Lowry, Newsweek attacked media for reporting that Limbaugh was "arrested"

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

On Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, guest host and National Review editor Rich Lowry claimed that nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh was being "smeared" by the media "because you're seeing his picture up on the TV screen with the legend 'arrested' underneath it" after Limbaugh and Palm Beach County, Florida, state prosecutors reached an agreement on the charge that Limbaugh illegally obtained prescription drugs. Similarly, a Newsweek article asserted that the use of the word "arrested" in initial news stories was "misleading."

On the April 28 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, guest host and National Review editor Rich Lowry claimed that nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh was being "smeared" by the media "because you're seeing his picture up on the TV screen with the legend 'arrested' underneath it" after Limbaugh and Palm Beach Country, Florida, state prosecutors reached an agreement on the charge that Limbaugh illegally obtained prescription drugs. Lowry's accusation followed a comment by Fox News legal analyst and defense attorney Mercedes Colwin, who asserted that it is "not true" that "Rush Limbaugh was arrested."

Similarly, a Newsweek article by Arian Campo-Flores and Evan Thomas asserted that the use of the word "arrest" in initial news stories was "misleading." Without explaining what they meant by "misleading," Campo-Flores and Thomas reasoned: "In fact, Limbaugh had pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer had worked out a deal that would cause the single charge to be dropped after 18 months as long as Limbaugh stayed out of trouble and continued to see a doctor who has helped him with an addiction to painkillers." On his May 1 radio show, Limbaugh praised the Newsweek article as "amazing," "straightforward," and "fair" and informed readers that "we've linked to it at RushLimbaugh.com." (Nevertheless, the caption under a photo of Limbaugh accompanying the article on Newsweek's website read: "Limbaugh was arrested Friday on prescription drug charges.")

Lowry's and Newsweek's claims echoed an April 28 press release issued by Limbaugh's spokespeople that asserted without explanation that "some news reports that state Mr. Limbaugh was arrested are inaccurate." On his May 1 radio show, Limbaugh claimed, "There was no arrest." Limbaugh said: "[T]he word 'arrested' -- this is semantics. ... This was all arranged in advance. It was part of the deal. I walked over voluntarily. I was voluntarily processed is what this is."

An April 28 CNN.com article reported that while Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, "urged reporters not to call it an arrest -- because Limbaugh turned himself in and was never handcuffed -- a sheriff's spokesman said technically he was under arrest during his booking."

On April 29, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel -- one of many news outlets to report that Limbaugh had been arrested -- noted that Limbaugh had voluntarily "surrendered at the Palm Beach County Jail" where he was "fingerprinted" before being "released on $3,000 bail." An April 29 Associated Press article reported that "Limbaugh was booked, photographed and fingerprinted before being released on $3,000 bail."

Black's Law Dictionary (Fifth Edition) defines "booking" as an "[a]dministrative step taken after the arrested person is brought to the police station" that "may also include photographing, fingerprinting, and the like." (Emphasis added.)

Similarly, the University of Pittsburgh's online legal dictionary states: "Booking - The process of photographing, fingerprinting, and recording identifying data of a suspect. This process follows the arrest." (Emphasis added.)

Moreover, news outlets have reported that Limbaugh's "voluntary process[ing]" followed the issuance of an arrest warrant. On April 28, CNN host Lou Dobbs told viewers: "The West Palm Beach, Florida, sheriff's office saying Limbaugh, as a part of that settlement deal, had to turn himself in to authorities tonight after a warrant was issued for his arrest." And on the April 29 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight, anchor Jim Avila stated: "The law-and-order radio host responded to an arrest warrant by turning himself in to the Palm Beach County sheriff."

On his May 1 radio show, Limbaugh acknowledged: "Yes, there was a warrant." He added, "It's called a capias warrant."

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines "capias" as "an arrest warrant." According to Dictionary.com, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines "capias" as a "warrant for arrest," and Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law defines "capias" as "a writ or process commanding an officer to place a person under civil arrest in order to answer a charge."

If Lowry is indeed correct that the media "smeared" Limbaugh by reporting that Limbaugh had been "arrested," then Fox News smeared Limbaugh as well. Immediately prior to the April 28 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew P. Napolitano -- a former New Jersey state judge -- agreed with host Bill O'Reilly that Limbaugh had been "arrested."

From the April 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Strange bedfellows. But let's get back to the criminal case. He has been arrested, but he's out on $3,000 bail. But the case has already been adjudicated. He doesn't have to go to trial.

NAPOLITANO: Correct. This is -- this is a simultaneous arrest and dismissal of the charges. He pleads not guilty. He admits to no wrongdoing. He agrees to keep his nose clean, which mean no arrests for the next 18 months. He pays the state $30,000 to reimburse it for the police overtime when they conducted those raids.

From the April 28 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

COLWIN: Well, first of all, it's not buried. It's everywhere. It's front lines in every --

ARTHUR AIDALA (Fox News legal analyst): But tomorrow's paper is the least read paper. Saturday morning paper, no one reads.

COLWIN: Tomorrow, you'll see it's everywhere. It's everywhere tonight. It's going to be in the papers tomorrow. There's going to be big headlines.

LOWRY: That's absolutely right. That's absolutely right.

COLWIN: "Rush Limbaugh Was Arrested," which is not true.

LOWRY: First of all, Arthur, let me thank you for making us all look underdressed tonight.

AIDALA: Sorry, I'm running from an affair.

LOWRY: Let's be absolutely clear about this, because, you know, I think Rush is getting, effectively, smeared, because you're seeing his picture up on the TV screen with the legend "arrested" underneath it. This dragged on for 2 1/2 years. There is going to be absolutely no conviction, obviously. There's not even going to be an indictment. There's going to be no guilty plea. And Rush is maintaining exactly what he's maintained from day one, that he is innocent. This is an absolute crushing legal victory for Rush Limbaugh.

From Campo-Flores and Thomas's Newsweek article, "Rehabbing Rush":

Soon after he stepped away from the mike last Friday after his usual noon to 3 p.m. broadcast, the radio icon climbed into a black Cadillac Escalade with his lawyer, Roy Black, and drove over to the Palm Beach County jail. There he surrendered to authorities on a charge that he had fraudulently obtained prescription drugs. He was fingerprinted and released an hour later on $3,000 bail. LIMBAUGH ARRESTED was the immediate headline on the wires and on TV, but the word "arrest" was misleading. In fact, Limbaugh had pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer had worked out a deal that would cause the single charge to be dropped after 18 months as long as Limbaugh stayed out of trouble and continued to see a doctor who has helped him with an addiction to painkillers.

From the May 1 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: But there was one thing that happened Friday afternoon. And we had -- we scurried into fast action starting at about 6 o'clock Friday. I was over there for about an hour, got back to the office here around 5:15 or 5:30, turn on the news and there's this news -- Rush Limbaugh arrested on drug fraud. Well, I said, "Where in the world did this come from?" Because, you know, the word "arrested" -- this is semantics. When you hear the word "arrested" you think cops show up with a paddy wagon, with shackles and leg irons and handcuffs and take me -- resisting -- out the door, file me in to jail and so forth. None of that happened. This was all arranged in advance. It was part of the deal. I walked over voluntarily. I was voluntarily processed is what this is. Yes, there was a warrant. It's called a capias warrant, to keep the warrant out of the system all day so that the media wouldn't find out about it. We got in and out there without a media circus taking place. Come back and find that I've been arrested.

[...]

There was no arrest. There were no handcuffs. There was no perp walk. There is no charge. I have not relapsed. I am as healthy and happy as I have ever been, ladies and gentlemen.

[...]

In fact, Newsweek has a story, and it's amazing. It's straightforward, and it's fair. If you haven't seen the Newsweek story, we've linked to it at RushLimbaugh.com.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, Newsweek
Person
Rich Lowry
Show/Publication
Hannity & Colmes
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