Limbaugh, Imus, Carlson touted Drudge story on DNC even after Drudge issued apparent retraction

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus, and Tucker Carlson touted a report by Matt Drudge claiming that according to "sources," Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean had authorized a secret effort to aid Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu in his attempt to unseat incumbent New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin -- even after Drudge issued an apparent retraction.

Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh and MSNBC hosts Don Imus and Tucker Carlson touted an anonymously sourced report by conservative internet gossip Matt Drudge even after Drudge issued an apparent retraction.

On May 21, Drudge posted an item on his website claiming that according to "sources," Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean had authorized a secret effort to aid Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu in his attempt to unseat incumbent New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, who won re-election on May 20. Drudge claimed that "Dean came to the decision to back the white challenger, over the African-American incumbent Nagin, despite concerns amongst senior black officials in the Party that the DNC should stay neutral," and also wrote that according to "[p]reliminary campaign finance reports", many of Landrieu's contributions "came from out of state white Democrat leaders and financiers, including a $1,000 contribution from Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-NE) PAC."

The May 21 item, which has since been removed from Drudge's website, is available through the independently run Drudge Report Archives:

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) secretly placed political operatives in the city of New Orleans to work against the reelection efforts of incumbent Democrat Mayor Ray Nagin, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean made the decision himself to back mayoral candidate and sitting Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu (D-LA), sources reveal.

Dean came to the decision to back the white challenger, over the African-American incumbent Nagin, despite concerns amongst senior black officials in the Party that the DNC should stay neutral.

The DNC teams actively worked to defeat Nagin under the auspice of the committee's voting rights program.

[...]

Preliminary campaign finance reports indicate many of Landrieu?s [sic] contributions came from out of state white Democrat leaders and financiers, including a $1,000 contribution from Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-NE) PAC.

Drudge did not quote his purported "sources," nor did he explain what, if any, connection they have to the DNC.

On May 22, the weblog Raw Story reported that DNC communications director Karen Finney called Drudge's item "absolutely false." Finney told Raw Story, "We did have poll watchers out to make sure people weren't disenfranchised but it wasn't on behalf of any candidate. ... It's completely outrageous."

Drudge subsequently posted a second item -- marked "MAY 22, 2006 12:26:02 ET" -- in which he noted that according to the DNC, his original report was "unequivocally and absolutely false." Drudge's May 22 item stated: "The DRUDGE REPORT takes chairman Dean and his spokesman at their word." The original item no longer appears on Drudge's website.

From Drudge's apparent retraction, posted May 22:

The Democratic National Committee strongly denies it placed political operatives in the city of New Orleans to work against the reelection efforts of incumbent Democrat Mayor Ray Nagin.

Well-placed DRUDGE REPORT sources claimed DNC Chairman Howard Dean made the decision himself to back mayoral candidate and sitting Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu (D-LA).

The DNC says the report is "unequivocally and absolutely false."

DNC Communications director Karen Finney explained: "The DNC does not as a policy get involved in Democratic primaries... The only thing that the DNC did was a campaign helping ensure that displaced voters had an opportunity to vote."

The DRUDGE REPORT takes chairman Dean and his spokesman at their word.

On the May 22 broadcast of his radio show, which airs live from noon to 3 p.m. ET, Limbaugh repeatedly touted Drudge's initial report. Near the beginning of his show, apparently before Drudge posted his second item on the issue, Limbaugh read Drudge's initial report aloud. Limbaugh then asked listeners, "[Y]ou haven't seen anything in this in the mainstream press, have you?" Limbaugh added, "Can you imagine if this were two Republicans and the RNC was working to defeat the black candidate?"

During the final hour of Limbaugh's show, well after Drudge posted his second item, a caller informed Limbaugh that Drudge's initial report was "just 'sources,' you know, I mean, it's not really, he's not linking to anything. It just seems like a rumor."

Nonetheless, Limbaugh continued to tout Drudge's initial report, telling listeners: "Here we have a report on the Drudge Report that Nagin was dissed by the DNC, that they wanted Mitch Landrieu to win, and we know why. And there's no curiosity about this." Limbaugh added: "If the situation had been reversed and if it were the RNC which had dissed a black candidate and sought to undermine him -- even a Republican over -- preferring a white guy -- you would have not heard the end of it. It would be the focus of the news today, tomorrow, and the next day."

On the May 22 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, co-host Charles McCord read Drudge's initial report. Imus then told listeners that Landrieu "is not going to be mayor; brother Ray is." McCord responded, "Brother Ray. You betcha. Despite Howard Dean's best efforts, apparently, and that of the Democratic National Committee."

Imus's May 22 show aired before Drudge issued his apparent retraction later that day. But Imus in the Morning returned to the issue on May 23. In a segment in which he impersonated Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), regular guest Larry Kenney purported to explain "why the Democratic Party and its chairman would involve themselves in a naked attempt to manipulate the outcome of a legitimate municipal election." Kenney said that "Dr. Dean, along with myself and other senior party leaders, have decided to step on the black man."

On the May 22 edition of MSNBC's The Situation, host Tucker Carlson told viewers that "a battle broke out when Matt Drudge reported that the Democratic National Committee had secretly backed Nagin's challenger, Mitch Landrieu, in the race. The DNC responded by calling that report dead wrong." Carlson made no mention of the fact Drudge had already stated that he now "takes chairman Dean and his spokesman at their word."

An apparent reference to Drudge's initial report also appeared in a May 23 St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial, which asserted that "Landrieu had the help of the Democratic National Committee."

From the May 22 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: How about what the Democratic National Committee tried to do to "School Bus" Ray Nagin? You heard about this? The DNC was working against him. The DNC was actively trying to defeat Ray Nagin in the mayoral race in New Orleans. DNC secretly placed political operatives in the city of New Orleans to work against the re-election efforts of "School Bus" Ray Nagin. DNC chairman Howard Dean made the decision. This is a Drudge Report exclusive.

Howard Dean made the decision himself that -- and you haven't heard about this. The drive-by media is not interested in this. If Landrieu would have -- Mitch Landrieu, [Sen.] Mary Landrieu's [D-LA] brother. And by the way, speaking of this, I mean, the reason that Mitch Landrieu -- I mean, this guy was lieutenant governor. That's a stepping stone to big things. Took a step back trying to be mayor of New Orleans. Why is that? Because Mary Landrieu's re-election depends on New Orleans being repopulated with enough liberal Democrats to put her over the edge. And the stories in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and others say that the reason Nagin actually triumphed here is because he has experience as a businessman. He was in the cable TV business, and he appealed to conservatives in New Orleans. Whereas Mitch Landrieu is your -- you know, average, you know, standard-bearing liberal. And just -- it just wasn't all that appealing.

Howard Dean made the decision himself to back Mitch Landrieu. Dean came to the decision to back the white challenger over the African-American incumbent, "School Bus" Nagin, despite concerns among senior black officials in the party that the DNC should stay neutral. The DNC teams actively worked to defeat Nagin under the auspices that the committee's voting rights program. The party's field efforts also coincided with a national effort by Democrat contributors to support Mitch Landrieu, who had out-raised "School Bus" Nagin by a wide margin: $3.3 million to just barely $541,000. Preliminary campaign finance reports indicate that many of Landrieu's contributors -- contributions came from out-of-state white Democrat leaders and financers according -- or including a $1,000 contribution from Senator Ben Nelson's PAC. He's a Democrat from Nebraska. The defeat of Mitch Landrieu is the latest setback for Dean's often-criticized field operation.

Now I'm just -- you haven't seen anything in this in the mainstream press, have you? Have you seen -- I mean, I know you've seen the fact that "School Bus" Nagin won. But have you seen the story that the DNC was trying to defeat Nagin? You haven't seen it, and you're probably not going to see it. Can you imagine if this were two Republicans and the RNC was working to defeat the black candidate? Now that doesn't happen. Because in the Republican Party these days, the future of the party happens to be [Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate] Lynn Swann, [Maryland Lt. Gov. and Senate candidate] Michael Steele, and [Ohio secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate] Ken Blackwell. And then [Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice. I mean, there are a number of rising stars. It's in the Democratic Party where they sandbag [2002 gubernatorial candidate] Carl McCall in New York. They tried to sandbag "School Bus" Nagin. And there are couple of other examples of this. Just amazing. And I wanted to mention this at the top of the program, because I doubt that you have seen it anywhere.

[...]

CALLER: You were discussing the DNC's operations against Nagin in New Orleans in his last election this Saturday.

LIMBAUGH: That's true.

CALLER: And well, you know, I saw that report, too, on the Drudge Report. It doesn't, it's just "sources," you know, I mean, it's not really, he's not linking to anything. It just seems like a rumor. Kind of a drive-by kind of move here on his part.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: There was a report on a blog, [caller] -- an absolute bogus report on a blog that said [White House senior adviser] Karl Rove had been indicted secretly and privately two Fridays ago. Thirty-five drive-by media reporters called Rove's lawyer asking for comment: "Is it true?"

Here we have a report on the Drudge Report that Nagin was dissed by the DNC, that they wanted Mitch Landrieu to win, and we know why. And there's no curiosity about this. None. In fact, if there's any curiosity at all its only: "Well, you know, Nagin is a turncoat. Supported [Rep. Bobby] Jindal [R-LA]. He actually leans Republican in a couple ways. Endorsed Bush in 2000. No big deal. The DNC wouldn't support him." But the point is -- he's black. New Orleans is a chocolate city, and New Orleans is a city that the Democrats desperately want to hold and so forth. And Nagin's victory came from white voters. And the Democrats are out there -- they're trying to hold this city under their control so that -- and Nagin still is a Democrat, regardless. I mean, even if it was -- even if he has flirted with supporting some Republicans. All I'm saying to you is: If the situation had been reversed and if it were the RNC which had dissed a black candidate and sought to undermine him -- even a Republican over -- preferring a white guy -- you would have not heard the end of it. It would be the focus of the news today, tomorrow, and the next day.

From the May 22 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning:

McCORD: According to the Drudge Report this morning, the Democratic National Committee, led by Dr. Howard Dean, secretly placed political operatives in the city of New Orleans to work against the re-election efforts of incumbent Democrat Mayor Ray Nagin and for, of course, the candidacy of Mitch Landrieu.

IMUS: Swamp Thing, yeah.

McCORD: And It did not work out. But --

IMUS: Really?

McCORD: DNC Chairman Howard Dean made the decision himself to back Landrieu, according to Drudge's sources, made the decision to back the white challenger over the African American incumbent despite concerns amongst senior black officials in the party that the DNC ought to stay out of it and stay neutral. But the DNC teams actively worked to defeat Nagin under the auspices of the committee's voting rights program. The defeat of Mitch Landrieu the latest setback, according to this, for Dean's often-criticized field operations.

IMUS: Well, the Swamp Thing is still the attorney general, right?

McCORD: Yeah, well, lieutenant governor.

IMUS: Or lieutenant governor, I mean.

McCORD: Yeah.

IMUS: Well, OK. Well, he can go do that.

McCORD: Yeah.

IMUS: He is not going to be mayor; brother Ray is.

McCORD: Brother Ray. You betcha. Despite Howard Dean's best efforts, apparently, and that of the Democratic National Committee.

From the May 23 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning:

KENNEY (impersonating Kennedy): Good morning to you, Imus. And thank you for this opportunity to address a couple subjects that I have considerable currency and importance to me and my fellow Democrats. First and foremost, of course, the matter of my party chairman, Dr. Howard Dean, and the campaign he led to try to derail the re-election of the incumbent mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, whom we just heard from. Many are asking why the Democratic Party and its chairman would involve themselves in a naked attempt to manipulate the outcome of a legitimate municipal election. I am happy to answer that question. While Democrats historically have been viewed as the party most sympathetic to the African-American population, and indeed to all minorities, the fact of the matter is that I, along with Dr. Dean and others, believe that as a political matter, one needs to choose one's minorities was considerable care. Let me say this with the delicacy, forethought, and circumspection it deserves. Not all minorities are created equal. Whether a taco-eater, rice-sucker, cotton-picker, what have you, Mayor Nagin, whom I congratulate, by the way, on his victory, is a moron. And the white dude in the race with the crop-circle hair, Mitch Landrieu, is every bit a match for Mayor Nagin in the intellect arena; that is, he has none. But we have decided that in spite of our reputation as embracing all of mankind without favoritism or preference, hypocrisy, too, has its place. Therefore, Dr. Dean, along with myself and other senior party leaders, have decided to step on the black man. Specifically why, I don't really know. The DNC's gyration basis and amplification subcommittee is still formulating a response to that question. And we will get back to you when chairlady [Barbra] Streisand is ready to make an announcement.

From the May 22 edition of MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson:

CARLSON: Now to the almost unbelievable results of the New Orleans mayor's race. Ray Nagin's re-election in a city that is still reeling nine months after Hurricane Katrina shocked observers across the country. And a battle broke out when Matt Drudge reported that the Democratic National Committee had secretly backed Nagin's challenger, Mitch Landrieu, in the race. The DNC responded by calling that report dead wrong.

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