June 15, 2004
The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
1010 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1010
Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:
I am writing today to follow up on my letter of May 25 regarding the Department of Defense's broadcast, via American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS), of Rush Limbaugh's radio program. As I pointed out in my earlier letter, Mr. Limbaugh has repeatedly downplayed, dismissed, and even endorsed the horrific abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
Since my earlier letter, Mr. Limbaugh has continued his inappropriate and divisive speech. For example, on the May 27 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, in which he used the term "feminazis" while commenting about the recent appointment of female police chiefs in four major U.S. cities, Limbaugh said, "If we've got four new female police chiefs out there, then I guess we can watch out for some naked pyramids among prisoners in these new jailhouses that these women ran, because we had a woman running the prison in Abu Grab [sic]."
Meanwhile, Bush administration officials continue to denounce the abuse at Abu Ghraib; President George W. Bush said on June 5, "I was humiliated, as was most of my country. Those soldiers didn't reflect the character of the American people. They didn't -- they stained our honor." Secretary of State Colin Powell said on May 17, "[A]ll Americans deplored what happened there." Yet, while the Bush administration insists that "all Americans deplored" the abuse at Abu Ghraib, AFRTS -- which claims to provide U.S. service men and women a "touch of home" -- continues to broadcast Limbaugh's radio program.
In fact, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Internal Communications Allison Barber appeared to condone Limbaugh's remarks when she told CNN that AFRTS does not broadcast Howard Stern (whose 8 million weekly listeners make him one of America's most popular radio hosts) because "his issue is one of content that's not appropriate." By acknowledging that AFRTS bases programming decisions on whether the program's content is "appropriate," Barber tacitly condoned Limbaugh's reference to the Abu Ghraib abuses as "brilliant" and his comparison of the torture to fraternity hazing.
I have not yet received a response to my previous letter to you. Today, I'm attaching the first page of an online petition calling for the removal of Rush Limbaugh from AFTRS and launched by Media Matters for America on the day I wrote you. In the three weeks since we created this petition, more than 24,000 people have signed it. You haven't yet seen fit to respond to my first letter; I would hope that you think the 24,000 people who joined me in calling for Limbaugh's removal deserve a response.
I look forward to hearing from you and continue to hope the Department of Defense will send a clear signal to our troops that it does not sanction Mr. Limbaugh's remarks.
Very truly yours,
President and CEO, Media Matters for America