NY Post corrected its mistake, but Limbaugh persisted in citing faulty military recruitment numbers

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

On August 23, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh proclaimed that the Army is "busting" its recruitment goals and touted as evidence an August 23 New York Post op-ed by columnist Ralph Peters claiming that the Army's first-time enlistment rates are "running at 108 percent of its needs." Peters's numbers, however, were inaccurate, and he later published a correction acknowledging that the "Army is still falling short on new enlistments." In spite of Peters's August 24 correction and widespread recognition of his error, Limbaugh continued to tout Peters's inaccurate claims, stating on August 24 that "[r]ecruitment levels are way above what expectations are in every branch" and that it is "a big myth that the media has put out there that people aren't signing up."

In his op-ed, Peters erroneously claimed that "the U.S. Army is exceeding its re-enlistment and first-time enlistment goals"; he said. "What about first-time enlistment rates, since that was the issue last spring? The Army is running at 108 percent of its needs." But by the time Limbaugh's August 24 program aired, the Post had already published and posted online a correction to the op-ed in which Peters acknowledged a "substantial error," and rightly noted that the "Army is still falling short on new enlistments.

Nevertheless, on the August 24 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh referenced Peters's August 23 op-ed to respond to Washington Monthly writer Kevin Drum, who claimed in an August 24 Los Angeles Times op-ed that "military recruitment is in serious trouble."

From the August 24 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: You have this."Third, military recruitment is in serious trouble, and it's unlikely we can maintain our current troop levels in Iraq much past 2006." Well, this is just flat-out wrong. We had the story yesterday. You go to my website and check it out. Recruitment levels are way above what expectations are in every branch, including the reserves. This is a big myth that the media has put out there that people aren't signing up. In the midst of the [Cindy] Sheehan squatters, in the ditch at Crawford [Texas], in the midst of all the coming of age of these anti-war leftists, the military is exceeding its recruitment expectation.

The day before, Limbaugh read from an August 23 entry on the conservative weblog Power Line that pointed to Peters's column as evidence that "the armed forces have quietly exceeded their recruitment goals for FY 2005":

LIMBAUGH: Ralph Peters, brilliant author, columnist for the New York Post, has a nominee for August's most important unreported story. "While the media were in a frenzy over Cindy Sheehan, the armed forces have quietly exceeded their recruitment goals for fiscal year 2005. Every one of the Army's 10 division's -- its key combat organizations -- has exceeded its re-enlistment goal for the year to date.

"Those with the most intense experience in Iraq have the best rates. The First Calvary Division had 136 percent of its target. The Third ID at 117 percent of its target. What about first-time enlistment rates since that was the issue last spring? The Army running at 108 percent of its needs. Guess not every young American despises his or her country and our president.

"The Army Reserve is a tougher sell, given that it takes men and women away from their families and careers on short notice. Recruitment, Reserve recruitment stands at 102 percent of requirements. What about the Army National Guard? We've been told for two years, the Guard was in freefall? Really? Guard recruitment and retention comes out at 106 percent of its requirements as of June 30."

[...]

Well, what do you make of this, folks? I mean all this -- busting these requirement goals, and it's right in the midst of all of this -- if that doesn't buck you up about your country, I don't know what can.

Later on August 23, Power Line updated its entry, noting that a story that day on FoxNews.com contradicted Peters's claim about first-time enlistment rates. According to Fox News, "The U.S. Army will miss its recruiting goals this year." Power Line also linked to an August 23 entry at National Review Online's "Media Blog" by LBJ Journal of Public Affairs Online editor-in-chief Stephen Spruiell, who claimed to have spoken with Peters about the error. Previous reporting in the national press had also indicated Peters was wrong; an August 22 Los Angeles Times article reported: "The Army does not expect to meet any of its 2005 recruiting goals for the active, Reserve and National Guard ranks, and Army officials have said that next year the gap is likely to be greater."

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.