National Review's York ignores Limbaugh falsehood about splicing of audio and transcript

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

Reporting on Rush Limbaugh's explanation of his "phony soldiers" comments, Byron York wrote that "[a]s part of that explanation" Limbaugh "played a tape of the original September 26 program [and] cut some extraneous material out -- 'for space and relevance reasons, not to hide anything,' he told me." In fact, Limbaugh said that he was airing "the entire transcript, in context, that led to this so-called controversy" and gave no indication that he cropped the audio or the transcript.

Reporting on Rush Limbaugh's September 28 explanation of his September 26 "phony soldiers" comments, National Review White House correspondent Byron York wrote that "[a]s part of that explanation" Limbaugh "played a tape of the original September 26 program [and] cut some extraneous material out -- 'for space and relevance reasons, not to hide anything,' he told me." In fact, on September 28, Limbaugh said that he was airing "the entire transcript, in context, that led to this so-called controversy" and gave no indication that he cropped the audio, as Media Matters for America noted. In addition, the relevant transcript (subscription required) of the broadcast, which was posted on Limbaugh's website, also does not provide any notation or ellipsis to indicate that there is, in fact, a break in the transcript of the September 26 clip he used. By not indicating that there was a 1 minute and 50 second gap between Limbaugh's original "phony soldiers" remark and his discussion of Jesse MacBeth, an anti-war activist who pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for pretending to be an injured Iraq war veteran, Limbaugh made it appear as though his MacBeth remarks came almost immediately after his "phony soldiers" comments, falsely supporting his claim that his "phony soldiers" comment was a reference to MacBeth.

From York's column, headlined "Limbaugh Makes His Case":

"I was thinking of Macbeth when I said 'phony soldiers,'" Limbaugh told me. As the caller talked, Limbaugh told a staff member to print out the previous day's commentary on the ABC "Phony Heroes" story. After "vamping" a bit while the commentary printed out, Limbaugh moved on.

"I want to thank you, Mike, for calling. I appreciate it very much. I gotta -- here is a morning update that we did recently, talking about fake soldiers. This is a story of who the left props up as heroes. And they have their celebrities. One of them was Army Ranger Jesse Macbeth..." Limbaugh read the entire commentary from the day before and wrapped up that segment of the program. From there, he moved on to a discussion of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And that was that -- until the next day, September 27, when Media Matters, the liberal media watchdog group, posted a story headlined, "Limbaugh: Service members who support U.S. withdrawal are 'phony soldiers.'" "During the September 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show," Media Matters reported, "Rush Limbaugh called service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq 'phony soldiers.'" Media Matters included a transcript -- with some extraneous remarks edited out -- of Limbaugh's broadcast.

Within a few hours, a half-dozen congressional Democrats had denounced Limbaugh's remarks. "How dare Rush Limbaugh label anyone who has served in the military as a, quote, 'phony soldier?'" asked Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky. "Rush Limbaugh owes our military and their families an apology," said Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

The next day, September 28, Limbaugh used his program to explain the "phony soldiers" remark at some length. As part of that explanation, he played a tape of the original September 26 program. He cut some extraneous material out -- "for space and relevance reasons, not to hide anything," he told me -- and then found himself again under attack from Media Matters for "selectively edit[ing]" the clip. Media Matters did not claim that Limbaugh had cut anything substantive out -- he did not -- and in fact his cuts were similar to the cuts Media Matters itself made when it published an edited version of the transcript of Limbaugh's original broadcast. But it was one more dart to throw at Limbaugh.

During his September 28 show, responding to Media Matters' documentation of his "phony soldiers" comment, Limbaugh claimed that he had not been talking "about the anti-war movement generally," but rather "about one soldier ... Jesse MacBeth." To support this claim, Limbaugh purported to air the "entire" segment in question from the September 26 broadcast of his show. Limbaugh said: "Here is, it runs about 3 minutes and 13 seconds, the entire transcript, in context, that led to this so-called controversy." After the clip ended, Limbaugh stated: "That was the transcript from yesterday's program, talking about one phony soldier. The truth for the left is fiction that serves their purpose, which is exactly the way the website Media Matters generated this story."

From York's October 3 column, titled "Limbaugh Makes His Case":

"I was thinking of Macbeth when I said 'phony soldiers,'" Limbaugh told me. As the caller talked, Limbaugh told a staff member to print out the previous day's commentary on the ABC "Phony Heroes" story. After "vamping" a bit while the commentary printed out, Limbaugh moved on.

"I want to thank you, Mike, for calling. I appreciate it very much. I gotta -- here is a morning update that we did recently, talking about fake soldiers. This is a story of who the left props up as heroes. And they have their celebrities. One of them was Army Ranger Jesse Macbeth..." Limbaugh read the entire commentary from the day before and wrapped up that segment of the program. From there, he moved on to a discussion of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And that was that -- until the next day, September 27, when Media Matters, the liberal media watchdog group, posted a story headlined, "Limbaugh: Service members who support U.S. withdrawal are 'phony soldiers.'" "During the September 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show," Media Matters reported, "Rush Limbaugh called service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq 'phony soldiers.'" Media Matters included a transcript -- with some extraneous remarks edited out -- of Limbaugh's broadcast.

Within a few hours, a half-dozen congressional Democrats had denounced Limbaugh's remarks. "How dare Rush Limbaugh label anyone who has served in the military as a, quote, 'phony soldier?'" asked Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky. "Rush Limbaugh owes our military and their families an apology," said Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

The next day, September 28, Limbaugh used his program to explain the "phony soldiers" remark at some length. As part of that explanation, he played a tape of the original September 26 program. He cut some extraneous material out -- "for space and relevance reasons, not to hide anything," he told me -- and then found himself again under attack from Media Matters for "selectively edit[ing]" the clip. Media Matters did not claim that Limbaugh had cut anything substantive out -- he did not -- and in fact his cuts were similar to the cuts Media Matters itself made when it published an edited version of the transcript of Limbaugh's original broadcast. But it was one more dart to throw at Limbaugh.

And that was just the beginning. In the coming days, Democrats in Congress, stung by the controversy over MoveOn.org's "General Betray Us?" ad and resentful of being outmaneuvered by Republicans who pushed for resolutions condemning the ad, pushed hard against Limbaugh. "What's most despicable is that Rush Limbaugh says these provocative things to make more money," said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin in a speech delivered on the Senate floor. "So he castigates our soldiers. This makes more news. It becomes in the news. More people tune in. He makes more money. Well, I don't know. Maybe he was just high on his drugs again. I don't know whether he was or not."

Finally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that Limbaugh had gone "way over the line." "This comment was so beyond the pale of decency, and we can't leave it alone," Reid said. Reid and 40 other Democratic senators signed a letter to Mark May, CEO of Clear Channel Communications, calling on May "to publicly repudiate these comments." May, who said he had carefully read the transcript of Limbaugh's remarks, declined.

Where the controversy goes now is not clear. Democrats, and particularly their supporters in the left-wing blogosphere, are pressing for payback over the MoveOn.org affair. But Limbaugh's explanation will likely make it harder to make the clear-cut case against him that Republicans, and some Democrats, made against MoveOn. The fact that Limbaugh, on the original September 26 program, brought up the ABC report, unbidden, to explain the "phony soldiers" remark suggests that that indeed was what he had in mind at the time he said it. That's also supported by the fact that he had recorded a commentary on the story the day before, and that he printed out and re-read that commentary on September 26 as he explained "phony soldiers." It was clearly on his mind.

And even though there are political arguments on all sides of this controversy, independent-minded critics who look at Media Matters might conclude that its political motivations are simply too strong to merit serious consideration. In addition to its ties to major Democratic donors and to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Media Matters is a deeply politicized organization down to its lowest levels. In the past few days, it has posted eleven stories on the Limbaugh matter. Those postings were written by, among others, Julie Millican, a veteran of the Kerry campaign, MoveOn.org, and the Democratic turnout organization America Coming Together; Sarah Pavlus, formerly of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; Andrew Ironside, who worked for the Howard Dean campaign; Adam Shah, a lawyer who worked for the Alliance for Justice, the organization best known for opposing President Bush's judicial nominees; Jeremy Schulman, a former spokesman for Colorado Democratic congressional candidate Dave Thomas; and Matthew Gertz, former deputy campaign manager for Connecticut Democratic congressional candidate Diane Farrell, as well as intern for New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Military Personnel & Veterans
Network/Outlet
National Review
Person
Byron York
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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