Limbaugh repeated false claim that U.S. was "strictly neutral" in overthrow of Hawaiian queen


Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that the United States was a neutral party in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. In fact, a government inquiry into the Hawaiian revolution found that the American minister to Hawaii conspired with the revolutionary movement that deposed the monarchy and provided it with military and diplomatic support.

On the August 17 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh read from an August 16 Wall Street Journal op-ed by former U.S. senators Slade Gorton (R-WA) and Hank Brown (R-CO) criticizing the 2005 Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, the purpose of which is to "express the policy of the United States regarding the United States relationship with Native Hawaiians and to provide a process for the recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity." As justification for creating a sovereign native Hawaiian government, the bill cites the 1993 Apology Resolution signed by President Clinton, which "apologize[d] to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States."

Limbaugh repeated Gorton and Brown's assertion that the Apology Resolution "distorted historical truths." Limbaugh also repeated the former senators' claims that the United States "remained strictly neutral" and "provided neither arms, nor economic assistance, nor diplomatic support to a band of Hawaiian insurgents" that overthrew Queen Liliuokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch, and established a provisional government under the protection of the United States.

But the United States played a significant role in the uprising. Following the 1893 coup, President Grover Cleveland commissioned former Rep. James H. Blount (D-GA) to "investigate and fully report to the President all the facts you can learn respecting the condition of affairs in the Hawaiian Islands, the causes of the revolution by which the Queen's Government was overthrown, the sentiment of the people towards existing authority, and, in general, all that can fully enlighten the President touching the subjects of your mission." Blount's reportPDF file, completed in July 1893, found that John L. Stevens -- the American minister to Hawaii at the time of the revolution -- conspired with the revolutionaries to provide military and diplomatic assistance:

Mr. Stevens consulted freely with the leaders of the revolutionary movement from the evening of the 14th. These disclosed to him all their plans. They feared arrest and punishment. He promised them protection. They needed the troops on shore to overawe the Queen's supporters and Government. This he agreed to and did furnish. They had few arms and no trained soldiers. They did not mean to fight. It was arranged between them and the American minister that the proclamation dethroning the Queen and organizing a provisional government should be read from the Government building and he would follow it with a speedy recognition. All this was to be done with American troops provided with small-arms and artillery across a narrow street within a stone's throw. This was done.

According to the report, the Citizens Committee of Safety -- the main revolutionary body -- met with Stevens two days before the coup, and "arranged with him to land the troops if they would ask it 'for the purpose of protecting life and property.' " The Committee of Safety made its request on January 16. According to Blount, it was "consented to by the American minister. The troops were landed." The U.S. force of 180 Marines landed on Honolulu from the USS Boston. Though the Marines did not actually participate in the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani, Blount noted that they were landed "to suggest to the Queen and her counselors that they were in cooperation with the insurrectionary movement, and would when the emergency arose manifest it by active support."

Blount also documented the diplomatic assistance Stevens arranged with the revolutionaries, noting: "It was further agreed between him [Stevens] and them that in the event they should occupy the government building and proclaim a new government he would recognize it."

From the August 17 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Well, why couldn't they do it now? If they want to vote for it now, let them vote for it now. Why do you need to revert back to some independent sovereign state? It's all being -- the thing about this is, you know, you can say that it's for this or that, don't worry about it. But folks, a whole bunch of lies went into the resolution to make this. Everybody says, "Well, Rush, you know, Hawaii was a kingdom, and we just went in there and took over that state. Why we destroyed a sovereign country!" We did not! We did not. And Hank Brown and Slade Gorton write all about this in their piece today. The Apology Resolution distorted historical truths. It falsely claimed that the U.S. participated in the wrongful overthrow of the queen there in 1893. The U.S. remained strictly neutral. It provided neither arms nor economic assistance, nor diplomatic support to a band of Hawaii insurgents. Gosh. Who [laughing] -- we're talking about insurgents in Hawaii. And we supported the insurgents, according to the Akaka Bill. We didn't.

So what's happening here is that a case was made felonious -- or falsely -- fallaciously on the Senate floor that the U.S. was an absolute SOB to the poor people of Hawaii. And that's what's wrong with this. It's yet another piece of legislation that seeks an apology from the U.S. for things that we didn't do.

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National Security & Foreign Policy
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