Tamron Hall Justifies MSNBC Obsession With Rush Limbaugh

Tamron Hall, MSNBC MSNBC’s Tamron Hall attempted to justify multiple stories on Rush Limbaugh supposedly comparing Barack Obama to Al Qaeda: "We have a right to cover people who are speaking out...Many people listen to this man, and we have a responsibility to report all sides and you can't try to duck and hide, throw the rock and then hide in the bush."

Hall was responding to criticism by Republican strategist Alex Conant, who, in the 4PM hour on Thursday, pointed out MSNBC’s excessive coverage of Rush: "Well, let me just make an observation. Two weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh challenged this network, MSNBC, to go a whole month without repeating his name, and this is like the fifth segment you guys have had this afternoon talking about Rush-" Hall immediately interrupted: "Oh, you know – okay, that's ridiculous, absolutely. You know, I don't know if you've ever, ever watched Keith Olbermann, who just obliterated Rush Limbaugh on this topic."

The segment with Conant, opposite liberal talk radio host Bill Press, was the third story MSNBC had done on Rush’s comments on Thursday. Hall herself had covered the story only an hour earlier, with liberal blogger Peter Slutsky and conservative Brian Faughnan from Redstate.com. During that segment in the 3PM hour, Hall asked Slutsky: "...do the Republican leadership, conservatives out there, need to speak out against this kind of language? I cannot imagine, you know, if there was a liberal blogger who had compared George W. Bush directly to Al Qaeda or some of the other language that’s coming out recently."

Apparently Hall forgot that her colleague Keith Olbermann, whom she touted eariler, had claimed that "Fox News is worse than Al Qaeda" in a 2007 interview with Playboy magazine. More recently, last month Olbermann exclaimed that former Vice President Dick Cheney was "as insane as any terrorist." Neither Hall nor any members of Democratic Party ever apologized for such vitriolic rants.

In the 4PM hour segment, Hall continued to angrily reject Conant’s observation: "Stop. Is it right to compare the President of the United States to Al Qaeda? Do not try to call out this network for doing our job...there are people who would use this, perhaps, against the President and against the United States. To say the President of the United States is damaging us or destroying this country like Al Qaeda wanted to."

Earlier in the segment, Hall played a clip of Limbaugh’s comment, made during an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News that aired Wednesday night: "Can't remember who said this, but, you know, this is something that I thought long and hard about repeating in this interview with you. If Al Qaeda wants to demolish the America we know and love, they better hurry, because Obama’s beating them to it." During the second part of the interview with Hannity that was aired Thursday night, Limbaugh revealed the source of that quote: "This is not the America that you and I grew up in. I said earlier, ‘If Al-Qaeda wants to demolish the America we know and love, they better hurry, because Obama is beating them to it.’ I read that in a British column. I think it was the UK Telegraph. Now, it resonated with me because this guy is changing the America we've come to know."

Conant explained to Hall: "And when elected – when elected Republicans start saying that, then I'm more than happy to come and debate the merits of those points." Hall replied: "So – so you're telling me Rush Limbaugh means nothing to...Rush Limbaugh means nothing to conservatives and Republicans because he's not elected? I just want to hear you say he means nothing." Conant again pointed out: "I just don't understand how his comments are so relevant that MSNBC spends most of an afternoon covering them." An hour later, Chris Matthews covered the Rush comment on Hardball.

Hall’s co-anchor David Schuster chimed in at the end of the segment: "Well, here’s the fact of the matter, Bill – if Bill Press – if Bill Press said some of the outrageous things about say George W. Bush, or any Republican, that Rush Limbaugh has been saying about Barack Obama, Alex, the Republican Party would be all over him, Fox would be talking about Bill Press nonstop, I promise you." Hall added: "Hey, this is where we work. But I mean we can – if we are doing something wrong – that's what I think is just kind of lame, to say ‘oh, don't talk about us, don't talk about me, let me see if MSNBC’s ratings are fine – he’s got a right to say it, but we have a right to discuss ‘Mr. Bouncy, Bounce.’ [referring to Limbaugh’s CPAC appearance].

Here is the full transcript of the exchange between Hall and Conant:

4:39PM SEGMENT:

TAMRON HALL: It has to do with recent comments by Rush Limbaugh. Let me play what he said, it’s got a lot of people pretty upset.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Can't remember who said this, but, you know, this is something that I thought long and hard about repeating in this interview with you. If Al Qaeda wants to demolish the America we know and love, they better hurry, because Obama’s beating them to it.

HALL: Alex, I’ll let you get in on this first.

ALEX CONANT: Well, let me just make an observation. Two weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh challenged this network, MSNBC, to go a whole month without repeating his name, and this is like the fifth segment you guys have had this afternoon talking about Rush-

HALL: Oh, you know – okay, that's ridiculous, absolutely. You know, I don't know if you've ever, ever watched Keith Olbermann, who just obliterated Rush Limbaugh on this topic.

CONANT: Yeah, that’s my point, that’s my point.

HALL: We have a right to cover people who are speaking out. This has nothing to do with this network. You tell me now if it is right-

CONANT: No, no, no-

HALL: Stop. Is it right to compare the President of the United States to Al Qaeda? Do not try to call out this network for doing our job. Many people listen to this man, and we have a responsibility to report all sides and you can't try to duck and hide, throw the rock and then hide in the bush. So give it to us straight. Is he right or not?

CONANT: Let me answer the question. Rush Limbaugh has not been elected to anything. He doesn't have the power to tax people. He doesn't have the power to send people to war. I don't understand how his comments are so relevant-

HALL: You're not going to answer. Bill, what do you think?

BILL PRESS: Some of the Republicans have had the balls to say it, and most of them won't. He's an entertainer, okay. He just says anything he can to get better ratings and to get more publicity. But listen, I got to tell you, I don’t work-

CONANT: That’s the question, why are we debating it?

PRESS: I want to say this, I don’t want to work for – I don't work for MSNBC. I used to at one time, but if Rush – if Rush would just shut up and stop saying these outrageous things, nobody would be reporting it. And it's not just MSNBC. I read it on Huffington Post. I saw it on the Drudge Report.

CONANT: Exactly.

HALL: But doesn't he have a right to say what he wants and then we offer it up as a part of conversation because there are people who would use this, perhaps, against the President and against the United States. To say the President of the United States is damaging us or destroying this country like Al Qaeda wanted to. Alex?

CONANT: And when elected – when elected Republicans start saying that, then I'm more than happy to come and debate the merits of those points.

PRESS: Hey, hey Tamron-

HALL: So – so you're telling me Rush Limbaugh means nothing to-

CONANT: I don’t understand how it is relevant-

HALL: Rush Limbaugh means nothing to conservatives and Republicans because he's not elected? I just want to hear you say he means nothing.

CONANT: I just don't understand how his comments are so relevant that MSNBC spends most of an afternoon covering them.

PRESS: Hey Tamron, you know what this points out? This points out the total void of leadership, the vacuum of leadership in the Republican Party. They don't have anybody who can speak for them. They’ve got a bunch of cowards across the street and so it is Rush Limbaugh.

SCHUSTER: Well, here’s the fact of the matter, Bill – if Bill Press – if Bill Press said some of the outrageous things about say George W. Bush, or any Republican, that Rush Limbaugh has been saying about Barack Obama, Alex, the Republican Party would be all over him, Fox would be talking about Bill Press nonstop, I promise you. [Hall laughs].

PRESS: And so would MSNBC. And so would MSNBC.

CONANT: Not sure it would be any more relevant than Rush Limbaugh's comments.

HALL: Okay.

PRESS: He's irrelevant. Let's all accept it. Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant. Yeah, well then why doesn't the Republican Party get another leader? You don't have anybody.

SCHUSTER: Bill Press, Alex Conant, thank you both very much, great conversation. We appreciate it. Tamron, that was pretty feisty. Good work.

HALL: Hey, this is where we work. But I mean we can – if we are doing something wrong – that's what I think is just kind of lame, to say ‘oh, don't talk about us, don't talk about me, let me see if MSNBC’s ratings are fine – he’s got a right to say it, but we have a right to discuss ‘Mr. Bouncy, Bounce.’

SCHUSTER: Yeah, especially when he's got whatever 20 million – 20 millions listeners a day, or whatever he claims. It's hard to ignore somebody’s who’s got that kind of audience.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC