Beck falsely claimed Reid letter called for Limbaugh's firing

On his CNN Headline News show, Glenn Beck falsely claimed that Sen. Harry Reid wrote a letter to Clear Channel Communications CEO Mark P. Mays “calling for Rush's firing” in response to Rush Limbaugh's “phony soldiers” comment. In fact, Reid's letter to Mays called on him to publicly repudiate Limbaugh's statement -- not fire him.

On his October 22 CNN Headline News show, Glenn Beck falsely claimed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wrote a letter to Clear Channel Communications CEO Mark P. Mays “calling for Rush's firing” in response to Rush Limbaugh's characterization of service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as “phony soldiers.” As Media Matters for America documented, Reid's letter to Mays -- whose company owns Limbaugh's syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks -- actually called on him to publicly repudiate Limbaugh's statement.

The letter stated:

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.


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.

Also, during a discussion between Beck and conservative radio host Dan Patrick, who is also a Republican state senator in Texas, on-screen text read: “The letter criticized Limbaugh for a 'phony soldier' comment.”

As Media Matters has repeatedly and exhaustively documented, Limbaugh used the phrase “phony soldiers” -- the plural, not the singular -- on his September 26 show, and Limbaugh did not mention Jesse MacBeth -- who 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 -- on that show until almost two minutes after using the phrase “phony soldiers.” In his discussion with Patrick, Beck contradicted the screenshot by citing “the controversy over [Limbaugh's] 'phony soldiers' comment.”

As Media Matters noted, on the October 2 edition of his Headline News show, Beck claimed that the “liberal hit squad Media Matters has twisted [Limbaugh's] words to make it seem like he called all soldiers who might disagree with him, 'phony soldiers.' ” Beck added: “The whole truth of his statement is that he was specifically referring to one soldier and a group of soldiers called on by the DOJ [Department of Justice] in the Pacific Northwest.”

From the October 22 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: But first, welcome to “The Real Story.” Seems that Rush Limbaugh has had the last laugh in the controversy over his “phony soldiers” comment. Instead of just tossing out the letter that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote calling for Rush's firing, Rush decided to auction the letter on eBay, match the winning bid, and donate all of the money to the Marines. Well, the auction ended on Friday, and the net gain to the Marines is just over $4 million.

“The Real Story” is, the political and media elite have colored this just another volley between a conservative talk-radio host and a liberal establishment. Well, what the mainstream would like to have you believe is that Rush and his listeners are just a bunch of kooks on the fringe, but the numbers tell quite a different story.

Listen to this. New York Times, the nation's paper of record, reaches about five and a half million people every week. USA Today is the most widely read newspaper in the country. They reach 11 million people a week. You toss in Newsweek magazine just for good measure; they reach an additional 3 million per week. That means The New York Times, USA Today, and Newsweek reach just under 20 million people every week. So how many crazy white right-wingers are, you know, listening to talk radio and Rush Limbaugh? Just over 20 million.

When Rush Limbaugh is reaching roughly the same number of people every week as an episode of American Idol -- and, by the way, more than those that read the three biggest news outlets in media history -- nobody should really tell those 20 million Americans that their opinion makes them political outsiders or second-class citizens.

The New York Times sets the agenda for every news outlet in this country, and Rush Limbaugh gets painted as a kook. Maybe it's time the liberal media realized you can't marginalize the mainstream. It seems to me things are changing, and maybe the mainstream is the new fringe.


PATRICK: Absolutely. They don't like criticism. As soon as you criticize Republicans from the media, you know, they step back. The truth is that the elite don't understand that the backbone of America is the hard-working man and woman who listens to talk radio.

I've always said, Glenn, that a phenomenon came along when Rush came along, and that was cell phones. Cell phones came along at the time that Rush -- I was one of the first people to put him on in a major market in the country back in the late '80s -- and cell phones allowed middle-class America to tap into Rush and allowed people to call in with their thoughts and allowed them to say, “Hey, you're not alone, Rush, and I'm not alone.”

And there have been many Rush-alikes around the country since, and like Babe Ruth built Yankee Stadium, Rush built AM radio. But he is not on the fringe. It's The New York Times that's on the fringe. Harry Reid is on the fringe. Hillary Clinton is on the fringe. And a few Republicans are on the fringe. This is what America's about.

BECK: I will tell you that I'm proud to say that, unlike some talk-show hosts on the left and -- mainly on the left, but some on the right, as well -- our guy -- and I think this is a really good thing -- as a conservative, when our guy started selling us out, we were done. We're like, “OK, wait a minute, you're not the guy who promised” -- but so many people will just keep going in and pitching for their guy. That's not representative of the American people. They just want somebody to tell the truth.