In his October 5 column in The Hill, discussing Rush Limbaugh's September 26 comments in which he characterized service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers," Byron York asserted that "Limbaugh discussed [Jesse] Macbeth, unbidden, in the same exchange with a listener in which he used the 'phony soldier' phrase." York continued: "A fair-minded reviewer would likely conclude that yes, Limbaugh was referring to Macbeth. After all, he said it at the time." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Limbaugh did not discuss MacBeth "in the same exchange" with the caller. After Limbaugh used the phrase "phony soldiers," the caller went on to discuss the purported presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, with Limbaugh responding. Limbaugh then thanked the caller for calling, and the caller is not heard again on the broadcast. Only after this did Limbaugh bring up MacBeth on his September 26 radio show, 1 minute and 50 seconds after making his "phony soldiers" comment. MacBeth 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.
As Media Matters noted, in an October 3 National Review column, York claimed 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.
From York's October 5 column:
It's payback time for Democrats still smarting over the MoveOn.org "General Betray Us?" controversy. But so far, payback hasn't been terribly sweet.
The "General Betray Us?" ad was a single-page, big-type statement with the world's most provocative headline. It said what it said. You could read the whole thing in a few seconds and judge for yourself.
Limbaugh's comment wasn't quite the same. It wasn't just a two-word statement, despite what his critics say. To get what Limbaugh was saying, you had to listen to a full exchange -- something that requires a few minutes' investment, which is more than some of Limbaugh's most determined adversaries have been willing to make.
And then you had to think about it all. Limbaugh says he had news reports of an actual phony soldier, Jesse Macbeth, in mind when he made his comments.
And sure enough, Limbaugh discussed Macbeth, unbidden, in the same exchange with a listener in which he used the "phony soldier" phrase.
A fair-minded reviewer would likely conclude that yes, Limbaugh was referring to Macbeth. After all, he said it at the time.
None of that has been enough, however, for Limbaugh's critics, particularly in the blogosphere.