Show After Show, MSNBC Smears Limbaugh with 'Phony Soldiers' Distortion

All day Friday, even after Rush Limbaugh corrected the misinformation, MSNBC promoted a story fed to them by the far-left Media Matters about how Rush Limbaugh had called military personnel who served in Iraq and oppose the war “phony soldiers.” Limbaugh opened his noon EDT radio show on Friday by explaining how he was referring not to any real soldier but a phony one, notably Jesse MacBeth, who became a hero to the left when he recounted how his Army unit murdered innocent Iraqis. In fact, he hadn't even completed basic training.

Nonetheless, MSNBC headlined a 4pm EDT segment “'PHONY SOLDIERS' INSULT; Rush Limbaugh: U.S. Troops Who Oppose Iraq War are 'Phony.'” Anchor Tamron Hall asserted: “Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh never served in the armed forces, so when he made the following comments about Iraq War veterans who return home to oppose the war, it set off a firestorm of outrage.” Hall ran a clip of Limbaugh saying it is Democrats who need to apologize for insulting the troops, but failed to relay Limbaugh's explanation of who he said was “phony.” Pairing it with MoveOn's “General Betray Us” ad, retired Colonel Jack Jacobs called it “stupid talk” and suggested those in the military “would like people who don't know what they're talking about to just shut up.”

At the top of the next hour, Chris Matthews teased Hardball: “Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh says veterans who support withdrawing the troops are 'phony soldiers.' Those are his words.” A guest charged Limbaugh “didn't go to Vietnam because he had a bump on his butt. So, I mean, this guy's a draft-dodger.” Then at 8pm EDT, with “Limbaugh Bashes Vets for Withdrawal” on screen, and briefly “...Phony Soldiers...” over video of Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann teased Countdown: “Comedian Rush Limbaugh tries to back out of his quote: Servicemen protesting the war are quote, 'phony soldiers.'”

On his September 27 radio program, a caller asserted that the media “never talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media.” Limbaugh interjected: “The phony soldiers.” After the call, Limbaugh proceeded to recount:
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. They have their celebrities and one of them was Army Ranger Jesse MacBeth. Now, 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 post-traumatic 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. You 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 is a genuine war hero...
At worst, who Limbaugh meant by “phony soldiers” was unclear and so any story should, at the very least, include Limbaugh's explanation and not just presume the hostile spin from a far-left group is a newsworthy take that cannot be contradicted in multi-minute segments with plenty of time to better inform viewers. But that's what MSNBC did Friday.

The above Limbaugh transcript is from an excellent rundown of the situation, “NEXT STOP: RUSHVILLE; Mainstream Media's Smear Train Chugs Along,” by Brian Maloney on his RadioEqualizer blog. (Earlier NewsBusters posting by Ken Shepherd summarizing it.) Maloney began:
Not content to wait until Bill O'Reilly's hoped- for demise, the George Soros- funded Media Matters/mainstream media smear machine has added a second target: Rush Limbaugh.

And this time, the distortion of words may actually be more severe than in O'Reilly's case.

Now, Media Matters has twisted and edited Rush's words in a way that makes it appear he's insulting the troops. They've taken the false idea that he called anti- war soldiers "phony troops" and spread it across the Internet. Even the White House fell for it. But Limbaugh said nothing of the sort.
Under “The Anatomy of a Smear: 'Phony Soldiers' Is a Phony Story,” Limbaugh's Web site features a transcript, and YouTube video, of his Friday show opening with a detailed explanation of what he said Thursday and how liberals have deliberately distorted it.

Michelle Malkin's site has more on Jesse MacBeth. ABC's World News, in a September 24 story on what anchor Charles Gibson described using the same “phoney” term as Limbaugh, looked at “phoney heroes” -- those passing themselves off as Iraq war veterans. Reporter Brian Ross noted:
The authorities say the most disturbing case involves this man: 23-year-old Jesse MacBeth. In a YouTube video seen around the world, MacBeth became a rallying point for anti-war groups as he talked of the purple heart he received in Iraq and described how he and other U.S. Army Rangers killed innocent civilians at a Baghdad mosque. It was a complete fabrication.
Now, highlights from MSNBC's Friday afternoon and evening (September 28) doing the bidding of the far-left effort by Media Matters to impugn and discredit the leading voice of conservatives:

MSNBC Live at about 4:12pm EDT (transcript provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth who corrected the closed-captioning against the video):
TAMRON HALL: Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh never served in the armed forces, so when he made the following comments about Iraq War veterans who return home to oppose the war, it set off a firestorm of outrage. Take a listen.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: It's not possible intellectually to follow these people.
CALLER: No, it's not, and what's really funny is they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.
HALL: MSNBC wanted to hear Mr. Limbaugh's side of the story, but he declined our invitation. Instead, he offered this on the show today. Here's a quote: "If anybody owes anybody an apology, the entire Democrat party, from Hillary Clinton on down, owes the U.S. military an apology. They owe me an apology, and they owe the American people an apology -- and are they owed massive defeat in 2008! They are irresponsible, they are dishonest, they are incompetent, and they pose a great threat to this country -- as evidenced by this small little episode."

HALL: To talk more about that episode, U.S. Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, who's an MSNBC military analyst, is here with us to talk about this. So, Colonel Jacobs, it's interesting, of course, MoveOn.Org, heavy criticism, even taken up issue on the Congress floor about their "General Betray Us" ad. Is it different when you criticize a general as MoveOn.Org did as when you compare to Rush Limbaugh's comments about soldiers?

Retired Colonel JACK JACOBS, MSNBC military analyst: Well, stupid talk is stupid talk no matter who it comes from and who it's talking about. You know, when I was in Vietnam, we looked back at the states and saw all the turmoil in the streets, the yelling and screaming in Congress, complaints and moaning and groaning on television, and we didn't pay any attention to any of that stuff. We had lots more important things to do like taking care of each other and completing the mission. Whether you're for the war or against the war, it's really quite irrelevant.

HALL: So it does not affect the morale of troops because you often hear people say, oh, they can hear what's going on here, and it affects the way they feel out there.

JACOBS: Well, they do hear what's going on, you know. With technology being the way it is, with all the information that's going out to the battlefield and coming back from the battlefield, there's a huge, so they can hear, everybody out there can hear everything that goes on back in the United States, including stuff like this and MoveOn.Org and so on. But they're not paying any attention to it.

HALL: How are troops who come out and, lately have come out against the war, how are they treated and perceived by other personnel in the military?

JACOBS: Well, it's interesting. You know, it's a free country. You can say anything you want to anytime you want to. And that includes soldiers, as well, but it's an interesting thing about war. Emotions that are forged in the crucible of combat are extremely tough indeed. And most of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, they like to think about their comrades, about taking care of their comrades, and it's going to be very, very difficult to get them to say anything bad about their comrades and what they do. They can oppose the war and think that we've done a bad job, we didn't use enough resources, we should have gone in with more troops, should never have gone in in the first place. They can think and say all those things, but at the end of the day, they're going to keep faith with the troops who are back there fighting.

HALL: But without some of their insight, we would not be able to know the other side. Of course, my father was in the Army for 35 years. He follows the line, I know. He's master sergeant. But without insight from the troops, you have all of these people on the outside who have never served chiming in giving their opinion.

JACOBS: Well, you raise a very significant question. It's really a good thing that we, we ought to pay as much attention as we possibly can to people who have the experience, including the generals who have come out and said, look, we did this all wrong, and we the generals should have paid more attention to it and said more at the time, and pay no attention to people, for example, like Rush Limbaugh and the people at MoveOn.Org who have no military experience at all.

HALL: So from the people who have the military experience, are you thinking that they want MoveOn.Org, Rush Limbaugh, both sides just to shut up at some point?

JACOBS: Yeah, I think if you were to distill it down to its irreducible minimum, I think soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines would like people who don't know what they're talking about to just shut up.

HALL: All right, thank you very much, Colonel Jacobs. Always good to talk to you. Love that frank talk that you give me.

Hardball, live at 5pm EDT and re-run at 7pm EDT:
TEASE FROM CHRIS MATTHEWS: Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh says veterans who support withdrawing the troops are “phony soldiers.” Those are his words...

PLUG FROM MATTHEWS FOR THE UPCOMING SEGMENT: And later, is it unpatriotic for a veteran of the Iraq war to criticize the war? Rush Limbaugh thinks it is.
In the subsequent segment with two guests (Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org and Buzz Patterson of Move America Forward), neither of whom corrected Matthews' characterization of Limbaugh's comment, Matthews displayed on screen, as audio played, the same excerpt the network did an hour earlier:
RUSH LIMBAUGH: It's not possible intellectually to follow these people.

CALLER: No, it's not. And what's really funny is they never talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media.

RUSH: The phony soldiers.
From the discussion which followed:
SOLTZ (TOP GUY IN THE SCREEN SHOT) TRASHED LIMBAUGH: Invite me on the show brother, because I want to have a one-on-one discussion about how our service is phony when this is a guy that, you know, didn't go to Vietnam because he had a bump on his butt. So, I mean, this guy's a draft-dodger...

 

Countdown, live at 8pm EDT, to be re-run at 12am EDT Saturday morning:

With “Limbaugh Bashes Vets for Withdrawal” on Screen, and Briefly “...Phony Soldiers...” over Video of Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann teased:

Comedian Rush Limbaugh tries to back out of his quote: Servicemen protesting the war are quote “phony soldiers.”

RUSH LIMBAUGH: I never said what you think I said

OLBERMANN: Not only did he, now he said something similar about the Congressman and Vietnam vet Jack Murtha.

OLBERMANN SOON CONTENDED: Limbaugh now trying to claim that his tirade referred to just one phony soldier, Jesse MacBeth who falsely claimed to be an Army Ranger and veteran of the Iraq war. That re-write might have a better chance of passing the smell test had Mr. Limbaugh's original 'phony soldiers' comment -- still plural at that point -- not come nearly two minutes before he ever mentioned MacBeth on yesterday's radio show. Limbaugh making things worse for himself today by adding Congressman John Murtha, a decorated Vietnam vet, to his list of 'phony soldiers' -- now back to being plural.
AUDIO OF LIMBAUGH: How about Jack Murtha blanketly accepting the notion that Marines at Haditha engaged in wanton murder of innocent children and civilians?
But Olbermann left out Limbaugh's very next sentence, the one by coincidence MSNBC's 4pm EDT hour featured, that made clear he was reacting to demands that he apologize by arguing that liberals need to apologize for their insults of the troops:
If anybody owes anybody an apology, the entire Democrat Party, from Hillary Clinton on down, owes the U.S. military an apology. They owe me an apology, and they owe the American people an apology -- and they are owed massive defeat in 2008!
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