CNN Weighs in on Limbaugh’s Comments: ‘Could it be a New Low?’

CNN’s "American Morning" has deemed Rush Limbaugh’s criticisms of Michael J. Fox "a new low." Co-Anchor Miles O’Brien introduced a segment and alleged that now the midterm campaign is really getting dirty:

Miles O’Brien: "With so much at stake in the upcoming election, it's no surprise the political debate has turned nasty. But the exchange between the actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, and Rush Limbaugh seems to stand out. Could it be a new low? CNN's Tom Foreman with more."

The piece played a portion of Fox’s ad for Democrat Claire McCaskill, who the actor is supporting in the Missouri Senate race, but didn’t bother to challenge any of the dubious claims made in it. Tom Foreman reported the first story, which aired at 7:16a.m. EDT:

Tom Foreman: "In Missouri's furious Senate battle, Democrat Claire McCaskill has picked up a famous ally to try to help her knock off Republican incumbent Jim Talent."

Michael J. Fox (campaign ad): "They say all politics is local, but that's not always the case."

Foreman: "Actor Michael J. Fox is now quite visibly suffering from Parkinson's disease and he is campaigning for a number of Democrats who support stem cell research, aimed at finding a cure for Parkinson's and other disorders."

Fox (campaign ad):"Unfortunately, Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research. Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope."

Foreman: "But now radio host Rush Limbaugh is accusing the ailing actor of faking it."

Rush Limbaugh: "He is moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act. This is the only time I have ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has."

So, CNN wondered if Limbaugh’s comments are "a new low," but there’s no problem with Fox saying that Republican Senator Jim Talent wants to "criminalize the science" that gives "a chance for hope?" Isn’t it the mainstream media that will cry foul at any hint of a Republican challenging a Democrat’s patriotism? Shouldn’t there be some comment on an ad that essentially says Republicans hate science and love?

Foreman closed his piece by reiterating the idea that Limbaugh had made the midterm elections even sleazier:

Foreman: "But even some conservatives are backing away from Limbaugh's attack."

Ramesh Ponnuru: "Well, I don't think Republicans are going to be hurt because one talk show host, however influential, said something foolish, although it wasn't helpful."

Foreman: "Fox, at least publicly, is acting like it's all clean fun."

Fox: "It's as ironic, given some things that have been said in the last couple days, that my pills are working really well right now."

Foreman: "But, without question, this dirty campaign season just got dirtier. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington."

Co-hosts Miles O’Brien and Soledad O’Brien briefly chatted about the subject, making it clear what they thought about the issue:

Miles O’Brien: "Now later on his program, Limbaugh backpedaled a little bit. He says he will apologize to Michael J. Fox if he is wrong in characterizing his behavior as an act."

Soledad O’Brien: "Yes. That apology might be coming."

Miles O’Brien: "Yeah, I think so."

Soledad O’Brien: "A lot of experts say that that's very standard for, you know, Parkinson's -- the course of the disease, frankly."

Miles O’Brien: "Well, you know, he has a hearing difficulty, Rush Limbaugh. Imagine if somebody were making fun of hearing impaired at his expense one way or another. That would hurt as well."

Soledad O’Brien: "I doubt he'd be shocked, actually."

Miles O’Brien: "Yes. All right."

Soledad O’Brien: "We'll see."

First off, notice that CNN mentioned Limbaugh’s apology only at the end of the segment? Secondly, since Mr. O’Brien brought it up, CNN did make fun of Limbaugh, when his addiction to pain killers became public. The MRC’s Brent Baker described it in a October 13, 2003 CyberAlert. "NewsNight" host Aaron Brown had several Limbaugh critics, including Al Franken, on to gloat about the subject:

"CNN’s NewsNight, October 10. Aaron Brown set up a segment: ‘Okay, here's the truth of it. Rush Limbaugh has been more than a bit unkind to me more than once. He's also been unkind to Al Franken, who in turn has been unkind to him. He's taken shots at Michael Wolff, ‘New York’ magazine's media critic, and Michael is hardly the retiring sort. So, here we all are, Al, Michael and me and the subject is Rush made worse no doubt by the permanent smirk that seems to be attached to my face. Welcome to you all. Al, let's start with you. Does it matter do you think that the drugs that Mr. Limbaugh is addicted to are prescription drugs as opposed to recreational drugs?’"

Apparently "a new low" is a relative term.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org