On the October 19 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, national correspondent Susan Candiotti provided one of Rush Limbaugh's original explanations for his remarks characterizing U.S. service members who support U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as “phony soldiers,” but she failed to note Limbaugh's subsequent, contradictory explanation of that comment. Describing the controversy surrounding Limbaugh's September 26 comments, Candiotti stated that Limbaugh “denied” he was “criticizing soldiers who are publicly opposed to the war,” and “instead said that he was criticizing just one individual, someone who was actually convicted for pretending to be a soldier, who had bashed the war.”
Indeed, on his September 28 nationally syndicated radio show, Limbaugh insisted he was “talking about one soldier with that 'phony soldier' comment, Jesse MacBeth.” MacBeth pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for pretending to be an injured Iraq war veteran. Later in the September 28 broadcast, Limbaugh again asserted, “I was talking about one genuine, convicted, lying, fake soldier.” But as Media Matters for America noted, Limbaugh actually referred to “phony soldiers,” plural when he made the remark during his September 26 broadcast. Responding to a caller's statement that supporters of withdrawal “like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media,” Limbaugh responded, “The phony soldiers” [emphasis added]. While Candiotti noted that Limbaugh had “used the term 'phony soldiers,' ” she did not point out the contradiction.
Moreover, Candiotti did not mention that Limbaugh offered a different explanation later on his September 28 broadcast when a caller pointed out the contradiction. In response to a caller's question, “But you did say 'soldiers' in plural, though, didn't you?” Limbaugh asserted: “Yes, because there have been a number of these people, but they were not active duty -- I was not talking about anti-war, active duty troops. I was talking about people who've been exposed as frauds who never served in Iraq but claimed to have seen all these atrocities, [unintelligible].” And on October 2, Limbaugh described MacBeth as “the man I was referring to and others like him as 'phony soldiers.' ” But those explanations were inconsistent with his earlier statements that he was referring to a single fake soldier. Indeed, the transcript (subscription required) of the September 28 broadcast that is posted on Limbaugh's website shows Limbaugh asserting: “I was talking about one soldier with that phony soldier comment, Jesse MacBeth” [emphasis in original].
On The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer also ignored Limbaugh's contradictory statements:
BLITZER: We'll see what the next fallout is. In fairness, though, to Rush Limbaugh, the “phony soldiers” comment followed a report on [World News with] Charlie Gibson on ABC News in which they did an extensive report on this one person who pretended to be a soldier -- really wasn't -- and Rush Limbaugh makes that point, which is a fair point. He was reacting to what [anchor] Charlie Gibson and what ABC News had done that whole report on. All right, we'll see what happens now.
Further, neither Candiotti nor Blitzer noted that Limbaugh did not mention MacBeth on his September 26 show until 1 minute and 50 seconds after making his “phony soldiers” comment. Nor did they note that on his September 28 show, Limbaugh played a selectively edited audiotape of his comments, removing 1 minute and 35 seconds of that 1 minute and 50 seconds, which made it appear as if he had mentioned MacBeth almost immediately after making his “phony soldiers” remark. Limbaugh introduced the audio clip by falsely claiming to be playing “the entire transcript, in context” for his audience and gave no indication that the audio had been edited in a way that falsely supported his assertion that his “phony soldiers” remark was a reference to MacBeth.
From the October 19 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
CANDIOTTI: This is a letter that was written by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, and in this letter -- first of all, to say, the letter is signed not only by Reid, by 40 other senators as well, including presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and many, many others.
The dust-up started after Democrats publicly criticized Rush Limbaugh after he used the term “phony soldiers” on his radio show. They claim that Limbaugh was criticizing soldiers who are publicly opposed to the war, and Reid and others called it an outrage and demanded an apology. Well, Limbaugh denied that he was doing any such thing and instead said that he was criticizing just one individual, someone who was actually convicted for pretending to be a soldier, who had bashed the war.
Well, today, after this letter was auctioned on eBay and got a price of more than $2 million from a philanthropist by the name of Betty Casey, Limbaugh himself kicked in another $2 million. So, this money -- more than $4 million -- is going -- now going to be donated to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation that provides scholarship money and -- among other charities, to law -- to, rather, members of the military.
And, today on the Senate floor, Senator Reid called the auction and the donation a good cause and credited Limbaugh with doing something he called constructive. So, I'm sure now, Wolf, that everything is going to be just fine between Rush Limbaugh and Senator Harry Reid from now on.
BLITZER: Well, it's interesting, though, that the Majority Leader did go out on the floor and praise Rush Limbaugh for making this very generous contribution to this excellent organization. I assume Harry Reid wants this story to be over with, at least as of now.
CANDIOTTI: Oh, I'm sure he would like to put it well behind him, so, in fact, he did credit Limbaugh for doing a very good thing. I'm not so sure that Mr. Limbaugh will be forgetting about this, though, in the near future.
BLITZER: We'll see what the next fallout is. In fairness, though, to Rush Limbaugh, the “phony soldiers” comment followed a report on Charlie Gibson on ABC News in which they did an extensive report on this one person who pretended to be a soldier -- really wasn't -- and Rush Limbaugh makes that point, which is a fair point. He was reacting to what Charlie Gibson and ABC News had done that whole report on. All right, we'll see what happens now.