her as "anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan."
12:19, Cindy pauses outside White House. 12:26, Cindy Sheehan address members of the media. 12:30, Cindy Sheehan sits on the lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol. 12:31, Cindy Sheehan joined by Iraq war veteran Jeff Key. 12:31, Cindy Sheehan signs a letter intended for President Bush. 12:25, Cindy Sheehan pauses outside the White House. 12:40, White House aides carry a letter delivered by Cindy Sheehan. 12:39, Cindy Sheehan delivers a letter to the White House. 12:39, a uniformed Secret Service Agent looks on as Cindy Sheehan arrives at the front gate of the White House. 12:24 or 2:24, Anne Campbell of Washington works on construction of Camp Casey, DC. 2:27, Cindy Sheehan leads a group of protesters to the White House.
Those were AP bulletins. Yesterday on Reuters, the bulletins were: 1:30, Cindy Sheehan speaks on Capitol Hill. 1:37, Cindy Sheehan holds a letter to be delivered to the president. 1:44, Cindy Sheehan, escorted by anti-war activists, carries a letter to be delivered to the president. 3:43, Cindy Sheehan speaks on Capitol Hill. 6:52, Cindy Sheehan carries a letter to be delivered to the White House."
They recycled news from 1:30 and 2:30 in the afternoon as bulletins at night. There are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 bulletins between AP and Reuters all from 12:19 to 6:52 yesterday afternoon. That's right -- more updates on Cindy Sheehan than we are getting on the hurricane.
So that -- that is why I say the anti-war activist Associated Press and the anti-war activist Reuters collaborate with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, and they presented a total lie. There were 30 people with her. After all this time, after all this media attention, after all this giant bus tour -- 30 people. And we don't know how many of those were paid and how many -- if they were paid -- we don't know how much they were paid.
Limbaugh's claim of "more updates" from the AP and Reuters "on Cindy Sheehan than we are getting on the hurricane" is incorrect, regardless of whether one examines the photography wire he misleadingly cited or the actual AP and Reuters news coverage. In the time period he considered, 35 photographs on Hurricane Rita and emergency preparations for the storm appeared on the AP and Reuters photography wire service, compared with 17 photographs concerning Sheehan. In terms of the actual news wires, a search of AP news stories found only two stories about Sheehan during Limbaugh's time period on September 21, but found 14 stories from the same time frame regarding Hurricane Rita. Likewise, a search of Reuters newswire stories in Limbaugh's time period uncovered only one Cindy Sheehan story (repeated four times), versus 21 articles about Hurricane Rita.