On the October 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, during an interview with nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh, co-host Steve Doocy asserted that Media Matters for America “only takes shots at guys like you, at Fox News. They never, ever touch anybody on MSNBC. They never mention anybody on CNN.” In response, Limbaugh asserted: “Well, they do, though, sometimes just for cover. They will rip a Democrat or a liberal media person if they attack [Sen.] Hillary [Rodham Clinton (D-NY)].” In fact, Media Matters has identified conservative misinformation from a broad cross section of media, including numerous instances on CNN and MSNBC concerning a wide variety of topics and people.
Indeed, Media Matters selected MSNBC host Chris Matthews as its 2005 Misinformer of the Year, citing an extensive number of comments, only a few of which had to do with Clinton.
Doocy began the interview by asserting that “Senate Democrats wrote Rush a letter to get him thrown off the air. They wrote it to his boss at Clear Channel.” Doocy was referring to a September 28 letter to Clear Channel CEO Mark P. Mays, signed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and 40 other Democratic senators in response to Limbaugh's September 26 comments in which he characterized service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as “phony soldiers.” In fact, the letter did not ask Mays to have Limbaugh “thrown off the air,” but rather called on Mays to “publicly repudiate these comments that call into question their service and sacrifice and to ask Mr. Limbaugh to apologize for his comments.”
In addition, following Limbaugh's assertion that “I don't think in modern American history there's ever been something like this happen where the Senate has gone after a private citizen and asked his partner in broadcasting to shut him up, censor him, apologize [sic] him, spank him, or what have you,” co-host Brian Kilmeade said, “But what Democrats are saying, and you know this better than anybody, they're saying, well that's what you get, Republicans, for going after MoveOn.org.” On September 20, the Senate passed a nonbinding amendment sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) that “repudiate[s] the unwarranted personal attack on General [David] Petraeus by the liberal activist group Moveon.org,” after the group published a September 10 ad in The New York Times, titled "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" Similarly, on September 26, the House of Representatives passed a motion by Rep. Jerry Lewis' (R-CA) to add an amendment that “condemn[ed] in the strongest possible terms the personal attacks made by the advocacy group MoveOn.org impugning the integrity and professionalism of General David H. Petraeus” to a funding bill. In his response, Limbaugh asserted:
LIMBAUGH: Well, you know, here's the -- this is the thing that everybody's missing about this. The Democrats are saying this is tit for tat, “Look, you did this to MoveOn, you made us censure MoveOn. So we're going to make Limbaugh get censured.” The problem is, I didn't do anything here. I was minding my own business. I said what I said on the radio. The same group of people, Media Matters, MoveOn.org -- it's the same George Soros-Hillary Clinton organization -- did both things. They did the MoveOn.org ad and they did the smear of me. I am the record. They twisted what I said, on purpose, out of context.
In fact, philanthropist George Soros has never given money to Media Matters, either directly or through another organization, as has been repeatedly and exhaustively demonstrated. Moreover, Media Matters is an independent, progressive organization and is not affiliated with any candidate or political party.
Later in the interview, referring to the media reaction following his “phony soldiers” comment, Limbaugh asserted that the media “take their lead from Media Matters, so whatever Media Matters says I said is what they think happened.” He continued: “You know, during this whole thing, Steve, nobody from the drive-bys called me to ask me, 'Did you release statements?' They just ran with it because they're all on the same playing field, they're all on the same side of the aisle.” In fact, at least two journalists reported that they had attempted to contact Limbaugh for comment on the story and that he had not responded. An October 4 Los Angeles Times article noted that Limbaugh “did not respond to e-mails and a faxed request for an interview.” As the blog Think Progress noted, during coverage of the controversy on the October 3 edition of MSNBC Live, MSNBC correspondent Monica Novotny reported, “And of course, we want you to know that we did invite Rush Limbaugh on to respond to this story. He has not responded to our calls.”
Further, while Limbaugh claimed that "[y]ou come to my website. You can hear what I say. Read what I said," Media Matters has documented that on September 28, two days after his original “phony soldiers” comments, Limbaugh aired on his radio show spliced audio of his original remarks while calling it “the entire transcript” of the segment. Media Matters also documented that the transcript (subscription required) of the first segment of the first hour of his September 28 broadcast posted on Limbaugh's website, which Limbaugh described as being the “Anatomy of a Smear,” was also selectively edited and did not provide any notation or ellipsis to indicate that the audio clip of the September 26 broadcast that he aired on September 28 had in fact been edited.
Finally, despite having Limbaugh on the October 16 edition of the show, Fox & Friends did not air his original September 26 “phony soldiers” comment, nor did any of the anchors read his comments during the segment.
From the October 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
KILMEADE: Now is that why Rush Limbaugh is in New York, to see the Wiggles?
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): He is one of the Wiggles there, I see him.
DOOCY: Actually Rush Limbaugh is, right this second, is in one of those buildings behind the Wiggles by about a block. Why? To talk to us. Here's the story. Senate Democrats wrote Rush a letter to get him thrown off the air. They wrote it to his boss at Clear Channel. Well now Rush Limbaugh is auctioning off that very letter to raise money for our troops. Joining us now on the phone, talk radio legend Rush Limbaugh. Good morning to you, sir.
LIMBAUGH: Hey, hey, hey, Steve. How are you? It's such an honor to follow the Wiggles or whatever they are.
DOOCY: The Wiggles, that's right. OK, so you're -- right now you're auctioning it off on eBay. The bid is $50,300 with three days to go. What is the historical significance, Rush Limbaugh, of this letter that Harry Reid and company wrote you?
LIMBAUGH: Well, there's two things. First, it's an abuse of power. I mean, here you have Harry Reid on the floor of the Senate denouncing me for 10 minutes, reading this letter, then asking his Democrat buddies to sign it, of which 40 did. And, you know, that's a failure, he didn't even get them all to sign. No Republicans did. But they did this during work hours. And this is the smear of a private citizen by this greatest deliberative body in the world based on a total lie that they have to know is a lie. And so, for that reason it's historic. I mean, my parents would not believe this. I wish they could know what all is happening to their son and what their son is causing. You know, the thing about this, most people I think, cower in this kind of situation, and I'm trying to laugh at it and make fun of them and fight back, which is probably putting a bigger target on my back as far as these people are concerned. But this is, this is just something that you can't ignore. Most of the time you ignore these kinds of things but you can't this, because this is -- this is unique. I don't think in modern American history there's ever been something like this happen where the Senate has gone after a private citizen and asked his partner in broadcasting to shut him up, censor him, apologize [sic] him, spank him or what have you.
KILMEADE: But what Democrats are saying, and you know this better than anybody, they're saying, well that's what you get, Republicans, for going after MoveOn.org.
LIMBAUGH: Well, you know, here's the -- this is the thing that everybody's missing about this. The Democrats are saying this is tit for tat, “Look, you guys did this to MoveOn, you made us censure MoveOn. So we're going to make Limbaugh get censured.” The problem is, I didn't do anything here. I was minding my own business. I said what I said on the radio. The same group of people, Media Matters, MoveOn.org -- it's the same George Soros-Hillary Clinton organization -- did both things. They did the MoveOn.org ad and they did the smear of me. I am the record. They twisted what I said, on purpose, out of context. In order, I think to deflect the Petraeus ad because it totally backfired on them. The country ended up loving Petraeus, the surge is working, MoveOn had to pay the full bill at The New York Times, it totally backfired. They had to deflect that, and so they came at me. But they created both of these. There can't be any tit for tat, because they are responsible for both these episodes.
LIMBAUGH: So it's gonna be -- and this is all part of the '08 race. Right now the Democrats are running against me because I have a connection with a large percentage of the American people who think and are open-minded. And the Republicans haven't chosen a nominee yet, so right now, they are coming after me. And this -- it's like a badge of honor.
DOOCY: Well Rush, you're not alone. They came after O'Reilly. They took some of his comments out of context. And look at Media Matters, what they did to Imus.
LIMBAUGH: Yeah, well, that's a little -- don't want me in with that. I mean, O'Reilly and I have something in common in that we were lied about. Imus said what he said.
DOOCY: He did, but Media Matters -- nobody really heard what Imus said until Media Matters brought the tape out and started sending it to different journalists.
LIMBAUGH: Well, that is, that is very key. The people that heard Imus say it didn't care. There was no brouhaha for two days. Like my comment with Donovan McNabb. I made it on a Sunday, wasn't til Tuesday the world blew up on it, but that was the local Philadelphia media that did that. What you have to understand, at least from my perspective, is that 1988, when my radio show started and gave birth to all this new media, back then they had a monopoly. At ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN -- that was it in broadcast. You had the two newspapers, the news magazines, and they controlled what was reported, what wasn't reported and what was commented upon. They've lost that monopoly.
Liberalism can only flourish when they have a media monopoly. So the Media Matters organization -- and when we say Media Matters, say Hillary Clinton and George Soros. She has even admitted to coming up with the idea and help start it. And it is to try to discredit those of us in the quote-unquote “new media” from having any credibility beyond our existing audiences. Because they cannot come in the arena of ideas and debate us and win. They have to shut us up. They have to discredit us. This has been happening to me for 12-14 years now. But I know exactly what's going on, and when you do -- and you guys have a good bead on it, too. You know what Media Matters is all about. I mean, they're -- it's a fascinating thing, too and you made a good point. I want to elaborate on this. Talking about Imus. I've got a radio show and I've got a website. And people can come to it. You don't need a secret coder and a super secret radio to listen, you just turn on the radio and tune to the station I'm on. You come to my website. You can hear what I say. Read what I said. But the drive-by media doesn't do that. They take their lead from Media Matters, so whatever Media Matters says I said is what they think happened.
LIMBAUGH: You know, during this whole thing, Steve, nobody from the drive-bys called me to ask me, “Did you release statements?” They just ran with it because they're all on the same playing field, they're all on the same side of the aisle. The media, Media Matters, you name it. But we know this. We know how to combat it. And our connection with the audience is what sustains us during these controversies.
DOOCY: Sure, and you mentioned Media Matters, which is an outfit run by this fellow by the name of David Brock, who was once upon a time worked on the right but then went over to the left side. And in fact, this David Brock character has admitted that he published a bunch of stuff that he simply had made up. But his organization, which is supposed to be a watchdog of conservative misinformation -- Media Matters only takes shots at guys like you, at Fox News. They never, ever touch anybody on MSNBC. They never mention anybody on CNN.
LIMBAUGH: Well, they do, though, sometimes just for cover. They will rip a Democrat or a liberal media person if they attack Hillary, for example. That organization exists for one reason, and that's to get Hillary Clinton elected. Make no mistake about this.
DOOCY: Now why do you say that Rush?
LIMBAUGH: Well because she started it. The same thing -- what do you think MoveOn.org means? MoveOn.org was formed in the '90s. It meant, “Can we move on from the Clinton scandals?” And you've got George Soros money with all of these organizations in an indirect way. Brock is a flunky. You know, he's been all over the ideological map. Some of the stuff he wrote earlier, about Anita Hill, the troopers in Arkansas, he didn't deny the facts. He just said later he wished that he hadn't written them and published them and so forth. Who appointed them an official watchdog and who watches them?