Limbaugh revived discredited rumor of Kerry affair: "Keep that babe in Africa"

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

On the July 15 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, radio host Rush Limbaugh revived the false rumor of Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) alleged affair with journalist Alexandra Polier, which was first publicized by Internet gossip Matt Drudge on his website, The Drudge Report, on February 12 and perpetuated by Limbaugh on his radio program the same day. Imitating former President Bill Clinton, Limbaugh purported to give Kerry advice :

From the July 15 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH [imitating Clinton]: John, whatever you do, keep that babe in Africa [Polier was living in Kenya when the false story broke]. Don't let her come back here. I've been there, too, and this is not a good thing. What was her name? Alex? Yeah. (Laughing) ... Stay away from any more of these. You don't have to write a book like I had to write.

On February 12, The Drudge Report featured a "World Exclusive" under the headline "Campaign Drama Rocks Democrats: Kerry Fights Off Media Probe of Recent Alleged Infidelity, Rivals Predict Ruin." On the same day, according to Dick Polman's February 18 Philadelphia Inquirer column (free registration required): "[B]y noon, Rush Limbaugh was in full cry on his radio show ('This is sort of like the Lewinsky situation... . If Kerry denies this, that's not going to be good enough.'). To underscore the point, Limbaugh's website ran a doctored photo of former intern Monica Lewinsky hugging Kerry."

As Media Matters for America previously noted, Kerry flatly denied the affair rumor to radio host Don Imus on February 13, saying: "Well, there is nothing to report. So there is nothing to talk about. I'm not worried about it. No." According to a February 17 Associated Press article, Polier told the AP on February 16: "I have never had a relationship with Sen. Kerry, and the rumors in the press are completely false." Nonetheless, Limbaugh continued to push the story on the February 16 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, saying, as The Hotline reported on February 17, "I mean his [Kerry's] horndog reputation is apparently well known inside the [Washington] Beltway. But it's not a big deal to people there. And I warned you people last week when this all hit that it wasn't going to be in the press and that they're going to do everything they could not to make anything of it."

As MMFA also noted, Drudge came under fire for reporting the allegations without citing a single source; Limbaugh's remarks also met with significant criticism from journalists and pundits of all political persuasions. Appearing on CNN's media criticism program Reliable Sources (hosted by Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz) on February 22, Wall Street Journal national political editor John Harwood said of Drudge's report, "I think this is one of the most outrageous stories that I can remember in recent campaign reporting. Not only are there no facts to the story, there are no allegations, either." When Kurtz asked Harwood about Limbaugh's assertion that the "press is giving Kerry a pass" on the story, Harwood replied, "This is one issue on which Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat idiot. He's exactly wrong on that. ... [W]hat could the press look into? There's nothing -- there's nothing to look into. Nobody has alleged anything."

When Newsday columnist Jim Pinkerton -- who worked in the White House under former presidents Reagan and Bush, as well as for four Republican presidential campaigns -- asserted on the February 21 edition of FOX News Watch that "'Mucky City' [a term Pinkerton described in his February 17 Newsday column] is solo providers like Matt Drudge and Internet sites nobody's heard of ... and 'Mucky City' was all over this allegation," regular FOX News Watch panelist, media writer, and author Neal Gabler responded, "[Sean] Hannity and Limbaugh are not through with this story either. We might want to drag them into the 'Mucky City.'" And in the February 18 edition of Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill, editor Albert Eisele wrote in his column that Drudge's rumor "sent right-wing hit men like Rush Limbaugh and scandal-starved scribes into a frenzy."

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