On Fox News Sunday, Sarah Palin became the latest Republican leader to walk back criticism of Rush Limbaugh's incendiary rhetoric, saying that he had been "satirical" in using the word "retards." In a prior statement about Limbaugh's comments, a Palin spokesperson had criticized the "crude and demeaning name-calling" of using the word, before later claiming that the statement was "not specifically aimed at Limbaugh" and, according to Limbaugh, calling his staffer "sort of in a panic" to explain it.
Palin says Limbaugh meant to be "satirical" in using word "retards"
From the February 7 edition of Fox Broadcsting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (host): OK, but, Rush Limbaugh weighed in this week, and he said this: "Our politically correct society is acting like some giant insult's taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards."
PALIN: He was satirical in that --
WALLACE: Wait, let me finish. "I mean, these people, these liberal activists are kooks." Should Rush Limbaugh apologize?
PALIN: They are kooks, so I agree with Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh was using satire to bring attention to what this politically correct --
WALLACE: But he used the "R" word.
PALIN: Using satire. Name-calling by anyone -- I teach this to my children. You teach this to your children and your grandchildren, too. Name-calling by anyone, it's just unnecessary. It just wastes time. Let's speak to the issues and again, let's move on.
WALLACE: But you know what some people are going to say, Governor, and have said. They say, look, when it's their political adversary, Rahm Emanuel, she's going to call him out -- he's indecent, apologize. But when it's a political friend like Rush Limbaugh, oh, it's satire.
PALIN: I didn't hear Rush Limbaugh call a group of people whom he did not agree with "f-ing retards," and we did know that Rahm Emanuel, it's been reported, did say that. There's a big difference there.
Palin spox originally criticized Limbaugh, calling his comments "crude and demeaning"
Responding to Palin-Emanuel controversy, Limbaugh says liberals who complained about health care reform "are retards." On the February 3 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Limbaugh said: "There's Rahm Emanuel out there, who is in big trouble for calling liberals -- for calling liberal activists 'f-ing retards.' Sarah Palin demanded that he be fired. Instead he has apologized to liberal activists. He was getting mad at them about health care. ... So now, I think the big news is, the crack-up going on -- but our political correct society is acting like some giant insult has taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards "retards." I mean, these people, these liberal activists are kooks. They are loony-toons. I'm not going to apologize for it, I'm just quoting Emanuel. It's in the news." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 02/03/10]
Limbaugh also assured listeners Palin would not denounce his comments. On his February 4 show, Limbaugh addressed his use of the word "retard," saying Palin "knows that I do this kind of -- Sarah Palin is a lifelong listener of this program. ... [T]hey're trying to goad her into denouncing me like they did Emanuel, but she knows that all I'm doing is quoting Emanuel and highlighting that it's these people who say this kind of stuff." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 02/04/10]
Palin spokesperson responded to Limbaugh, saying his words amount to "crude and demeaning name calling." After Limbaugh's February 4 comments, the Washington Post Co.'s Greg Sargent posted a comment he received from Palin spokesperson Meghan Stapleton in response to Limbaugh's words. Stapleton said: "Governor Palin believes crude and demeaning name calling at the expense of others is disrespectful."
Stapleton told Politico she was not singling out Limbaugh. A February 5 Politico article reported that Stapleton "told POLITICO that the comment given to The Plum Line was not specifically aimed at Limbaugh." The article quoted her as saying, "The Washington Post is trying hard to take the pressure off the White House by creating a side controversy, but it is missing the point. ... As the governor has said, it doesn't matter who says the 'r' word. It should no longer be part of our lexicon."
Limbaugh says Stapleton called "sort of in a panic" to explain. On his February 5 show, Limbaugh said Stapleton called his chief of staff "sort of in a panic" over the Politico article saying, "I didn't mention Rush in particular. They kept asking me about Rush, and I kept answering generically. But they kept asking me about Rush, and I just wanted you to know." Limbaugh said he believed Stapleton over Politico, "no question about it." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 02/05/10]
Sargent posts email showing he received Stapleton remark in response to question about Limbaugh. Following the publication of the Politico article, Sargent posted on his blog the "email I sent to Palin spokesperson Meghan Stapleton," which reads, "[Former Palin spokesperson] Jason Recher said...you'd be reaching out to me about Rush's use of the term 'retarded.'" Sargent added: "I subsequently emailed her to be absolutely certain that it applied to Rush. She didn't dispute this, answering that it applies to "anyone" who uses the term."
Palin's comment echoes Limbaugh's own explanation of his remark
Limbaugh: Remark was "satire, S-A-T-I-R-E." On the February 5 edition of his show -- after saying Stapleton had called "sort of in a panic" -- Limbaugh stated that he used the word "retards" as "satire," and that he used it "to wash their mouths [Harry Reid's and Emanuel's] out with soap and made an uncomfortable point." From the show:
Are you comfortable with the words, or with Harry Reid and Rahm Emanuel? I'm uncomfortable with the men and the manner in which they use these words. Words don't generally offend me. I try not to give people the power to offend me, but Harry Reid and Rahm Emanuel -- they do offend me, and they scare me, and they worry me. These men have cold hearts. They are statists. They have power over all of us. They are trying desperately to exercise that power.
In fact, my friends, I am so uncomfortable with these men I purposely chose to use a rhetorical tool -- satire, S-A-T-I-R-E -- to ridicule and humiliate them. That tool is an effective blunt object in breaking through walls put up by state controlled media to protect Democrats. Satire. For those of you in Rio Linda, here's the definition: the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule or the like in exposing, denouncing or deriding vice, folly, etcetera.
I used Harry Reid's words and Rahm Emanuel's words -- not mine -- to expose and punish their behavior. I used satire to wash their mouths out with soap and made an uncomfortable point because the state controlled media would have run any Republican out of office, as in George Allen and macaca, if they had been caught saying what Reid and Emanuel said. Just as they're trying to run me off the radio for repeating what they said.
Many other Republicans have walked back their criticism of Limbaugh
Michael Steele walked back comment that Limbaugh is an "entertainer" and his show is "incendiary" and "ugly." On the February 28, 2009 edition of CNN's D.L.Hughley Breaks the News, Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele responded to Limbaugh's comment that he wanted Obama to "fail," by saying: "Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, he has this incendiary--yes, it's ugly." He later reportedly apologized to Limbaugh, telling Politico: "My intent was not to go after Rush -- I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh. ... I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. ... There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership."
Rep. Gingrey apologized after saying it's "easy" for Limbaugh to "stand back and throw bricks." After Limbaugh said on his show that Obama is "more frightened of me," than other Republican leaders, and that it "doesn't say much about our party," Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) reportedly said that "it's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don't have to try to do what's best for your people and your party. You know you're just on these talk shows and you're living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of thing." Gingrey later apologized, saying he sees "eye to eye" with Limbaugh, that he and other conservative radio hosts "are the voices of the conservative movement's conscience," and that "we are inspired by their words and by their determination."
Gov. Sanford backpedaled comment that "anyone who wants Obama to fail is an idiot." In a February 25, 2009 interview with Real Clear Politics, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said of Obama: "I don't want him to fail. Anybody who wants him to fail is an idiot, because it means we're all in trouble." According to a Think Progress post, Sanford's spokesperson later said "the governor was not referring to anyone" and was speaking "generically."
Rep. Tiahrt hedges after saying Limbaugh is "just an entertainer." During an April 2009 interview with the Kansas City Star, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) reportedly said Limbaugh is "just an entertainer," after being asked "by a Kansas City Star Editorial Board member whether Limbaugh was now the de facto leader of the GOP." The Wichita Eagle later reported: "Tiahrt spokesman Sam Sackett said Tiahrt was not speaking negatively about Limbaugh but was trying to defend him against the suggestion that Limbaugh could be blamed for the GOP's woes. 'The congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America -- not a party leader responsible for election losses,' Sackett told The Eagle editorial board. 'Nothing the congressman said diminished the role Rush has played and continues to play in the conservative movement.' "