Limbaugh offering inconsistent explanations for "phony soldiers" comment

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Responding to criticism of his "phony soldiers" comments, Rush Limbaugh again asserted that he had been referring to multiple military imposters -- including Jesse MacBeth -- rather than service members or former service members with whom he disagrees. Limbaugh described MacBeth as "the man I was referring to and others like him as 'phony soldiers.' " But immediately after the controversy erupted over his comments, Limbaugh twice claimed that he was "talking about one soldier with that 'phony soldier' comment, Jesse MacBeth."

On the October 2 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, responding to criticism of his September 26 comments characterizing service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers," Rush Limbaugh again asserted that he had been referring to multiple military imposters -- including Jesse MacBeth -- rather than service members or former service members with whom he disagrees. Limbaugh asserted: "The next ruse the left is saying: 'He couldn't have been talking about MacBeth because he used the plural. He said "phony soldiers." He didn't say phony "soldier." ' " Limbaugh continued: "Again, this is a willful and missing of the context of this program. We have discussed many of these phony soldiers over the course of the past few months. We discuss them constantly. MacBeth was just the latest." Earlier in the program, Limbaugh described MacBeth as "the man I was referring to and others like him as 'phony soldiers.' " But immediately after the controversy erupted over his comments, Limbaugh offered a different explanation, inconsistent with his claim to have been referring to MacBeth "and others like him": As Media Matters for America documented, during the September 28 broadcast of his show, Limbaugh twice claimed that rather than speaking generally of soldiers who support withdrawal from Iraq, he was "talking about one soldier with that 'phony soldier' comment, Jesse MacBeth." Indeed, the transcript (subscription required) of the September 28 broadcast that is posted on Limbaugh's site shows Limbaugh asserting: "I was talking about one soldier with that phony soldier comment, Jesse MacBeth. [emphasis in original]"

Further, to support his contention that he had been talking about "one soldier ... Jesse MacBeth," during his September 28 broadcast, Limbaugh purported to air the "entire" segment in question from the September 26 broadcast of his show. In fact, as Media Matters noted, the clip he then aired had been edited. Excised from the clip was a full 1 minute and 35 seconds of the 1 minute and 50 second discussion that occurred between Limbaugh's original "phony soldiers" comment and his reference to MacBeth. Also, the transcript of the first segment of the first hour of his September 28 broadcast posted on Limbaugh's website, which Limbaugh described as being the "anatomy of a smear," does not provide any notation or ellipsis to indicate that there is, in fact, a break in the transcript of the September 26 clip.

Later in the September 28 broadcast, in response to a caller's question, "But you did say 'soldiers' in plural, though, didn't you?" Limbaugh asserted: "Yes, because there have been a number of these people, but they were not active duty -- I was not talking about anti-war, active duty troops. I was talking about people who've been exposed as frauds who never served in Iraq but claimed to have seen all these atrocities, [unintelligible]."

As the blog Crooks and Liars noted, during his September 28 broadcast, Limbaugh also expanded the group of "phony soldiers" to include Vietnam veteran Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) and Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who is currently serving in Iraq. In asserting that he was originally "talking about a genuine phony soldier," Limbaugh went on to state: "And by the way, Jesse MacBeth's not the only one. How about this guy Scott Thomas who was writing fraudulent, phony things in The New Republic about atrocities he saw that never happened? How about Jack Murtha blanketly accepting the notion that Marines at Haditha engaged in wanton murder of innocent children and civilians?"

From the October 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Many of you have said, "You ought to sue." I can't, folks. I'm a public figure. It's part of the process. Can't. It's not doable. There are other ways of dealing with this. I was shocked when I heard Senator [Tom] Harkin [D-IA] say it, and I've thought about what he actually said, and I'm blown away. He attributes to me referencing seven soldiers in a New York Times story that I had never, ever referenced. I never have done so, until this very moment on this program. Now, there are also some people who are talking about this story. CNN did a story yesterday afternoon accepting the Harry Reid-Media Matters -- founded by Hillary Clinton -- premise. There have been others who have done so, and not one of them has gone into detail about Jesse MacBeth, the man I was referring to and others like him as "phony soldiers." So let me again detail for you Jesse MacBeth, because this is the celebrity the anti-war left props up and loves. Army Ranger, he said, a 23-year-old corporal. He said he won a Purple Heart. He said he was afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and what made Army Ranger Jesse MacBeth a hero to the left wing was his "courage," in their view, off the battlefield. Without regard to consequences, MacBeth told the world -- and his remarks were printed and reprinted in Arabic all over the Middle East and the Internet.

He told the world about abuses he had witnessed in Iraq: American soldiers killing unarmed civilians, hundreds of men, women, and even children, hanging them in mosques. That's one gruesome account translated into Arabic, spread widely across the Internet, MacBeth described the horrors this way: "We would burn the bodies, and we would hang their bodies from the rafters in the mosque." This is who I was discussing, and everybody in the drive-by media reporting on this knows this is who I was discussing. ABC reported on this man two days before I began this very commentary a week ago yesterday, a week ago Monday, ABC World News Tonight did the story. And still the drive-by media who are talking about this do not detail for anybody who Jesse MacBeth is. Well, here's the grand finale: Jesse MacBeth -- a poster boy of the anti-war left, heralded as a hero -- had his day in court. He was sentenced to five months in jail, three years' probation for falsifying a Department of Veterans Affairs claim. His Army's discharge record as well. Yes, MacBeth was in the Army -- for 44 days. He washed out of boot camp. He is not an Army Ranger. He is not a corporal. He never won the Purple Heart. He was never in combat to witness the horrors he claimed to have seen, but don't look for any retractions from the left.

Don't look for any TV ads about this guy from the left, not from the anti-war left, the anti-military drive-by media, or the Arabic websites that spread his lies about the troops, because fiction -- fiction, ladies and gentlemen, fiction is what serves the purpose of the anti-war left, from Tom Harkin to Harry Reid, to these groups that prop up phony soldiers, like Jesse MacBeth, groups like The New Republic, which run phony accounts from soldiers in Iraq lying about what they've seen. These are the heroes to the anti-war left. Fiction is what serves their purpose. The truth is just too inconvenient. The next ruse the left is saying: "He couldn't have been talking about MacBeth because he used the plural. He said 'phony soldiers.' He didn't say 'phony soldier.' " Again, this is a willful and missing of the context of this program. We have discussed many of these phony soldiers over the course of the past few months. We discuss them constantly. MacBeth was just the latest. I have a press release here from the United States attorney's office, the Western District, State of Washington, September 21st of this year. Headline: "Northwest Crackdown on Fake Veterans in Operation Stolen Valor -- Phony vets scam more than 1.4 million and damage image of honorable veterans."

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