NBC News: 'Ugly Emotions' on Illegal Immigration Being 'Fanned' by Rush Limbaugh

On Sunday's NBC Nightly News, reporter John Yang distorted Pat Buchanan's point about the level of crime committed by illegal immigrants as he impugned Rush Limbaugh for helping to “fan” such “ugly emotions.” Previewing the expected Senate vote Tuesday on whether to revive the immigration bill, Yang asserted that “the outcome is uncertain, largely because of the heated debate over how to treat people illegally in the country.” Yang charged: “On NBC's Meet the Press today, that debate turned ugly.” Viewers then saw a soundbite from Buchanan: “Many of them are child molesters or drunk drivers, they're rapists, they're robbers, they've got a variety of crimes but they commit a felony by being here.” After a clip of Democratic Congressman Luis Guttierrez, on the same show, condemning Buchanan for casting “aspersions” and reasonably insisting that “the vast, overwhelming majority of immigrants that come here to this country come here to work hard, sweat, toil, and make our country a better place,” Yang, presumably referring back to Buchanan, alleged: “Those emotions are being fanned by conservative radio talk show hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh.” Yang played an audio clip of Limbaugh: “They want low-skilled, uneducated, cheap labor in the country -- because that's their next class of victims.” Yang proceeded to segue to a clip, of Newt Gingrich, by adding: “And TV ads.”

Two major problems with Yang's presentation in which he tried to characterize conservative analysis as illegitimate: First, the soundbite selected of Buchanan suggested he was making a generalization about how most illegal aliens are criminals, but his previous sentence (transcript) made clear he was referring only to a sub-set who have committed crimes: “You go after, in deportation, the 600,000 who’ve been ordered deported who are now criminal felons who have stayed in this country. Many of them are child molesters, they’re drunk drivers...” Buchanan also cited “the gang members who don’t belong in the country,” a well-known problem to anyone in a major urban area. Second, the soundbite featured from Limbaugh hardly supported the contention Limbaugh and other conservative talk hosts have “fanned” irrational fear of illegal aliens. In the bite Limbaugh was clearly making a claim about the motivation of liberals.

And I could add as a third distortion, the soundbite of Gingrich in a television ad -- “This bill does not even allow convicted criminals to be deported” -- hardly is an “ugly” criticism of the bill.

The soundbite from Limbaugh is at least nine days old since he was on a golf vacation last week. In fact, I searched his site and found matching words on his June 11 program:
The real reason the Democrats want this -- I keep saying this, and I know this sounds harsh to some people, but -- is liberal Democrats don't like many of the traditions and institutions, the guardrails, the fences, that have made this country great. They want to tear down and rebuild the country in their image, and here you go. One of the things they believe in is a huge government and they want people dependent. They want low-skilled, uneducated, cheap labor in the country, because that's their next class of victims. As affluence in this country continues to increase -- and it is. I think one of the best kept secrets in the country right now is the strength of the economy and the overall affluence and prosperity and the opportunity to achieve it. It's never been better than it is today in this country. So more and more people are opting out of the total dependence cycle. I mean, it's impossible almost not to with Social Security. Fifty-one or 52 of the American people get a government check for something, but they're always out pushing. The food stamp program, they're advertising for more people to participate in that. Here you import these people that remain constantly dependent. They will need access to the safety hammock -- not the welfare net, but the hammock -- and that's made to order for raising taxes and redistributing wealth. You're right. Everything that liberalism is, is contained in this legislation. It's sort of like a big, concentrated dose. That's what's so frustrating about it, to see the Republicans just dive headlong into this as though they haven't the slightest clue what will happen to them and their party and the country, which is what we're concerned about.
This is the second time in just over a month that NBC News has maligned Limbaugh. The Tuesday, May 22 MRC CyberAlert, “NBC Impugns Limbaugh Over 'Barack the Magic Negro' Parody Song,” recounted:
On Monday, NBC's Today allowed itself to be used as a publicity machine for a left-wing attempt to whip up an Imus-style campaign against conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh for daring to air the parody song "Barack the Magic Negro" -- a parody inspired by a black writer who used that term in March in a Los Angeles Times op-d about Obama -- in which an Al Sharpton impersonator sings about how Barack Obama isn't an authentic black.

The song has been around for two months, but NBC acted like they just found out about it. Co-host Matt Lauer charged: "Rush Limbaugh airing a racially-charged parody about presidential candidate Barack Obama. Is the radio talk show host getting a free pass? We'll have more on that in our next half-hour." The on-screen graphic also asked: "Obama Parody, Is Limbaugh Getting A Free Pass?"

The story by NBC reporter Michael Okwu presumed Limbaugh guilty of some great offense, and suggested his conservative audience is also culpable: "Media watch dogs say there's no hue and cry to stop Limbaugh because he speaks to a niche audience who either expects this or is willing to let him slide." Okwu included two sound bites from Paul Waldman of the hard-left Media Matters, who ludicrously claimed: "This is basically the radio equivalent of a black-faced, minstrel show." NBC helpfully put some old minstrel video on screen to illustrate the point.

"Legitimate satire, or something darker?" Okwu ominously wondered.
A transcript of the Sunday, June 24 NBC Nightly News story:
ANCHOR LESTER HOLT: That sweeping immigration overhaul plan that only a few weeks ago seemed doomed, may get a second chance this week as the Senate decides whether to bring it to a vote. The plan includes stronger border security as well as a guest worker program. NBC's John Yang is at the White House, which has a lot riding on all this. John, good evening.

JOHN YANG, from the White House: Good evening, Lester. President Bush is hoping the Senate will snatch this immigration bill from the jaws of defeat and give new life to his top domestic priority. In Los Angeles today, a rally in support of President Bush's sweeping overhaul of immigration laws which faces a make-or-break week on Capitol Hill.

SENATOR TRENT LOTT: If we don't get it done in the Senate now, it will not be done in the Senate this year or next year and not before sometime in 2009.

YANG: That would suit the bill's opponents just fine.

SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS, outside ABC News in DC: We've got to go back to the drawing board and work out something that will be effective.

YANG: On Tuesday, Senators are to decide whether to revive the measure, which they stalled earlier this month. The outcome is uncertain, largely because of the heated debate over how to treat people illegally in the country. On NBC's Meet the Press today, that debate turned ugly.

PAT BUCHANAN, on Meet the Press: Many of them are child molesters or drunk drivers, they're rapists, they're robbers, they've got a variety of crimes but they commit a felony by being here.

CONGRESSMAN LUIS GUTIERREZ (D-ILL), on Meet the Press: The vast, overwhelming majority of immigrants that come here to this country come here to work hard, sweat, toil, and make our country a better place and to cast aspersions on them and to generalize -- if I could just finish, Pat, if I could just finish-

YANG: Those emotions are being fanned by conservative radio talk show hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh.

UNDATED AUDIO OF LIMBAUGH: They want low-skilled, uneducated, cheap labor in the country -- because that's their next class of victims.

YANG: And TV ads.

NEWT GINGRICH, IN TV AD: This bill does not even allow convicted criminals to be deported.

YANG: Some of them targeting specific lawmakers.

WOMAN IN TV AD: Where's the fence?

YANG: The issue cuts across party lines, putting Mr. Bush on the same side as liberal Democrats and against conservative Republicans, including Senator Jeff Sessions, for whom he helped raise nearly $1 million in campaign money just this past week. President Bush has been personally involved in lobbying for this bill and on Tuesday, the day of the Senate vote, he'll have an immigration event here at the White House.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center