Media Beat
By Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon
Published by Seattle Times, Oct. 8, 1994

A Dud For The Dittoheads: Rush's Fact-Short Rebuttal

For someone claiming to be "the truth detector" who is "serving humanity" with "talent on loan from God," Rush Limbaugh has served up a major disappointment.

Over the last three months, his millions of devoted followers - the "dittoheads" - have been stranded in talk-show limbo. They've been waiting for the cult leader of the airwaves to release his long-promised "point-by-point rebuttal" to a June report documenting "Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error." That report was issued by FAIR, the media watch group with which we're associated.

On Oct. 11, Limbaugh's "rebuttal" finally arrived - not with a bang but a dud.

Limbaugh's 37-page manuscript was so empty of documentation that it provoked a skeptical news article in The Washington Times - one of the most stridently conservative dailies in the country. A livid Limbaugh assailed the Times reporter on his radio show, calling the article "laughable."

Unfortunately, dear dittoheads, you can't blame The Washington Times. After laboring mightily for months, your holy man has brought forth a mouse of a document - neither a "rebuttal" nor "point by point." It only offers a defense of about half of the original 43 false or foolish claims, and the responses amount to obvious evasions and endless "what I was really saying" digressions.

Limbaugh admits to just a few of his scores of errors. (For instance, he concedes misattributing a religious quote to James Madison.) But his main approach is: Since I don't have the facts on my side, I'll hide behind a blizzard of words.

For example:

— Implying a media cover-up of Whitewater, Limbaugh said last February: "I don't think The New York Times has run a story on (Whitewater) yet. . . . There has not been a big one, front-page story about this one that we can recall." The self-styled Whitewater expert couldn't recall that The New York Times broke the story in March 1992 on its front page.

His "rebuttal" complains: "The fact that I overlooked one Times article that ran eleven months earlier is hardly indicative of a `reign of error.' " So now, still more errors rain. He'd overlooked not one but a half-dozen front-page Times stories on Whitewater; the first had run 23 months earlier, not eleven.

— Limbaugh had proclaimed that "banks take risks in issuing student loans and they are entitled to the profits." In fact, since the federal government guarantees all defaulted student loans, they are risk-free.

In a half-hearted defense of his foolish comment, Limbaugh quotes a banking official who says the "risk" is that the government won't reimburse banks if they don't follow proper procedures.

— Limbaugh had declared on radio that "the videotape of the Rodney King beating played absolutely no role in the conviction of two of the four officers." Yet the jury foreman in the case had already stated that the video was "crucial" in the convictions.

Limbaugh's assertion that the video played no role in the verdict, he now says, was "in the realm of opinion." Nothing in his meandering couple of pages refutes the jury foreman.

— Limbaugh had falsely commented that "we have more acreage of forest land in the United States today than we did at the time the Constitution was written."

The best Limbaugh can do in defending his error is to offer a quote favorably comparing U.S. forest land today with that in 1920. An alert reader will remember that the Constitution was written in 1787, not 1920.

— Limbaugh had asserted that "there was not one indictment" in Lawrence Walsh's Iran-contra probe. In fact, 14 men were indicted - including Oliver North, a substitute host on Limbaugh's radio show.

In his "rebuttal," Limbaugh writes: "I obviously misspoke when I said there were no indictments - I clearly meant to say there were no convictions, a point I have made on many occasions." Then he writes of "no convictions on the substantive points." Huh? Most of the 14 indictments resulted in convictions or guilty pleas, many of them felonies.

Rush Limbaugh would be comical if not for his dead serious devotees, many of whom are willing to believe his absurd statements - even the ones that are self-contradictory.

When Limbaugh dissects the double-talk of Bill Clinton, he exhorts his followers: "Words mean things."

It's one of Limbaugh's "35 Undeniable Truths of Life."

But when it comes to his own claims, Limbaugh sounds more like Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass": "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

Speaking of Humpty Dumpty, didn't he have a great fall?

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My Misadventures in Corporate Media

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Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News
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