Detroit — One of the leading torch-bearers in the media-lynch-mob effort to deny Rush Limbaugh ownership in the St. Louis Rams was nationally known Detroit Free Press sports columnist Drew Sharp.
In an October 12 USA Today column that was reprinted by the Free Press (both papers are Gannett-owned), Sharp libeled Limbaugh as once having “said on his nationally syndicated radio show that slavery ‘had its merits.’” Sharp repeated the claim (along with another whopper: the allegation that Limbaugh advised the NAACP to rob liquor stores) in an on-air interview with Bill O’Reilly, refusing to back down even after O’Reilly told him that Fox News researchers had found no history of such quotes (the London Daily Telegraph’s Washington bureau has confirmed Fox’s research, finding the quotes to be bogus).
“Well, we’ve gotten no denials from Limbaugh’s people,” replied Sharp. That’s the journalism standard? You can make up anything about anyone as long as he or she doesn’t contact you and deny it? Keep in mind that this is coming from the same mainstream media that bemoan the decline in newspaper readership because it cedes the field to bloggers who play fast and loose with the truth.
Hoping to sweep this ethical breech under the rug, the Free Press and USA Today both belatedly added a disclaimer to Sharp’s column saying that because they “could not verify the accuracy of the quote, it was removed from this version of the column.” But that is hardly an apology.
Sharp continues writing for the Free Press; in Wednesday’s column, he moved on to the topic of Michigan college hoops. This says a lot about the lack of opinion diversity in America’s newsrooms. Pull a fast one about Obama’s birth certificate, and MSM fact-checkers (rightly) hunt down the truth. Make a wild claim about a right-winger, and it’s assumed to be true. Hey, they’re all racists, right?
– Henry Payne is an editorial writer and cartoonist with the Detroit News.