Radio host Rush Limbaugh has resumed his distortions of Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) amendment calling for fairness and balance on taxpayer-funded American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS). Limbaugh's distortions came in the wake of a letter (pdf) to promote inclusion of Harkin's amendment in the Department of Defense Authorization Conference Report. The letter was written by a group of U.S. representatives led by House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer and sent on September 8 to the congressional Department of Defense conferees.
On the September 14 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh once again falsely accused Harkin of "trying to get my program taken off of Armed Forces Radio":
LIMBAUGH: [Senator] Tom Harkin's back. These -- these -- these wackos are back trying to get my program taken off of Armed Forces Radio [the service is now known as American Forces Radio and Television Service].
LIMBAUGH: I feel like [President George W.] Bush in the -- in the National Guard. This is like the fourth time for this story now.
And so the Armed Forces Radio people said, you know, this is crazy. Limbaugh accounts for one percent of the programming we offer on Armed Forces Radio. One percent. They're not going to take it off.
Now, these are the people, these people demanding that my program be taken off Armed Forces, these are the people that tried to -- to disqualify military absentee votes in Florida. So you have the same people, the Tom Harkins of the world, and the liberal Democrats, claiming to care that the military around the world hear both sides of the issue on Armed Forces Radio, when they do. NPR [National Public Radio] is all over Armed Forces Radio.
Contrary to Limbaugh's assertion that National Public Radio (NPR) balances out his own program, Limbaugh is currently the sole politically partisan host on AFRTS. As Thomas Athans, executive director and co-founder of Democracy Radio ("a nonprofit group in Washington that promotes political diversity on the airwaves"), told Salon.com: "Nobody on NPR is doing the type of purely political commentary that Rush Limbaugh is doing. NPR struggles to be as balanced as it can." Further, Salon.com noted that, according to the media watch group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), "Republicans outnumbered Democrats on NPR by 61 percent to 38 percent" on "NPR's most popular news shows."
As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, neither Harkin's amendment, nor his statement in the Congressional Record, called for The Rush Limbaugh Show to be removed from AFRTS. While Harkin said he agreed with critics that Limbaugh's comments "do damage to the American image when they are heard around the world," Harkin specifically stated: "I am not calling for American Forces Radio to pull Rush Limbaugh's commentaries from their talk radio service."
In May, Media Matters for America exposed Limbaugh's comments downplaying, dismissing, and even endorsing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. MMFA -- not Harkin -- then created an online petition calling for Limbaugh's removal from AFRTS; nearly 45,000 people have signed the petition. (Click here to sign it.)