Politics & Policy

Phony Controversy

Defending Rush.

In the latest effort to target Rush Limbaugh, the left-leaning group Media Matters has manufactured yet one more false — and by now yet one more tiresome — controversy. This one has to do with Limbaugh’s use of the phrase “phony soldiers.” According to the Media Matters narrative, on his September 26 program Limbaugh accused troops who want to withdraw from Iraq of being “phony soldiers.” Once Media Matters published this charge, key Democrats dutiful echoed it. In a public statement, Senator John Kerry said this: “This disgusting attack from Rush Limbaugh, cheerleader for the Chicken Hawk wing of the far right, is an insult to American troops. In a single moment on his show, Limbaugh managed to question the patriotism of men and women in uniform who have put their lives on the line and many who died for his right to sit safely in his air conditioned studio peddling hate. On August 19th, The New York Times published an op-ed by seven members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division critical of George Bush’s Iraq policy. Two of those soldiers were killed earlier this month in Baghdad. Does Mr. Limbaugh dare assert that these heroes were ‘phony soldiers’? Mr. Limbaugh owes an apology to everyone who has ever worn the uniform of our country, and an apology to the families of every soldier buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He is an embarrassment to his Party, and I expect the Republicans who flock to his microphone will now condemn this indefensible statement.”

More is sure to follow.

What’s missing from the Media Matters account is one important thing: context — and without context, you get a completely false account of what happened. But perhaps that’s the intent.

If you go to this link, you can read the entire exchange. What you’ll find is that when the caller to The Rush Limbaugh Program, Mike in Chicago, mentions that the media “never talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come out of the blue,” Limbaugh interjects: “The phony soldiers.” The discussion continues, with the caller mentioning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In response, Limbaugh says the WMD issue is moot at this stage and returns to other matter. This is what Limbaugh says:

I want to thank you, Mike, for calling. I appreciate it very much. I gotta — Here is a morning update that we did recently, talking about fake soldiers. This is a story of who the left props up as heroes. And they have their celebrities. One of them was Army Ranger Jesse Macbeth. Now — and he was a corporal. I say in quotes. Twenty-three years old. What made Jesse Macbeth a hero to the anti-war crowd wasn’t his Purple Heart, it wasn’t his being affiliated with posttraumatic stress disorder from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. No. What made Jesse Macbeth, Army Ranger, a hero to the left was his courage, in their view, off the battlefield, without regard to consequences, he told the world the abuses he had witnessed in Iraq. American soldiers killing unarmed civilians, hundreds of men, women, even children. In one gruesome account, translated into Arabic and spread widely across the Internet, Army Ranger Jesse Macbeth describes the horrors this way. We would burn their bodies. We would hang their bodies from the rafters in the mosque. Now, recently, Jesse Macbeth, poster boy for the anti-war left, had his day in court. And you know what? He was sentenced to five months in jail and three years probation for falsifying a Department of Veterans Affairs claim and his Army discharge record. He was in the Army, Jesse Macbeth was in the Army, folks, briefly. Forty-four days before he washed out of boot camp, Jesse Macbeth isn’t an Army Ranger, never was. He isn’t a corporal, never was. He never won the Purple Heart. And he was never in combat to witness the horrors he claimed to have seen. Probably haven’t even heard about this. And if you have, you haven’t heard much about it. This doesn’t fit the narrative and the template in the Drive-By Media and the Democrat Party as to who a genuine war hero; don’t look for any retractions, by the way. Not from the anti-war left, the anti-military Drive-By Media, or the Arabic websites that spread Jesse Macbeth’s lies about our troops, because the truth for the left is, fiction is what serves their purpose. They have to lie about such atrocities because they can’t find any that fit the template of the way they see the US military. In other words, for the American anti-war left, the greatest inconvenience they face is the truth.

You’ll be shocked to learn that Media Matters does not include this portion of the transcript in their posting — and Senator Kerry and the others failed to mention it as well. I wonder why?

Perhaps — and this is only a wild guess — it’s because it would demonstrate that when Rush Limbaugh mentioned “phony soldiers,” he meant, literally, phony soldiers.

It happens that last Sunday Fox News linked to an AP story about Jesse Adam Macbeth. The Fox headline was titled, “Phony Soldier Charged With Making Up Claims of Atrocities in Iraq.” The AP story begins this way: “A man who tried to position himself as a leader of the anti-war movement by claiming to have participated in war crimes while serving in Iraq is facing federal charges of falsifying his record.”


What’s obviously going on here is that antiwar advocates were deeply damaged by the MoveOn.org ad smearing General David Petraeus. They were desperate to try to climb their way out of the hole they were in — and so they decided this was their opportunity to find a way out. MoveOn.org attacks Petraeus, they say, but Rush Limbaugh attacks members of the military who want to withdraw as “phony soldiers.” So if Republicans are going to criticize us for what we said about General Petraeus, they should criticize Limbaugh for his slander.

The problem, of course, is that that the charge leveled against Limbaugh is obviously false; his phrase “phony soldiers” applied to Jesse Adam Macbeth — and the phrase itself was clearly based on the news headline.

This effort to manufacture outrage does not sustain even minimal scrutiny — which doesn’t mean this story won’t be picked up by some news outlets. But in the end, the truth will out. The Left in America clearly wants to take Limbaugh out, and for obvious reasons: he is a deeply influential conservative voice and during the last 20 years he has changed American politics and the American media in profound ways. The Left hates him — but they have found no way to stop him. Like the Mississippi, he just keeps rolling along. And one gets the feeling that (as Churchill said in another context) he will continue to roll on full flood, to broad lands and bright days.

— Peter Wehner, former deputy assistant to the president, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.


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