On the same day that Media Matters for America noted that syndicated columnist and CNN host Robert Novak had misquoted Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean for the second time in three days, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh aired Novak's misquote on the March 1 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show. CNN host Judy Woodruff corrected Novak's error hours later on the March 1 edition of CNN's Inside Politics; Limbaugh failed to acknowledge the correction on March 2.
Limbaugh used Novak's misquote to claim that Dean "admitted" that he believes the Bush administration's claim that Social Security is "a big problem":
LIMBAUGH: But this business of trying to be somebody you're not and trying to portray yourself as somebody you're not -- they're [Democrats] just forever dooming themselves. In fact, let's go back to audio sound bite No. 1, Robert Novak yesterday. This is on CNN's Inside Politics with Judy Woodruff. And, you know, Dean over the weekend, he was at Cornell University, and he was talking about how Republicans are "evil" and Republicans are this or that.
But he also said something about Social Security, which is totally at variance. And this was the great fear that a lot of Democrats had. Dean's not supposed to be out there articulating policy, as candidates do. He's primarily a fund-raiser in this, but he can't shut up about policy. Here's what Novak quoted him as saying:
NOVAK: [clip] They've got to really get Howard under control. He spoke at Cornell University last week, and the only paper that covered this was the Cornell student paper. And he said, yes, Social Security is a big problem, over the years it's going to lose about 80 percent of the benefits. That, Judy, is not the Democratic line. The Democratic line is, "There is no problem."
LIMBAUGH: Hey, hello? I mean, so he's out there saying things totally opposite what the rest of his party is saying, from [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi to Dingy Harry [Reid, Senate minority leader] to [Sen.] Ted Kennedy to whoever --"Social Security is not a crisis. There's no problem. We don't have to touch it. We don't have to do anything." And here's Howard Dean up there admitting to students at Cornell [that] it's a big problem. Now, I'm just telling you, they're not going to go anywhere doing this. And I don't think Dean has the weight and the gravitas, if you will, to pull the rest of the party with him on this.
But Dean did not say "80 percent of the Social Security benefits will be lost," as Novak claimed. Rather, he said that "if Social Security were left alone for 30 years, benefits would be reduced to 80 percent of what it is now," as The Cornell Daily Sun reported in its coverage of Dean's February 23 speech at the university. The article further noted that Dean "would not endorse" privatizing of Social Security, adding that "[h]e acknowledged that while there were indeed problems with the program, turning to Wall Street was not the answer."
In addition to Limbaugh, the Republican National Committee also picked up Novak's misquote on March 1 and promoted it on the RNC website, complete with a transcript and video, as Media Matters noted. The RNC has since removed the item from its site. The conservative lobbying group Club for Growth also posted a transcript and video of Novak's misquote on its pro-privatization blog, Social Security Choice, under the headline, "The first step is admitting the problem." Club for Growth web director Andrew Roth was the author of the post.