MSNBC asks about "GOP hypocrisy?" in denunciations of MoveOn but silence on Limbaugh's "Senator Betrayus" comments

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

While discussing what he suggested might be "hypocrisy when it comes to political attacks" with regard to a MoveOn.org ad headlined "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" and comments by Rush Limbaugh about "Senator Betrayus, new name for Senator Hagel," MSNBC's David Shuster asked Rep. Marsha Blackburn, "Where was the outrage when Rush Limbaugh said this about Republican Senator Chuck Hagel over one of the senator's stances on Iraq?"

As the blog Crooks & Liars noted, on the September 24 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, guest host David Shuster began an interview with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) by noting that there was a "Republican outcry" over MoveOn.org's September 10 advertisement headlined "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" that appeared in The New York Times." Shuster suggested that "there's a bigger question ... of hypocrisy when it comes to political attacks," and asked Blackburn: "Where was the outrage when Rush Limbaugh said this about Republican Senator Chuck Hagel [NE] over one of the senator's stances on Iraq?" Shuster then read comments, previously highlighted by Media Matters for America, that Rush Limbaugh made on the January 25 broadcast (subscription required) of his nationally syndicated radio show: "By the way, we had a caller call, couldn't stay on the air, got a new name for Senator Hagel in Nebraska, we got General Petraeus and we got Senator Betrayus, new name for Senator Hagel."

Shuster asked Blackburn, "Do you want to take this opportunity to condemn what Rush Limbaugh said about Chuck Hagel?" Blackburn responded: "[W]hat I want to do is talk about The New York Times." Shuster then repeatedly asked Blackburn about whether the Limbaugh comment was "wrong" and what the "difference" was between Limbaugh's comment and the MoveOn advertisement. After several such queries, Blackburn stated: "Rush Limbaugh should not have done that."

From the September 24 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:

SHUSTER: Do you want to take this opportunity to condemn what Rush Limbaugh said about Chuck Hagel?

BLACKBURN: You know, what I want to do is talk about The New York Times. And probably, Rush --

SHUSTER: Well --

BLACKBURN: Rush Limbaugh could have gotten by without saying that, but he was referencing a call --

SHUSTER: Could have gotten by? It was wrong, wasn't it?

BLACKBURN: He was referencing what a caller said and --

SHUSTER: Right, but it was wrong for a caller or for Rush Limbaugh to call Chuck Hagel "Senator Betrayus," right?

BLACKBURN: But Rush Limbaugh did not go in and buy an ad and place it with The New York Times and get a special, preferred rate and --

SHUSTER: But --

BLACKBURN: -- turn around --

SHUSTER: So there's a difference between buying an ad in The New York Times and Rush Limbaugh hearing something that he likes to hear from one of his viewers and repeating it on the air. What's the distinction? Why is there a distinction?

BLACKBURN: Rush Limbaugh should not have done that.

Earlier in the show, Shuster previewed the interview with Blackburn by calling it a "Hypocrisy Watch," and asking, "[W]here is the outrage over conservative radio show host comments about a Republican senator? Are Republicans playing a risky game of political hypocrisy?" When Shuster introduced the interview and talked about the "bigger question ... of hypocrisy," the words "GOP Hypocrisy?" appeared on-screen.

On September 25, MSNBC's website highlighted the video of Shuster's interview with Blackburn, placing it on the front page of the website for the Tucker program. The text highlighting the video said that Blackburn "discusse[d] the inconsistency of the defense of the attacks against MoveOn.org for its 'General Betray Us' ad."

Additionally, on the September 24 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, host Keith Olbermann named Limbaugh the "winner" in his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment for his "Senator Betrayus" comments. Olbermann noted that Limbaugh "called the MoveOn.org 'Betray Us' ad 'contemptible' and 'indecent,' " adding: "Guess who seems to have been the first to introduce the pun on General Petraeus' name to national broadcasting?" Olbermann read Limbaugh's January 25 remarks and stated: "So not only is your outrage about the use of the phrase 'betray us' to question patriotism or duty phony, it's your phrase." Limbaugh frequently appears on Olbermann's "Worst Person" list, as Media Matters has noted (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Olbermann also named Fox News host Bill O'Reilly the "runner-up" for "Worst Person in the World" for, as Media Matters documented, O'Reilly's claim: "I respect dissent on the Iraq war." O'Reilly was responding to a viewer who had written to his show asking that he "stop labeling those who criticize our continued stay in Iraq as anti-American." As Olbermann and Media Matters noted, O'Reilly claimed that such criticism was "from far-left Loonville." Olbermann then cited several examples, previously documented by Media Matters, in which O'Reilly had attacked individuals and the media with whom he disagreed on the Iraq war:

  • On the September 10 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, O'Reilly asserted: "I know that MoveOn is rooting against us." He continued: "The leftists are rooting against their own country."
  • On the August 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed that "the cut-and-run club, led by [Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL] and Congressman John Murtha [D-PA], continues to pound the drum of defeat in Iraq." He later said that PBS journalist Bill Moyers "symbolizes those Americans who want their country to lose in Iraq based upon a hatred of all things Bush."
  • On the May 2 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed that at the beginning of the war in Iraq, "everybody in the country [was] behind it, except the kooks."

From the September 24 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:

SHUSTER: Also, tonight, a special Shuster edition of "Hypocrisy Watch." Republicans keep talking about that "Betray Us" ad, but they have not said a peep about a similar statement made by Rush Limbaugh. Get out the lighter fluid because we've got a grilling for you later in the hour.

[...]

SHUSTER: And coming up, Republicans blast MoveOn.org for their ad attacking the top U.S. general in Iraq. But where is the outrage over conservative radio show host comments about a Republican senator? Are Republicans playing a risky game of political hypocrisy?

[...]

SHUSTER: The Republican outcry is beginning to die down over that MoveOn ad, the one running in The New York Times that posed the question -- "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" But there's a bigger question left unanswered, a question of hypocrisy when it comes to political attacks. Where was the outrage when Rush Limbaugh said this about Republican Senator Chuck Hagel over one of the senator's stances on Iraq? Limbaugh said, "By the way, we had a caller call, couldn't stay on the air, got a new name for Senator Hagel of Nebraska. We got General Petraeus and we got Senator Betrayus, new name for Senator Hagel."

Here to discuss all this is Marsha Blackburn, a Republican congresswoman from Tennessee. And, Congresswoman, thanks for coming in.

BLACKBURN: Good to be with you.

SHUSTER: Do you want to take this opportunity to condemn what Rush Limbaugh said about Chuck Hagel?

BLACKBURN: You know, what I want to do is talk about The New York Times. And probably, Rush --

SHUSTER: Well --

BLACKBURN: Rush Limbaugh could have gotten by without saying that, but he was referencing a call --

SHUSTER: Could have gotten by? It was wrong, wasn't it?

BLACKBURN: He was referencing what a caller said and --

SHUSTER: Right, but it was wrong for a caller or for Rush Limbaugh to call Chuck Hagel "Senator Betrayus," right?

BLACKBURN: But Rush Limbaugh did not go in and buy an ad and place it with The New York Times and get a special, preferred rate and --

SHUSTER: But --

BLACKBURN: -- turn around --

SHUSTER: So there's a difference between buying an ad in The New York Times and Rush Limbaugh hearing something that he likes to hear from one of his viewers and repeating it on the air. What's the distinction? Why is there a distinction?

BLACKBURN: Rush Limbaugh should not have done that. But Rush Limbaugh did not go out and buy an ad with -- and circumvent The New York Times. It takes two weeks for them to tell the truth on this, and we find out that they did get a favored rate. They did choose --

SHUSTER: Yeah, but they didn't know they got a favored rate --

BLACKBURN: But they did choose.

SHUSTER: --and as soon as they found out they got a favored rate, they wrote a check.

BLACKBURN: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah. I don't believe that. I think they did get --

SHUSTER: I understand that this is an issue that -- you're very concerned, of course, about the MoveOn ad, is that right?

BLACKBURN: Everybody is concerned about the MoveOn ad. And everybody is concerned about what seems to be the violation of the -- the public trust by The New York Times. Look, we all know that their circulation is down, that their stock is down, that they -- I think it was last year fired 500 people. Everyone is aware of that. But my goodness, but to find out now that they are fire selling their ad space.

From the September 24 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

OLBERMANN: First, time for Countdown's "Worst Persons in the World."

Senator David Vitter [R] of Louisiana takes the bronze. Sneaked an earmark into an appropriations bill, $100,000 to the Louisiana Family Forum, quote, "to develop a plan to promote better science education." By better, the Louisiana Family Forum evidently turns out to mean better be without Darwin in it. They want creationism taught. Senator Vitter, Senator Vitter, tell us again the story of when the Lord created callgirls.

Your runner up is Bill-O. Somebody wrote in to ask that he stop labeling those who criticize our continued stay in Iraq as anti-American. Bill explains he "welcomes dissent on this program" and he promptly insisted the writer was, quote, "from the far-left loonville." Yes, that's welcoming dissent. And so is claiming, quote, "the leftists are rooting against their own country." And so was calling Senator Obama the leading "cut-and-run club." And so was saying Bill Moyers symbolizes those "who want their country to lose in Iraq." And so was branding anybody against the war at its start "kooks." And so was concluding that MSNBC "delights in showing Iraqi violence."

You welcome dissent as long as nobody disagrees with you.

Who can top that? Well, our winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh. He called the MoveOn.org "Betray Us" ad contemptible and indecent. Guess who seems to have been the first to introduce the pun on General Petraeus' name to national broadcasting? January 25th of this year, he gurgled, quote, "By the way, we had a caller call, couldn't stay on the air. Got a new name for Senator Hagel of Nebraska. We got General Petraeus and we've got Senator Betrayus, new name for Senator Hagel."

So not only is your outrage about the use of the phrase "betray us" to question patriotism or duty phony, it's your phrase. Comedian Rush Limbaugh, big flaming fraud, today's Worst Person in the World!

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