MSNBC host David Shuster continued his dogged pursuit of Rush Limbaugh on Monday, hosting a segment with an onscreen graphic that screamed, "Is Rush Toxic for GOP?" After discussing a birthday celebration in honor of Senator Ted Kennedy, Shuster asserted, "About the only thing that might have put a damper on Kennedy's celebration were some jarring comments from conservative heavyweight Rush Limbaugh."
The supposed "jarring comments" by the radio host were made last Friday during a discussion of how the White House has been using Kennedy's ill health as a kind of an inspirational reason to pass national health care. On his show, Limbaugh noted that before "it's all over it [the bill] will be called the Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care Bill." On Monday's "MSNBC News Live," the host brought on Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon and Roll Call editor Erin Billings who both agreed that Limbaugh's comment went over the line. Billings asserted, "I would say that Rush Limbaugh is certainly playing into the divisive figure that the Democrats are accusing him of being." Bacon claimed that "people" were deriding the remarks as "not the right tone."
The MRC's Brent Baker wrote on March 7 that the AP has already jumped on this subject, as well as Shuster's colleague, Chris Matthews.
Shuster, who hosts the cable program "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" for the network, went after Limbaugh repeatedly last week. On March 4, he attacked GOP congressional members, saying Republicans "appear unpatriotic" if they don't disavow Limbaugh.
However, at least on Monday, Shuster did wonder if liberal attacks on Rush feed into "the idea that at least some Democrats are paying more attention to Rush Limbaugh than they are some of the economic problems?"
A transcript of the March 9 segment, which aired at 11:16am, follows:
DAVID SHUSTER: About the only thing that might have put a damper on Kennedy's celebration were some jarring comments from conservative heavyweight Rush Limbaugh. He took a shot at the liberal icon on his radio show Friday while discussing the President's priorities.
MSNBC GRAPHIC: Is Rush Toxic for GOP?
RUSH LIMBAUGH: He has moved on to health care. This is highly visible. It's news leading, gets a great focus. Plus, it has the great liberal lion Teddy Kennedy pushing it. Before it's all over, it will be called the Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care bill.
SHUSTER: Perry Bacon is national political reporter at the Washington Post. Erin Billings is the senior national editor for Roll Call. Perry, did that cross the line what Rush said?
PERRY BACON (Washington Post): Uh, it got a lot of attention this weekend, a lot of controversy in terms of people saying it probably did go over the line. It was not the right tone to use in talking about Senator Kennedy.
SHUSTER: Erin, your view?
ERIN BILLINGS (Roll Call): Yeah. I mean, I tend to agree. I would say that Rush Limbaugh is certainly playing into the divisive figure that the Democrats are accusing him of being. And, you know, as the Republicans are trying to push back and say, you know, they're trying to create this distraction, which is Rush Limbaugh, these kinds of comments certainly aren't helping.
SHUSTER: There's a new ad that the group Americans United for Change is running, focused on Rush Limbaugh. Let's watch and we'll get your reaction.
[Americans United for Change ad plays: Montage of Republicans saying no. ]
SHUSTER: Perry, what do you think of the ad? Is it effective?
BACON: I think it sort of plays two purposes. One purpose is it sort of promotes this idea that Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party, which is something Democrats want to push because Limbaugh is very unpopular among swing voters. It also has a second and pretty interesting implication as well, which is it sort casts Republicans as being the party of no, they're opposed to everything Obama proposes. And it's a pretty effective argument for Democrats to make right now as Republicans are struggling to try and find ways to make sure they have their own proposals, in addition to opposing Obama's proposals. And this is an interesting argument they're making in this ad.
SHUSTER: Erin, is there a danger though for Democrats, when the party itself runs another ad or cuts another ad or these groups do, it does sort of feed into the idea that at least some Democrats are paying more attention to Rush Limbaugh than they are some of the economic problems?
BILLINGS: Well, I mean, that's the argument that the Republicans are making right now. And, you know, clearly, Democrats are trying to push a broad, very ambitious agenda. There's a lot of problems, both domestically and the foreign level. And, so, you know, yeah, it certainly does play into the argument. And I think it kind of plays into the notion that we're in campaign mode. And, frankly, I think a lot of folks are tired of that. And they're ready for governing. So, it certainly could backfire.