UPDATED: Members of Congress denounced Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" smear
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Sen. Jim Webb and Reps. Frank Pallone, Jan Schakowsky, Chris Van Hollen, and Patrick Murphy denounced Rush Limbaugh for calling service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq "phony soldiers," which Media Matters for America documented.
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On September 27, several members of Congress denounced Rush Limbaugh for, as Media Matters for America documented, calling service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq "phony soldiers" on the September 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show. Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) made speeches on the House floor responding to Limbaugh; Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) made his comments on the September 27 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann; and Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Patrick J. Murphy (D-PA) issued statements denouncing Limbaugh's comments.
On the House floor, Pallone stated: "Yesterday, Limbaugh called service members who support a withdrawal from Iraq 'phony soldiers.' " Pallone added: "Last month, seven soldiers from the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division wrote an op-ed in The New York Times questioning our continued war efforts, but also stating, and I quote: 'We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.' Now, since publication of that op-ed, two of the soldiers have died. As this op-ed shows, soldiers may question the war, but that does not mean that they are any less committed to their mission."
Schakowsky stated: "How dare Rush Limbaugh label anyone who has served in the military as a quote, 'phony soldier,' unquote? How dare he say that his views on Iraq formed in the comfort of his radio studio are legitimate while the views of those whose opinions were forged on the battlefield are not?" She added: "These are soldiers like Brandon Friedman, a former rifle platoon leader in the Army's 101st Airborne Division who fought in Afghanistan in 2002 and commanded troops in Iraq. He says quote, 'The escalation of the war is failing and now the mission must change.' 'The fact is,' he says, 'the Iraq war has kept us from devoting assets we need to fight terrorists worldwide as evidenced by the fact that Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and Al Qaeda has been able to rebuild.' " Schakowsky asked: "Is Brandon Friedman a phony?"
On Countdown, Webb said: "I really regret Mr. Limbaugh saying things like that. You know, we have a political diversity inside the military just like we do in the country." He later added: "I really react strongly when people politicize the service of our military people. They have a wide variety of political viewpoints, from all the way for this to all the way against it, and we need to respect that."
Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, said in a statement posted on Huffington Post:
When someone like Rush Limbaugh says that soldiers who disagree with the failed strategies of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are "phony soldiers," you have to consider the source.
Rush Limbaugh, who, in January, called Vietnam veteran Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) "Senator Betrayus" for disagreeing with President Bush, has made no secret of his disdain for those who serve and speak out. Where was Rush Limbaugh when it came time to serve his country?
What's more, where was Limbaugh's outrage when Max Cleland, a Senator who left three of his limbs in Vietnam was smeared on television? Where was Limbaugh when Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) service was called into question in the form of millions of dollars in campaign ads?
My service was questioned last year during my campaign for Congress. Fortunately, the swift-boat attack on me didn't stick because people in my district in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and across America know that if someone wears the uniform and serves their country they've earned our respect regardless of political party.
Sadly, the political debate in this country has devolved into who can be more outraged at the latest smear attempt on those who should be thanked and praised for devoted service. Rush Limbaugh's phony outrage and derisive words call into contrast that which we all must honor: our Armed Forces currently fighting for their lives and our freedom all across the world. We need to be vigilant and speak out against those who question the value of that service -- and that goes for people on the right and the left.
Van Hollen said in a statement: "Rush Limbaugh's personal attack on our men and women in uniform is reprehensible. It minimizes the sacrifice our troops in Iraq and their families are making and has no place in the public discourse. Rush Limbaugh owes our military and their families an apology for his hurtful comments that minimize their service to our country"
UPDATE: Since September 27, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) have also denounced Limbaugh's characterization of service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers." Additionally, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) criticized Limbaugh on the House floor and Rep. Joseph Sestak (D-PA) responded to Limbaugh's statement on the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends.
From Harkin's October 1 floor statement:
I must add, as a veteran, I find it offensive that Rush Limbaugh, who never put on the uniform of this country, would attack the patriotism and the dedication of any soldier fighting in Iraq. I've often said about someone like that before they drape themselves in the flag of this country, they ought to put on the uniform first to defend it. In Mr. Limbaugh's case, he would not do that. Well, I also find it disturbing that his offensive comments have not been condemned by our Republican colleagues or by the Commander in Chief, all of whom were so quick to condemn a similar personal attack on General Petraeus several weeks ago.
From Reid's October 1 floor statement
Last week, Rush Limbaugh went way over the line. While I respect his right to say anything he likes, his unpatriotic comments cannot be ignored. During his show last Wednesday, Limbaugh was engaged in one of his typical rants. This one was unremarkable, indistinguishable from his usual drivel which has been steadily losing listeners for years, until he crossed that line by calling our men and women in uniform who oppose the war in Iraq, and I quote, "phony soldiers." This comment was so beyond the pale of decency, we can't leave it alone. And yet he followed it up with denials and an attack on Congressman Jack Murtha, who was a 37-year active member of the Marine Corps, combat veteran.
From Israel's October 3 floor statement
But I must say, Mr. Speaker, that when I heard of the comments of Rush Limbaugh, when I heard him impugn the integrity of our soldiers, when I heard him call them phonies, I had just about had it. How dare he attack our soldiers. How dare he impugn their integrity. How dare he attack their credibility. There is no place in America for anyone to attack our soldiers while they are fighting in combat or when they have come home. I don't care what the reason, Mr. Speaker. There is no place in America for that, particularly coming from someone who believes that he is the ''gold standard'' of patriotism, who believes he has a monopoly on patriotism, who has accused anyone who dissents with a particular policy with which he disagrees as a traitor. What is patriotic, Mr. Speaker, about calling American soldiers phonies? What is patriotic about that?
I went to Walter Reed Army Hospital yesterday, and maybe that's why I'm so fired up, Mr. Speaker. I visited Walter Reed Army Hospital yesterday and with young men whose limbs have been amputated, whose futures have been changed. How dare anybody suggest that because one of them may disagree with a policy that that person is a phony. Thank God we live in a country that gives us the right to agree with a policy to go to war. You have the right to disagree, you even have the right to remain silent, but no one has the right in this country to call any member of our Armed Forces ''phony,'' and Rush Limbaugh owes them an apology.
From the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends
SESTAK: I condemn the words, if this is how it's stated -- that Rush Limbaugh used, not his right to state it. Step back one more time, though. You know, what's most important for these men and women to remember out there, whether it's Rush Limbaugh calling Senator Hagel, who served in Vietnam, "Senator Betrayus" on 25 January or MoveOn.org using certain words, is remember your military in America is different. Your military remembers that age-old maxim from the 1600s that that nation that draws a broad line of demarcation between its thinking men and its fighting men will find its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. You need to have military people who think and critique differently.
Further, on September 28, Senate Democrats issued a letter to Mark P. Mays, CEO of Clear Channel Communications -- owner of Limbaugh's syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks -- calling on him to publicly repudiate Limbaugh's statement. The letter was signed by 41 senators, including Reid, Harkin, and Webb, as well as Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Patty Murray (D-WA). The letter states:
Although Americans of goodwill debate the merits of this war, we can all agree that those who serve with such great courage deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. That is why Rush Limbaugh's recent characterization of troops who oppose the war as "phony soldiers" is such an outrage.
Our troops are fighting and dying to bring to others the freedoms that many take for granted. It is unconscionable that Mr. Limbaugh would criticize them for exercising the fundamentally American right to free speech. Mr. Limbaugh has made outrageous remarks before, but this affront to our soldiers is beyond the pale.
Thousands of active troops and veterans were subjected to Mr. Limbaugh's unpatriotic and indefensible comments on your broadcast. We trust you will agree that not a single one of our sons, daughters, neighbors and friends serving overseas is a "phony soldier." We call on you to publicly repudiate these comments that call into question their service and sacrifice and to ask Mr. Limbaugh to apologize for his comments.