Media Matters Won't Apologize for Spreading Fake Limbaugh Slavery Quote

Media Matters for America was founded to fight conservative "misinformation." But they don't fight liberal misinformation. They spread it. The Radio Equalizer blog is reporting that now that Rush Limbaugh's NFL-ownership bid is ruined, Media Matters is telling liberal radio hosts that maybe they could stop spreading absurd fake quotes about Limbaugh suggesting slavery had merits or Martin Luther King’s assassin deserved a medal. On the Stephanie Miller show on Wednesday, Karl Frisch of Media Matters suggested that the quotes were fictions, but that they fit Limbaugh’s other racist quotes:

You know, in fairness to Rush, those two out of literally dozens of racist things were not necessarily accurate. We were never able to find them. We’ve had people call us trying to find it. We don’t know where they came from. They could just be Internet apparitions. But you know, that being said, anyone who wants to know how racist he is, we’re happy to give them other examples.

"In fairness to Rush"? Those are words no one should expect out of Media Matters. In fact, Frisch spread the "slavery had its merits" quote on the Media Matters website.

On the same day that Bryan Burwell’s column came out with the fabrication, Frisch reposted most of it and endorsed it as "one hell of a column."

Only when Burwell noted that his editors questioned the quote did Frisch update that post. He didn’t retract the quote or apologize to Rush. He just ran a snippet of Burwell complaining that the fake quote was just one "deck chair off the Titanic." In a second update, Frisch posted the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s weasel words: "The Post-Dispatch continues to research the origin of the quote."

Frisch didn’t retract it then, either. He merely added: "For more on Limbaugh's history of racially charged comments, read this." He sent them to the Media Matters page of Limbaugh's "racially charged" remarks -- which avoided the fake quotes

When Fox News asked Media Matters last week about the fake quotes, they ran this response from Media Matters publicist Doug Stauffer: "We are unsure where that quote came from, as well. We have never posted them." That statement was...misinformation.

The unintentionally hilarious line from Stephanie Miller in response to Frisch: "In fact we always send people to you guys because you guys are obviously the most reputable around, in terms of you always make sure everything’s sourced." That's obviously....misinformation.

Media Matters ran a series of columns and commentaries mocking Limbaugh's failed NFL bid. In a blog post headlined "The pity party continues!" Eric Boehlert even offered this so-what response to Limbaugh being wronged with fake quotes:

I never said I supported slavery and I never praised James Earl Ray. How sick would that be?

How sick would that be? It would be about as sick as making this comment, which Limbaugh quite clearly did:

"We are being told that we have to hope [Obama] succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles ... because his father was black."

Most people would agree that "slavery had its merits" and "hurray, Martin Luther King's assassin" are not in the same universe of racial remarks as "bend over because Obama's father was black." You can be turned off by the last one, but it doesn't suggest blacks deserved slavery or assassination.

In a blog headlined "Irony Is Dead," Boehlert also mocked the idea that Limbaugh would hire lawyers to defend himself from defamation by fake quotes. He still can't acknowledge there were any fakes:

Actually, the fact-free talker is threatening to sue journalists who report what Limbaugh claims are falsehoods regarding him. Hmm, suddenly, Limbaugh doesn't like being on the other end of misinformation? Suddenly he's demanding folks back up and source all their information, in a way that he almost never does?

The major mouths at Media Matters are very publicly refusing to acknowledge that quotes from major-media figures need a footnote, an airdate, or an audio clip before you damage someone's career by suggesting they're a racist. If they don't have the facts, authentic foes of "misinformation" retract and apologize.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis