Ditto-ography: Zev Chafets gets it wrong on Rush

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & SIMON MALOY

In his Rush Limbaugh biography An Army of One, which Media Matters obtained in advance of its release, Zev Chafets describes himself as a longtime Limbaugh admirer and listener who asked Limbaugh "hundreds" of questions over the past few years. Limbaugh appears to have rubbed off on Chafets, as his sympathetic biography is riddled with falsehoods, distortions, and misleading claims.

INDEX:

Chafets: Limbaugh a "satirist," not a liar

Chafets: Limbaugh "is polite to his callers"

Alleging that media hold a pro-Obama bias, Chafets falsely claims that Wright videos were "shown first on FOX News"

Alleging that media hold a pro-Obama bias, Chafets falsely claims that Fox broke Obama and Ayers story

Chafets absurdly claims that Newsweek "refrained from even publishing" Lewinsky story because the "mainstream media was with the Clintons"

Chafets distorts 2008 primary results to hype Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos"

Chafets repeats Obama teleprompter falsehood

Chafets distorts Gore's congressional testimony to suggest environmental hypocrisy

Chafets' claim that Branch Davidian members were "kill[ed]" "by federal agents" contradicted by former GOP senator's report

Chafets grossly distorts Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comments

Chafets implausibly claims that Obama sent "a sign to his African American base" at WHCA dinner

Chafets gushes over Limbaugh

Chafets: Limbaugh a "satirist," not a liar

Chafets goes to great lengths to discount accusations that Limbaugh is a liar, writing on Page 139 that Limbaugh doesn't "lie," but rather "engages in hyperbole, sarcasm, and ridicule":

When I told Limbaugh that [Columbia Journalism School] Professor [Todd] Gitlin, a prominent faculty member of America's preeminent school of journalism, had called him a liar, Limbaugh seemed amused. "Anybody who talks for fifteen hours a week extemporaneously for twenty years makes mistakes, but I correct mine as soon as I can, for a very practical reason," he told me. "If people don't trust me, they won't listen, and I won't have any sponsors. I make my living selling advertising. I have no idea who Todd Gitlin is, but he obviously doesn't know anything about the media."

He also doesn't listen to Limbaugh. Rush, like any satirist, engages in hyperbole, sarcasm, and ridicule, none of which is meant to be taken literally. Only the most oblivious or humorless critic would confuse it with lying. On reflection, and after consulting the Media Matters archive, Gitlin himself contacted me and asked to amend "liar" to "bullshit artist." In the commentary business, "bullshit" is what you call the opinions of those with whom you disagree.

Despite Chafets' claims to the contrary, Limbaugh has a well established record of constantly inventing or repeating clear falsehoods. The following is a non-exhaustive list:

  • In February 2009, Limbaugh eagerly repeated Betsy McCaughey's false claim, made in a Bloomberg "commentary," that the House-passed economic recovery bill would create a new bureaucracy to "monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective." In fact, the legislation established no such authority, and McCaughey herself was forced to backtrack on the allegation. The next day, Limbaugh boasted that he was the one who discovered McCaughey's falsehood and took credit for spreading it "all over [the] mainstream media."
  • Following a February 10, 2009, presidential town hall event in Florida, Limbaugh attacked "a crying woman named Henrietta" who, Limbaugh said, "ask[ed] Obama for a car, for a new kitchen, and a bathroom." In fact, the woman, who was homeless, was saying that she and her family needed housing: "I have an urgent need -- unemployment and homelessness, a very small vehicle for my family and I to live in. We need urgent, and the housing authority have two years waiting on this, and we need something more than a vehicle and parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help."
  • Limbaugh claimed in early 2009 that President Obama's proposal to let the Bush tax cuts on Americans making more than $250,000 expire in 2011 constituted "a massive -- in the midst of a recession -- tax increase on small business" that would affect "[m]ost small businesses." This claim had already been repeatedly debunked -- the Tax Policy Center found that roughly 2 percent of small businesses fall in the top two income brackets that would be affected by the expiration of those tax cuts.
  • In March 2009, Limbaugh said several times that "not one Republican voted for the TARP bailout." In reality, 125 congressional Republicans voted for the bill that created the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
  • In July 2009, Limbaugh claimed that "Obama has yet to have to prove he's a citizen. All he'd have to do is show a birth certificate." Obama posted his birth certificate on his campaign's Fight the Smears website; the Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed that the birth certificate posted online by the Obama campaign is "a valid Hawaii state birth certificate"; FactCheck.org reported that it had "seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate" and determined that it is authentic; and Obama's birth was announced in contemporaneous editions of two Hawaii newspapers.
  • In October 2009, Limbaugh falsely claimed that Page 94 of the House health care bill "prohibits the sale of private individual health insurance policies beginning in 2013." In fact, Page 94 of the bill specifically allowed private individual health insurance policies to be sold through a Health Insurance Exchange.
  • In March, Limbaugh claimed that people "can't go fishing anymore because of Obama." PolitiFact.com rated Limbaugh's claims "Pants on Fire" false, and noted that the administration has not recommended a ban on recreational fishing.
  • In April, Limbaugh ran with Dick Morris' fabricated claim that Janet Reno blackmailed President Clinton into reappointing her as attorney general by threatening to "tell the truth about Waco." Morris' version of events, however, contradicted his previous writings on Clinton and Waco, and Morris himself later admitted that his conspiracy theory was merely "conjecture." That did not deter Limbaugh, however, who repeated the story even after Morris retracted it.
  • On his May 4 program, Limbaugh claimed of the alleged Times Square bomber: "Guess what? Faisal Shahzad is a registered Democrat. I wonder if this SUV had an Obama sticker on it. Faisal Shahzad is a registered Democrat." Media Matters for America contacted the offices of the registrar in Shahzad's hometowns and confirmed that he is in fact not a registered voter in those towns.

Chafets: Limbaugh "is polite to his callers"

Chafets claims that Limbaugh learned a "lesson" from his early days in radio and "to this day, Limbaugh is polite to his callers." Yet Limbaugh has berated and been dismissive of callers who have disagreed with him, such as recently telling a woman to take the "tampons" out of her ears.

From Page 37:

Insult comedy was coming into its own on the radio, and Jeff Christie [Rush Limbaugh] decided to try it. He describes the result in his book, See, I Told You So:

I found out something about myself . . . something that was quite disturbing. I found out I was really, really good at insulting people. For example, the topic one day was. "When you die, how do you want to go?"

"I want to go the cheapest and most natural way I can," one nice lady caller from Independence, Missouri, said.

My response was: "Easy. Have your husband throw you in a trash bag and then in the Missouri River with the rest of the garbage."

When I went home after a day of this, I didn't like myself.

The lesson stayed with him. To this day, Limbaugh is polite to his callers who are, in any case, prescreened. He is still insulting, but his targets tend to be institutions, causes, and public figures who can defend themselves.

The following are some of Limbaugh's "polite" interactions with callers to his program:

Alleging that media hold a pro-Obama bias, Chafets falsely claims that Wright videos were "shown first on FOX News"

Chafets accuses the media of being pro-Obama, using as evidence that "[v]ideo clips of Reverend Wright's heated anti-American sermons about 'the USA of KKK' and American chickens coming home to roost on 9/11" were "shown first on FOX News and then, grudgingly, on other networks." In fact, as Fox News itself noted, ABC broke the story during the 2008 campaign.

Chafets writes on Page 61 that the Obama administration launched a campaign against Fox News after they broke "scoops" (such as the Wright story) about the administration:

In the fall of 2009, not long after Limbaugh's speech, the White House launched a campaign against FOX News. Obama himself said that FOX was more like talk radio than a conventional television network. This was, obviously, a political judgment; FOX, at that time, was the only TV network actually engaged in adversarial journalism in the first part of the Obama administration. It had broken scoops about Obama's mentor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and played excepts from his incendiary anti-American sermons; revealed the political and professional connection between Obama and former Weatherman terrorist leader Bill Ayers; raised questions about Van Jones, a presidential adviser who had signed a petition accusing President Bush of collusion in the 9/11 terrorist attacks; and broadcast hidden-camera clips showing employees of ACORN -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a left-wing group with which Obama had close ties -- advising a pimp on how to import underage prostitutes into the United States. These stories were profoundly embarrassing to the Obama administration -- the president had been forced to sever his ties with Wright, accept Jones's resignation, and watch as Congress cut off ACORN's federal funding. Naturally, the president wanted to discredit the network.

Chafets continues on Page 160:

Video clips of Reverend Wright's heated anti-American sermons about "the USA of KKK" and American chickens coming home to roost on 9/11 -- shown first on FOX News and then, grudgingly, on other networks -- made it clear who Obama's minister thought was the source of injustice.

ABC broke Wright sermon story on March 13. ABC broke the Jeremiah Wright sermon story during the March 13, 2008, edition of Good Morning America.

NY Times: Controversy came to light after ABC aired videos. New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor wrote on March 13, 2008: "On Thursday the attention shifted to the camp of Senator Barack Obama, after a report was shown on 'Good Morning America' on ABC, with clips of sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago."

Fox News itself credited ABC for story. During the March 13, 2008, edition of Special Report, then-host Brit Hume said: "The retiring Pastor of Barack Obama's church, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., said in a sermon five years ago that black people should ask god to curse America instead of bless it. ABC news reports the following from a 2003 sermon."

Alleging that media hold a pro-Obama bias, Chafets falsely claims that Fox broke Obama and Ayers story

Chafets accuses the media of being pro-Obama, using as evidence that Fox News "revealed the political and professional connection between Obama and former Weatherman terrorist leader Bill Ayers." While Fox News certainly engaged in unparalleled misinformation about Obama's supposed ties to Ayers, Fox did not break the story.

From Page 61:

In the fall of 2009, not long after Limbaugh's speech, the White House launched a campaign against FOX News. Obama himself said that FOX was more like talk radio than a conventional television network. This was, obviously, a political judgment; FOX, at that time, was the only TV network actually engaged in adversarial journalism in the first part of the Obama administration. It had broken scoops about Obama's mentor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and played excepts from his incendiary anti-American sermons; revealed the political and professional connection between Obama and former Weatherman terrorist leader Bill Ayers; raised questions about Van Jones, a presidential adviser who had signed a petition accusing President Bush of collusion in the 9/11 terrorist attacks; and broadcast hidden-camera clips showing employees of ACORN -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a left-wing group with which Obama had close ties -- advising a pimp on how to import underage prostitutes into the United States. These stories were profoundly embarrassing to the Obama administration -- the president had been forced to sever his ties with Wright, accept Jones's resignation, and watch as Congress cut off ACORN's federal funding. Naturally, the president wanted to discredit the network.

MSNBC, Bloomberg, others brought up Ayers before Fox News. According to a Nexis search, Peter Hitchens wrote about Ayers and Obama for the London Daily Mail on February 2, 2008. Bloomberg (February 15), The New York Sun (February 19), Politico (February 22), and CNN.com (February 24) followed Hitchens. Then-MSNBC host Tucker Carlson also brought up Ayers on the February 22, 2008, edition of his program. Ayers was first brought up on a Fox News program available in Nexis on February 27 by Sean Hannity and Dennis Miller.

Wash. Post: First mainstream article from Daily Mail. The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog wrote of the chain of Ayers articles:

The first article in the mainstream press linking Obama to Ayers appeared in the London Daily Mail on February 2. It was written by Peter Hitchens, the right-wing brother of the left-wing firebrand turned Iraq war supporter, Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens cited the Ayers connection to bolster his argument that Obama is "far more radical than he would like us to know."

The Hitchens piece was followed by a Bloomberg article last week pointing to the Ayers connection as support for Hillary Clinton's contention that Obama might not be able to withstand the "Republican attack machine." Larry Johnson, a former counterterrorism official at the CIA and the State Department, predicted that the Republicans would seize on the Ayers case, and other Chicago relationships, to "bludgeon Obama's presidential aspirations into the dust."

The London Sunday Times joined the chorus this weekend by reporting that Republicans were "out to crush Barack by painting him as a leftwinger with dubious support".

Chafets absurdly claims that Newsweek "refrained from even publishing" Lewinsky story because the "mainstream media was with the Clintons"

On Page 90, Chafets offers Limbaugh's take on the Monica Lewinsky scandal, writing:

It wasn't Hillary's finest moment. She looked foolish for denying what everyone else already knew. And the accusation about a right-wing conspiracy seemed paranoid. The mainstream media was with the Clintons; Newsweek had refrained from even publishing the Lewinsky story, which it had before Drudge, evidently out of a misguided belief that it could keep the story from going public.

Newsweek states it held the story because "there was insufficient hard evidence." From an "online exclusive" column published on Newsweek's website on January 21, 1998:

Because the magazine did not have enough time for sufficient independent reporting on Lewinsky, her credibility, and her alleged role in the drama -- and in hopes of learning more about the truth by not interfering with Starr's probe at a critical juncture -- Newsweek decided to hold off publishing the story last week. Above all, because Lewinsky's name had not surfaced, Newsweek's editors felt there was insufficient hard evidence to drag her into the media maelstrom.

Chafets distorts 2008 primary results to hype Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos"

Chafets writes at length about "Operation Chaos," Limbaugh's 2008 scheme to convince Republican voters to vote for then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries in order to prolong the nominating process and "bloody" Barack Obama politically. Chafets' discussions of Operation Chaos' effect on Texas' and Mississippi's primaries are undermined by polling data.

Texas. On Page 116, Chafets writes of the Texas primary:

The next day, Hillary Clinton won Ohio and Texas (although Obama took the caucus and won the delegate count, 99 to 94). The national media, which hadn't paid serious attention to Limbaugh for years, was shocked by the result, especially in Texas, which Clinton won by 100,000 votes. Various exit polls had contradictory findings, but Karl Rove, who knows more about Texas politics than anyone on earth, told me that 120,000 or so Republicans had crossed over in the open primary and won it for Clinton.

Chafets offers no examples of national media outlets expressing "shock" at the Texas primary results. Clinton won the contest narrowly, edging Obama by about 3.5 percentage points. That closeness was reflected in the polling immediately prior to the election, which, according to Pollster.com's average, put Clinton ahead by two percentage points.

While Chafets touts Rove's claim "that 120,000 or so Republicans had crossed over in the open primary and won it for Clinton," CNN's exit poll showed that more self-identified Republicans voted for Obama than voted for Clinton -- nine percent of voters in the Democratic primary identified themselves as Republicans, and they favored Obama 53-46.

Mississippi. Chafets writes of the Mississippi primary:

Limbaugh wrung a week's worth of hilarity out of this situation. On March 11, Mississippi held its primary. Obama won, but Clinton got far more votes than predicted. Once more the media reacted with alarm.

Chafets' claim is not supported by the facts. Obama registered a lopsided 61-37 win in the Mississippi primary. Polls posted on Pollster.com leading up to the primary showed Obama in the mid-50s and Clinton in the high-30s, meaning that it was Obama who had outperformed expectations.

Chafets repeats Obama teleprompter falsehood

Chafets congratulates Limbaugh for noticing that "Obama was not much of an extemporaneous speaker" and cites as evidence the false story that "Obama accidentally read the speech of his guest, the Irish prime minister, instead of his own."

Chafets writes on Page 163:

Limbaugh was quick to notice that, despite his reputation for eloquence, Obama was not much of an extemporaneous speaker. In fact, the new president rarely spoke without a teleprompter. After Obama accidentally read the speech of his guest, the Irish prime minister, instead of his own, Limbaugh developed the conceit that the teleprompter, not Obama, was in charge.

Daily Telegraph editor: Obama was actually making a "good-natured and well received joke." As Daily Telegraph U.S. editor Toby Harnden explained, it was actually the Irish prime minister who accidentally began reading Obama's speech off the teleprompter before realizing his mistake, saying "Why don't these things work for me?" After the prime minister finished his remarks, Obama stepped to the microphone and jokingly said "First, I'd like to say thank you to President Obama."

Harnden wrote:

That was pretty clear: there was a teleprompter mix up and the fall guy was Cowen. Obama stepped in after Cowen's five-minute speech to make a good-natured and well-received joke at the Irish premier's expense.

Ironically, therefore, Obama was ad-libbing rather than mindlessly reading the wrong speech from a teleprompter.

I've exchanged emails with [National Journal reporter William] Englund and he confirmed this was the case and kindly supplied me with an audio file of the event that removes all doubt.

Chafets distorts Gore's congressional testimony to suggest environmental hypocrisy

On Page 67, Chafets writes of Al Gore:

In 2008 Limbaugh rebroadcast part of his debate with Gore. The ex-vice president had since won an Oscar and a Nobel Prize for his environmental endeavors. He had also become an environmental businessman and investor, parlaying his high profile and Washington connections into a multimillion-dollar empire of "green" enterprises.4

Chafets' footnote states:

In 2009, while testifying before Congress, Gore was asked if he would personally benefit from policies he was advocating for. Gore said he was proud to be in business and invest his money according to his beliefs. "If you believe the reason I have been working on this issue for thirty years is greed, you don't know me." Like all self-testimonials, this was not dispositive.

In suggesting that Gore is profiting from his "multimillion-dollar empire of 'green' enterprises," Chafets omits Gore's statement that he donates "every penny" back to his nonprofit. During the same exchange that Chafets quotes from in his footnote, Gore stated that "every penny that I have made, I have put right into a nonprofit, the Alliance for Climate Protection, to spread awareness of why we have to take on this challenge."

Chafets' claim that Branch Davidian members were "kill[ed]" "by federal agents" contradicted by former GOP senator's report

Discussing the Clinton administration, Chafets writes that Waco, Texas, was the site of the "killing, by federal agents, of fifty-one [sic] members of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. The massacre was unintentional, but women and children had burned to death, and the country was in an uproar." However, in his final November 2000 report, former Republican Sen. John Danforth concluded "with certainty" that the "government of the United States and its agents are not responsible for the April 19, 1993, tragedy at Waco" (emphasis added) and "did not cause the fire." Danforth wrote that certain members of the cult were instead responsible. From the report:

The government of the United States and its agents are not responsible for the April 19, 1993, tragedy at Waco. The government:

§ (a) did not cause the fire;

§ (b) did not direct gunfire at the Branch Davidian complex; and

§ (c) did not improperly employ the armed forces of the United States.

Responsibility for the tragedy of Waco rests with certain of the Branch Davidians and their leader, Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, who:

§ (a) shot and killed four ATF agents on February 28, 1993, and wounded 20 others;

§ (b) refused to exit the complex peacefully during the 51-day standoff that followed the ATF raid despite extensive efforts and concessions by negotiators for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI);

§ (c) directed gunfire at FBI agents who were inserting tear gas into the complex on April 19, 1993;

§ (d) spread fuel throughout the main structure of the complex and ignited it in at least three places causing the fire which resulted in the deaths of those Branch Davidians not killed by their own gunfire; and

§ (e) killed some of their own people by gunfire, including at least five children.

While the Special Counsel has concluded that the United States government is not responsible for the tragedy at Waco on April 19, 1993, the Special Counsel states with equal certainty that an FBI agent fired three pyrotechnic tear gas rounds at 8:08 a.m. on April 19, 1993, at the concrete construction pit approximately 75 feet from the living quarters of the Davidian complex. The pyrotechnic tear gas rounds did not start the fire that consumed the complex four hours later.

From Page 85:

Lacking legal recourse, Clinton decided to delegitimize Limbaugh as a racist, and to do the job personally. On May 1, 1993, the president was the featured speaker at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton. The dinner was held in the shadow of the killing, by federal agents, of fifty-one members of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. The massacre was unintentional, but women and children had burned to death, and the country was in an uproar. Congressman John Conyers of Detroit, who is black, attacked Attorney General Janet Reno's mishandling of the entire affair. On the air, Limbaugh came to her defense.

Chafets grossly distorts Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comments

Chafets grossly distorts Limbaugh's infamous "phony soldiers" comments, falsely suggesting that Limbaugh was referring to individuals that had actually lied about their military service.

Chafets writes on Pages 107-108:

On September 25, 2007, Limbaugh used his daily "morning update" to talk about Jesse MacBeth, who had been appearing at anti-war rallies as a former U.S. Army Ranger and combat veteran, and as an eyewitness to American military atrocities in Iraq. He reported that MacBeth was a fraud who had been convicted of falsifying a Department of Veterans Affairs claim. "Yes, Jesse MacBeth was in the army," Rush said. "Briefly. Forty-four days. Before he was washed out of boot camp. MacBeth 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 retractions, folks-not from the anti-war left, the antimilitary Drive-By Media, or the Arabic Web sites that spread his lies about our troops. Fiction serves their purposes; the truth, to borrow a phrase, is inconvenient to them."

The following day, Limbaugh got an on-air call from a man named Mike in Olympia, Washington, who had a complaint about the mainstream media. "They never talk to real soldiers," Mike said. "They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media."

"The phony soldiers," said Rush.

"Phony soldiers," said Mike. "If you talk to any real soldier, they're proud to serve, they want to be over in Iraq, they understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for the country."

"They joined to be in Iraq," Limbaugh said. Then he retold the story of Jesse MacBeth.

Within a short time, Media Matters, a "progressive" watchdog group founded by Democrats (including Hillary Clinton) to monitor and discredit Limbaugh and other conservative commentators, reported that Rush had referred to military personnel who objected to the war as "phony soldiers." [emphasis added]

Chafets' defense of Limbaugh's comments is completely wrong. Chafets writes: " 'They joined to be in Iraq,' Limbaugh said. Then he retold the story of Jesse MacBeth." This is false. More than a minute-and-a-half elapsed between Limbaugh saying, "They joined to be in Iraq," and Limbaugh's first reference that day to MacBeth. During that time, Limbaugh and the caller discussed weapons of mass destruction, the surge, and Democrats' efforts to extricate the United States from Iraq. In other words, Chafets' account makes it sound like Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment occurred at the beginning of a discussion of MacBeth, when in fact the MacBeth discussion occurred much later.

Additionally, Chafets' selective editing of Limbaugh's remarks is nearly identical to Limbaugh's own efforts to doctor transcript and audio to cover up what he had really said. As Media Matters exposed at the time, Limbaugh responded to the controversy by purporting to air the "entire" segment in which he had referred to "phony soldiers." In fact, the clip he then aired omitted 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.

In a footnote, Chafets compounds his false claims, writing:

Media Matters tried to correct its initial mistake by saying that Limbaugh had referred to phony soldiers (plural). Limbaugh responded by posting an ABC News Report titled "Phony Heroes"; the story of Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp, whose grisly first-person accounts of the war in Iraq were challenged, causing the New Republic to admit that it couldn't stand by the articles it had published; and the fact that one of the spokesmen for Vietnam Veterans Against the War had later admitted lying about his service record.

It is simply not true that Limbaugh was referring to multiple actual military impostors when he made his original comments. Indeed, Limbaugh admitted as much in his initial response to the controversy when he repeatedly claimed -- also falsely -- that he was talking about only "one" soldier. A transcript posted on Limbaugh's website shows him emphasizing that he "was talking about one soldier with that phony soldier comment, Jesse MacBeth" [italics, bold, and underline in original].

After being confronted with the fact that he had originally referred to "phony soldiers" (plural), Limbaugh changed his story to claim he was actually talking about more than one military impostor -- a direct contradiction of his original false explanation.

And while Limbaugh did at one point in his response include Beauchamp in his evolving list of "phony soldiers," he also included decorated Vietnam veteran John Murtha. Limbaugh's description of Murtha as a "phony soldier" further disproves Chafets' suggestion that Limbaugh was simply referring to individuals who lied about their military service.

Chafets implausibly claims that Obama sent "a sign to his African American base" at WHCA dinner

In a section addressing the 2009 White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) dinner, at which comedienne Wanda Sykes was the featured entertainer, Chafets claims that Obama, in sitting at the dais while Sykes was performing, was sending "a sign to his African American base ... that the president was not dropping hot sauce for mayonnaise." From Page 165:

This time the comedian-in-residence was Wanda Sykes. It was an interesting choice. Sykes is a black, openly-lesbian comedienne who works in the misanthropic style of the great Jackie "Moms" Mabley. Obama's presence on the dais with her was a sign to his African American base -- much louder and bolder than "we straight" -- that the president was not dropping hot sauce for mayonnaise.

Yet Obama was on the dais because that's where the president sits at the WHCA dinner, not because he was sending "a sign." Additionally, it was the WHCA -- not the White House -- that asked Sykes to perform. A February 12, 2009, Associated Press article reported that AP reporter and WHCA president Jennifer Loven "chose Sykes because of her fresh style and engaging stage presence."

Chafets gushes over Limbaugh

Chafets showers praise on Limbaugh throughout the book. The following are a few examples:

"Limbaughesque." From Page 87:

The spectacular Republican gains of 1994 had an obvious influence on the Clinton agenda. The Democrats no longer controlled Congress, and both the president and the Congress had to consider the election of 1996 in light of what had happened. Clinton's liberal agenda slid toward the center. Even before the 1994 election, he signed the Limbaughesque Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which built prisons, expanded the death penalty to dozens of federal offenses, and provided funding for one hundred thousand local cops.

Muhammad Rush. From Page 8:

[Muhammad] Ali was also controversial and dead serious about his political beliefs. He became a Black Muslim when it was dangerously unpopular to do so, and he paid for it. He was willing to face prison time rather than serve in a war he didn't support. And yet, despite it all, white reporters couldn't quite take him seriously. When he said alarmingly incorrect things, like calling Joe Louis an Uncle Tom, dubbing his fight with George Foreman in Zaire "the rumble in the jungle," or mocking Joe Frazier as a gorilla, they thought it might be just part of the act. He couldn't really mean those things, could he?

Limbaugh is the Ali of the air, the all-knowing, all-seeing Maha Rishi who defeats his enemies in intellectual combat with half his brain tied behind his back, "just to make it fair." He also happens to be the most important and influential conservative in the country, the one indispensable Republican voice. This can be confusing, which is the way Limbaugh wants it.

Logic vs. good lines. From Pages 114-115:

Limbaugh's idea of a sufficiently relaxed president is Dwight Eisenhower. "Ike was great. When he found out he couldn't shoot Congress like he had Germans, he went to Augusta and played golf." Of course, Eisenhower had been exactly the kind of moderate, compromising Republican that Rush despised, but I didn't mention that. Sometimes you don't want to let logic stand in the way of a good line.

Professional man of substance. From Page 121:

I actually hadn't been wondering why he had so many cars. Rich people tend not to stint on transportation. What I did wonder is why all of them were black. He told me that he likes black cars, which made a kind of sense. Limbaugh is old-fashioned, even elegant, in his personal furnishing. Flashy cars are for hip-hop artists and arrivistes; professional men of substance ride in dignified black automobiles.

Biting and sophisticated political satirist. From Page 204:

Limbaugh is a biting and sophisticated political satirist whose own taste in humor runs to mother-in-law jokes told by Borsht Belt tummlers like Myron Cohen to Professor Corey.

Person
Rush Limbaugh, Zev Chafets
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