Rush Limbaugh, discussing Sen. Harry Reid's floor speech criticizing Limbaugh's September 26 comments characterizing service members who support U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers," asserted that Reid "didn't mention VoteVets.org. They never hold press conferences with them." Limbaugh continued: "I never see Dingy Harry with members of VoteVets.org standing with him on the podium. Why is that? ... The reason Dingy Harry and the rest of the Democrats do not show publicly with members of VoteVets.org is because they don't know -- they don't want you to know -- the intricate degree of coordination between these anti-war groups and elected Democrats in the House and the Senate. And that's why they never cite them." In fact, Reid has appeared with VoteVets representatives at press conferences, and Democrats have issued press releases citing VoteVets.
On the October 5 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh "suggest[ed]" -- without providing evidence -- that VoteVets.org, an organization of military veterans who support U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, "doesn't represent the vast majority of veterans out there." VoteVets recently produced television and radio ads criticizing Limbaugh for comments he made on September 26 characterizing service members who support U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers." On the October 5 broadcast, discussing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)'s October 1 floor statement that Limbaugh's comment was "beyond the pale of decency," Limbaugh asserted that Reid "didn't mention VoteVets.org. They never hold press conferences with them." Limbaugh continued: "I never see Dingy Harry with members of VoteVets.org standing with him on the podium. Why is that? ... The reason Dingy Harry and the rest of the Democrats do not show publicly with members of VoteVets.org is because they don't know -- they don't want you to know -- the intricate degree of coordination between these anti-war groups and elected Democrats in the House and the Senate. And that's why they never cite them." In fact, Reid has appeared with VoteVets representatives at press conferences, and Democrats have issued press releases citing VoteVets.
For instance, on July 11, Reid and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) held a press conference regarding Sen. Jim Webb's (D-VA) proposed amendment on troop deployments, featuring representatives from VoteVets and other organizations. From the press release:
The Senators spoke alongside representatives from Veterans for America, the National Military Families Association and VoteVets.org about Senator Jim Webb's amendment to begin the critical and long overdue process of rebuilding our badly overburdened military. The amendment will give our troops the time to properly train, prepare for and recover from battle, and ensures we do not leave our cities' and towns' first responders shorthanded.
Additionally, on February 7, Reid issued a press release that stated: "With Republicans in the Senate blocking a debate on President Bush's plan to escalate the war, Senate Democrats today joined veterans of the war in Iraq to demand the Senate be allowed to vote up or down on the single most important issue facing America today. Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray, Senator John Kerry, Senator Jack Reed, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, along with Jon Soltz and Andrew Horne of VoteVets.org, called on Senate Republicans to put the safety of America's troops ahead of providing political cover for the White House." The release went on to quote Soltz and VoteVets senior adviser Andrew Horne:
"On Monday, the minority of the United States Senate came out forcefully for an escalation of the war in Iraq, clearly ignoring the will of the American people and those of us who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Jon Soltz, Co-Founder and Chairman of VoteVets.org. "Many of those Senators in recent weeks said they were against escalation. Well, talk is cheap, and you don't support our troops with lip service. In the debate on the Iraq war and an escalation, there are only two sides - with the troops or with the President. You cannot have it both ways. Those Senators who have voted against the troops are now on official warning - vote in line with the will of the troops and the will of the people, or pay the price."
Said Andrew Horne, Senior Advisor to VoteVets.org, "Monday's vote to support escalation of the war in Iraq by the minority was a 'Profile in Cowardice.' A lot of Senators have puffed out there [sic] chests and spoken boldly about opposing an escalation of the war in Iraq, but when faced with pressure from their leader, buckled and wilted in fear. We Iraq veterans risked our very lives in service to this country, marching head-up into a field of bullets, IEDs, and rockets. These Senators ran scared because of political pressure from their party. It's clear who the true patriots are in this debate."
Further, an April 2 Associated Press article posted on USA Today's website features a photo captioned: "From left to right: Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org; U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Iraq veteran Jonathan Powers meet in Reid's office at the Capitol." The article discussed Reid's reaction to President Bush's then-impending veto of supplemental funding bill that included provisions for a timetable for troop withdrawals from Iraq. Photographs from Getty Images of the March 29 meeting can be found here. According to Getty, "The group discussed the supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan that would set a timetable for withdrawal of troops."
More recently, Democratic Sens. Jack Reed (RI), Patty Murray (WA) and Mary Landrieu (LA) announced on September 5 that they had "joined Iraq War veteran Peter Granato, Vice Chairman of Vote Vets ... to discuss the importance of providing funding for our veterans." According to their press release, the group expressed its support for "legislation that would provide $109.2 billion in funding for military construction and the Veterans Administration, which is approximately $4 billion more than the president requested."
From the October 5 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: All right, I want to go to the audio sound bites. Last night, on the Rusty Humphries Show, which airs 9 to midnight Eastern time, he had as his guest the vice chair of VoteVet.org [sic], which is a group running these ads and getting this "phony soldiers" smear ginned up. And I've got two bites here. Humphries -- the guy's name is Brandon Friedman. And Rusty Humphries says, "Why? Why are you doing this, honestly? What is your reasoning behind this?"
[begin audio clip]
FRIEDMAN: The problem I have with Rush Limbaugh is that he enables policymakers who have gotten our country into a lot of trouble. We're in a lot of trouble. I mean, we've got some serious problems with Islamic extremism globally and we can't address those problems correctly --
FRIEDMAN: --because we're bogged down in another country's religious civil war.
HUMPHRIES: OK, so it's not what Rush said, it's who Rush supports. And because he helped get them elected, he needs to be taken down. Is that --
FRIEDMAN: No, it's a pattern of what he does. I mean, he -- this guy has a voice, and he affects people.
[end audio clip]
LIMBAUGH: There you have it. I mean, the guy -- ladies and gentlemen, leading spokesman for VoteVets.org admitting publicly that the reason the liberal hit squad's attacking me is because they don't agree with my position on the war and that I'm influential. Now, let me ask you a question: Is that what we should be doing in America? I mean, knowingly smearing somebody because you disagree with his policy views, lying about what he said, trying to destroy his character. Because that's what this gentleman has just admitted doing. Anyone who practices these kinds of tactics ought to be ashamed of themselves. Whether they're civilians or used to wear the uniform or still wear the uniform, lying about somebody's statements to advance your own policy objectives is not honorable. And it'll -- it won't work because there's no substance behind it.
Let me suggest that the vast majority of men and women in uniform today, as well as those who have served before, do not want us to lose. They don't want this mission to fail. And they don't sign on to the anti-war movement led by the likes of Harry Reid. Let me further suggest this: VoteVets.org doesn't represent the vast majority of veterans out there. I think the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, with literally millions and millions of members, are far more representative of the vets in this country than VoteVets.org. And yet they are portrayed, much as other fringe liberal groups, as huge, powerful, and influential, and they're not. And this audio clip indicates that they are feeling powerless to stop people like me and my influence, and so I have to be taken out with a smear.
Now, one thing I also want to point out -- you know, when Harry Reid went to the floor of the Senate this past Monday to denounce me, he didn't cite to this group, did he? He didn't mention VoteVets.org. They never hold press conferences with them, I mean, I never see Dingy Harry with members of VoteVets.org standing with him on the podium. Why is that? Could it be because they don't share the policy positions of Reid and his ilk? They want our combat forces to have the equipment and additional support they need to win the war, and this group doesn't really even like Reid. Maybe it is that Reid's embarrassed to be with these guys. You don't think that's what it is? It's -- well, meets with them secretly. Well, that's probably right, that's probably right. The reason Dingy Harry and the rest of the Democrats do not show publicly with members of VoteVets.org is because they don't know -- they don't want you to know -- the intricate degree of coordination between these anti-war groups and elected Democrats in the House and the Senate. And that's why they never cite them. That's why Dingy Harry didn't cite them. He made it his own words. He said, "Limbaugh said this." He had no idea what I said. He didn't care what I said. The VoteVet.orgs [sic] and the Media Matters types fed him the data. It worked. This is and was a coordinated smear, and they don't want the coordination noticed. Orchestrated from Day One here, folks, as I have explained repeatedly. And not thanks to VoteVets.org and one of its spokesmen, this fact has been underscored.
You know, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, these are organizations with literally millions and millions of members. And I side with them. I side with the American Legion. I don't share the views of VoteVets.org, which works closely with Harry Reid and a number of other elected Democrats. And because I share the same position as most of our soldiers -- and in this Fox poll -- because I share the position of most of the American people, who do not want us to lose. I support the troops in this war, as anybody with a brain knows. And I'm attacked over my support for the troops and the war and by claims I oppose the troops.