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Mean Word Things: Rush isn't the drive-bys' only target

by: daniel clark | published: 11 15, 2009

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Nobody would expect the liberal media to be remorseful about slandering Rush Limbaugh with racist quotes that were not only fabricated, but utterly implausible. You might think they'd offer an apology to their readers and viewers, however, out of concern for their own journalistic integrity.

That is, unless you've noticed the way they've lied about Limbaugh with impunity for the past 20 years. While listening to their snide "we know he really thinks it" semi-retractions, you may have recalled similar media behavior from the past. A favorite example of mine was a March 12, 2008 column by Mike Seate of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in which he complained that a local hardware store had subjected him to Limbaugh's "'angry white man' schtick."

Seate wrote that Limbaugh is "an inveterate race-baiter who … managed to disparage presidential candidate Barack Obama in a mock Stepin Fetchit black accent."

"When bored with those familiar tactics," he continued, "Limbaugh simply shouts 'Jesse Jackson' into the mic to anger his reactionary listeners."

Then, Limbaugh actually climbed out of the radio speaker, and danced through the aisles of the hardware store singing "Copacabana." Well, not really, but that wouldn't be much less believable than anything Seate had written.

It's impossible to imagine Rush Limbaugh mimicking Stepin Fetchit, but if he'd ever done so to mock a black politician, it would have been a huge, national news story. If Don Imus, with a comparative smattering of listeners, dominated the news with his comment about the Rutgers women's basketball team, then what Seate claimed to have heard on The Rush Limbaugh Show would have been the biggest story since the fall of the Berlin Wall. There would be 90 year-old Japanese soldiers on remote islands, who still didn't know that the war was over, but knew that Limbaugh was a racist.

Equally ludicrous is the thought of an enraged Limbaugh hollering "JAACK-SUUNNNN!" in a manner reminiscent of Captain Kirk in The Wrath of Khan. Jesse Jackson isn't really mentioned that often on Limbaugh's show, but when he is, it is as the object of ridicule, not frothing tirades.

You could probably find slanders like Seate's in the archives of local papers across the country, despite the fact that they're so easily refuted, given the number of people who actually listen to Limbaugh every day. Even the national print and broadcast media routinely spread the most idiotic lies about what occurs on his show, from accusing him of belching on the air, to maliciously twisting his "phony soldiers" remark to claim that he hates the military.

So why bother rehashing all this, you might ask. Rush Limbaugh is perfectly capable of defending himself. That's true, but the fact that the media get away with lying about him makes it that much easier to do the same thing to people who lack the means to fight back.

Imagine you're a congressman who's practically unknown outside of his own district. One day, you find yourself in the national news, for saying something blatantly racist. You've never said anything like it, but the media are attributing it to you without skepticism. It's not a misquote. It's not something that's been taken out of context. It's something that's entirely made up.

Because you're a public figure, it's almost prohibitively difficult to sue for libel. You don't have a daily radio show with a huge audience to help you set the record straight. All you've got is a puny dot-gov web page. You could issue a press release, but its dissemination would be largely controlled by the same people who are out to destroy you.

At least Limbaugh, whose broadcasts are scrutinized by his enemies, can put the onus on them to produce the sound bites or transcripts. In your case, they could simply stand by the quotes, leaving you with the task of proving their nonexistence. What can you do, take a picture of yourself not praising James Earl Ray?

It's not that the liberal media are all in cahoots. It's just that they instinctively attack anybody who challenges their assumptions, and know from experience that they will not hold each other accountable. That's why Limbaugh has nicknamed them the "drive-by media." They pull up next to their target and open fire, and then speed away, confident that there are no witnesses who are willing to report them. Just because they've never succeeded in rubbing out Rush, that doesn't make them any less of a threat to the average man on the street.

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Original Comment


Warner Todd Huston

Neil Stenberg Chicago Sun-Times10: NEIL STEINBERG
Chicago Sun-Times

Liz Sidoti Associated Press9: LIZ SIDOTI
Associated Press


Howard Fineman Newsweek7: HOWARD FINEMAN


Cynthia Tucker Atlanta Journal-Constitution5: Cynthia Tucker
Atlanta Journal Constitution

Chuck Todd NBC News4: Chuck Todd

Paul Krugman New York Times3: Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Joe Klein Time Magazine2: Joe Klein
Time Magazine

Helen Thomas UPI / Independent1: Helen Thomas
UPI / Independent

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Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While earning an M.A. in English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the mid-90s, he had weekly opinion and sports columns published in the independent student newspaper. In 1999, he created a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, for which he has written on a wide array of topics, but with a particular emphasis on the need to return to a literal interpretation of the Constitution. He is now a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance, a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.



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