Limbaugh parroted DeLay's baseless claim that Democratic Party leaders conspired with Texas DA to indict DeLay
Research ››› ››› JOSH KALVEN
On the September 29 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh repeated baseless charges by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) that his current felony indictment for conspiracy was a coordinated effort by Democratic Party leaders and Travis County, Texas, district attorney Ronnie Earle. Neither DeLay nor Limbaugh have provided evidence to substantiate the allegations. While Limbaugh conceded that no such evidence existed, he later asserted, "He's right. He's got to be right. There's no question about it."
DeLay first made the claim of a conspiracy to prosecute him on the September 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews. During an interview with host Chris Matthews, he agreed that the indictment represented a "coordinated vendetta" against him by Earle and both the national and Texas Democratic parties:
MATTHEWS: And you believe that this is a political vendetta?
DeLAY: Oh, I know it is.
MATTHEWS: A coordinated vendetta by the House Democratic leadership here in Washington?
DeLAY: And Democrat leadership in Texas and Ronnie Earle. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that there was a heads-up to people like [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] before this thing today?
DeLay went on to repeat the claim later that evening on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
SEAN HANNITY (co-host): Do you believe that the prosecutor in this case -- if we had an opportunity to look at his correspondence, his phone records, phone logs, if we looked at his e-mail -- do you suspect that there might be some connection to national Democratic party leaders?
DeLAY: No doubt about it. Do you really believe that the national Democrat leaders that announced that they were going to take this strategy, that put it in their fund raising letters, never picked up the phone and talked to Ronnie Earle? Particularly over the last two weeks, when he made the statement two weeks ago that I have never been a target of this investigation, and he got a bad editorial from the Austin American-Statesman demanding that I be indicted?
Neither Matthews nor Hannity offered evidence that their questions had any basis in fact, nor did they press DeLay on whether he had any evidence to back up these accusations.
Th following day, on CNN's The Situation Room, DeLay again alleged coordination between Earle and the Democratic leadership. But when pushed by host Wolf Blitzer to substantiate the charges, DeLay offered no specific evidence and instead responded vaguely, "that evidence is coming" and claimed he would make it available "when it's timely." From the September 29 edition of the The Situation Room:
DeLAY: Ronnie Earle does this to all his political enemies. He did it to conservative Democrats. He did it -- and he does it to Republicans. And particularly in my case, he did it in conjunction and working with the Democrat leadership here in Washington, D.C.
BLITZER: Well, that's an explosive charge you make, that there was some sort of collusion or conspiracy between Ronnie Earle and Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in the Congress. What evidence, if any, do you have to back that up?
DeLAY: It's very good evidence, that they announced this strategy publicly, they put it on their website and this strategy is in their fund-raising letters.
BLITZER: Who specifically -- who announced this?
DeLAY: The DCCC, the Democratic [Congressional] Campaign Committee, run by chairman [Rep.] Rahm Emanuel [D-IL].
BLITZER: They announced that they were working with Ronnie Earle to get you an indictment?
DeLAY: No, they didn't do that.
BLITZER: What evidence is there they consulted with Ronnie Earle, that they talked to him or they had any dealings with him whatsoever?
DeLAY: That evidence is coming. But the point is, they announced the strategy, and it's very funny that two weeks ago, when Ronnie Earle said publicly that I was not part of the investigation, that I hadn't been investigated, and then turns around in two days -- over the weekend -- he now is going to indict me. It is quite obvious, because the Democrats announced this strategy. And we all know how this place works. I'm sure they worked closely with Ronnie Earle on this strategy.
BLITZER: When is the evidence going to be made available? You say it's coming. When are you going to make that evidence available?
DeLAY: When it's timely.
BLITZER: What does that mean?
DeLAY: When it's timely.
BLITZER: All right. Well, we'll have to wait and see for that evidence.
In response, Pelosi, whom DeLay singled out as part of the alleged conspiracy in his MSNBC interview, vehemently denied the accusations, stating in a September 29 release, "Mr. DeLay's allegations are completely false. They are a desperate act of a desperate man."
Limbaugh repeated DeLay's allegations several times during the September 29 edition of his radio program. He first stated, "There's no question in my mind this is a coordinated move within the Democratic Party." Later in the show, in response to a caller, Limbaugh conceded, "I don't have any evidence that there was collaboration between Washington Democrats and Ronnie Earle." But he went on to state, "[I]f I were to learn it, I wouldn't be surprised by it." Limbaugh then proceeded to play a clip of the exchange between Matthews and DeLay regarding the alleged coordination. Following the clip, he asserted of DeLay, "He's right. He's got to be right. There's no question about it."
From the September 29 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: The media is saying things that are not true about this indictment and about DeLay and about Ronnie Earle, the prosecutor down in Austin. It's classic. I mean, the news cycle on this is really all about what it's always been about, and that's getting George W. Bush and paralyzing the Republicans. The Democrats cannot win at the ballot box. The Democrats cannot win at the ballot box. There's no question in my mind this is a coordinated move within the Democratic Party.
CALLER: Ah, I just wanted to call and give you a heads-up. I received a computer-driven call on the phone, just prior to calling you, from some Democrat group of some type demanding or requesting that we call [Rep.] Nancy Johnson [R-CT] and demand that she return the funds that Tom DeLay gave her and that she demand Tom DeLay's resignation. So, what appears is this whole thing has been programmed and all set up waiting just to push the buttons.
LIMBAUGH: It wouldn't surprise me a bit. I don't have any evidence that there was collaboration between Washington Democrats and Ronnie Earle. But if I were to learn it, I wouldn't be surprised by it. So they've got their phone banks up and running -- got their computerized phone banks.
LIMBAUGH :So, well, you're probably going to get one of these phone bank calls yourself in certain districts. But if they've already got their phone bank operation up and running -- I know you can do this fairly quickly -- but it does seem like their might be a little coordination going on here, doesn't it?
LIMBAUGH: Hey, let's listen to DeLay. DeLay was on Hardboiled with Matthews last night. Matthews says, "You've said that there's a coordinated attack on you involving the leadership of the House on the Democratic side now. Is Pelosi involved?"
[begin audio clip]
MATTHEWS: What's her role in this?
DeLAY: I don't know. You ask her. But they announced it. It's on their website that they were going to come after me, and it's in all their fundraising mail. I'm not complaining. I'm just saying, this is what they're doing. I guarantee you, people like [former Reps.] Martin Frost [D-TX], Lloyd Doggett [D-TX].
MATTHEWS: They're still mad at you, aren't they?
DeLAY: Pete Laney, the former speaker [of the Texas House of Representatives, a Democrat].
MATTHEWS: These are the losers in the campaign to rebuild the Dem, Republican Party of Texas.
DeLAY: That's exactly right. Exactly right.
[end audio clip]
LIMBAUGH: And Matthews says, "Well, do you believe that there was a heads-up to people like Pelosi before this thing came out today?"
[begin audio clip]
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that Nancy Pelosi and all the Democrats are keeping quiet today in order to let the focus be completely on you.
DeLAY: And you're probably one of them. The DCCC last, yesterday afternoon was shopping this story. Nobody had this story --
[end audio clip]
LIMBAUGH: The DCCC. I love this! Yeah! Yeah! I believe Pelosi and all the Democrats had it, and they're keeping quiet, and I think you're one of them. I think you're one of them. I think you had -- one of you had advance notice of this. He's right. He's got to be right. There's no question about it.