Rush Limbaugh fired back today at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid after the Nevada Democrat made a speech on the Senate floor denouncing the talk radio host for allegedly making a “hateful” and “unpatriotic” attack on U.S. troops opposed to the war in Iraq.
Limbaugh, contending he was “smeared” with false charges, demanded Reid come on the top-rated radio program, confront him “like a man” and “stop hiding behind the speech-and-debate clause and your Senate immunity.”
“You want to come on this program and call me unpatriotic, come on this program and call me unpatriotic,” Limbaugh said. “You want to call me a liar, you want to tell me that I did not say what I said, you come on this program and you tell me to my face that I said what I did not say.”
Democrats contend Limbaugh characterized anti-war troops as “phony soldiers,” but Limbaugh points out his reference was specifically to Jesse MacBeth, who was uncovered as a fraud after claiming atrocities by U.S. troops.
Video of Reid’s remarks, broadcast by C-Span 2, were posted by blogger Ian Schwartz.
Meanwhile, the House is considering a resolution in support of Limbaugh, commending him “for his ongoing public support of American troops serving both here and abroad.”
Democrats seized on the issue as a counterattack to criticism from Republicans over a MoveOn.org ad that referred to Gen. David Petraeus as “General Betray Us.”
Reid, demanding Limbaugh apologize to U.S. troops, told his Senate colleagues:
Last week, Rush Limbaugh went way over the line, way over the line. While I respect his right to say anything he likes, his unpatriotic comments I cannot ignore. 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, and 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.
Responding after playing clips of Reid’s speech on his program today, Limbaugh said he did make an apology — on behalf of Democrats for their “smear campaign.”
Reid, said Limbaugh, knows what he is saying is false, but “he just wants to get this in the Congressional Record now” as a way “to discredit me and rehabilitate the Democrats.”
Limbaugh called Reid’s speech “Kafkaesque,” noting he had just finished an interview with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, “talking about the lies and stuff spread about him during his confirmation hearings, and now I, little old private citizen, Rush Limbaugh, the subject of Senate action, the subject today of House of Representatives action, all based on a purposely told lie, which they know is a lie, and yet they are persisting in this.”
“Followed it up with denials?” said Limbaugh incredulously. “I followed it up with setting the record straight. By the way, on my website, folks, all of this is there. It’s been up there all weekend, and we added something last night that you have to see.”
Limbaugh noted the “phony soldiers” label was used a week ago by ABC News, which presented a feature by investigative reporter Brian Ross on MacBeth. Regarding Murtha, he said, “I just did a story today saying that he has been sued by a soldier for calling him a murderer. I just reported the news today, and yet this is reported as an attack on Congressman Jack Murtha.”
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, also denounced Limbaugh from the Senate floor, charging the radio host says “provocative things to make more money,” noted the blog Think Progress.
He suggested, however, there may be another explanation for the “phony soldiers” remark.
“Well, I don’t know. Maybe he was just high on his drugs again,” Harkin said. “I don’t know whether he was or not. If so, he ought to let us know. But that shouldn’t be an excuse.”
The controversy began after Limbaugh’s Sept. 26 show, when he referred to “the phony soldiers” in a call with a listener.
Limbaugh then told his audience:
“Here is a Morning Update that we did recently, talking about fake soldiers. This is a story of who the left props up as heroes. They have their celebrities and one of them was Army Ranger Jesse MacBeth. Now, he was a ‘corporal,’ I say in quotes. Now, recently, Jesse Macbeth, poster boy for the anti-war left, had his day in court. And you know what? He was sentenced to five months in jail and three years probation for falsifying a Department of Veterans Affairs claim and his Army discharge record. He was in the Army. Jesse Macbeth was in the Army, folks – briefly – 44 days before he washed out of boot camp. Jesse Macbeth isn’t an Army Ranger, never was. He isn’t a corporal, never was. He never won the Purple Heart, and he was never in combat to witness the horrors he claimed to have seen. You probably haven’t even heard about this. And, if you have, you haven’t heard much about it. This doesn’t fit the narrative and the template in the drive-by media and the Democrat Party as to who is a genuine war hero. …”
The left-leaning group Media Matters for America then picked up on Limbaugh’s comments, claiming he was referring to all U.S. troops who oppose the war.