On the Spot (CNSNews.com) - Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is under fire from liberal media critics and some Democrats in Congress for using the term "phony soldiers" to describe Jesse Macbeth, who was sentenced to five months in prison for falsifying his military records.
Macbeth claimed to be the recipient of several medals, including the Purple Heart, and further claimed in Internet videos to have witnessed U.S. soldiers committing atrocities. It was later revealed that Macbeth had served for only six weeks and never saw combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The liberal media group Media Matters for America (which wants Limbaugh removed from taxpayer-supported Armed Forces Radio) has condemned the conservative Limbaugh for his alleged comments. Media Matters claims that Limbaugh used the "phony soldiers" term to describe all soldiers who have spoken out against the war.
Democratic Sens. Harry Reid (Nev.) and John Kerry (Mass.) have denounced Limbaugh, and Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) introduced a resolution in Congress, "Honoring all Americans serving in the Armed Forces of the United States and condemning the attack by broadcaster Rush Limbaugh on the integrity and professionalism of some of those Americans."
Limbaugh has explained on his talk-radio show that the "phony soldiers" comment was taken out of context and that he was referring specifically to Macbeth and others like him.
On his Sept. 26 show, where the controversy started, Limbaugh spoke with a caller and referred to "the phony soldiers." After the call finished, Limbaugh 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...."
Cybercast News Service went to the Capitol Hill on Monday to ask senators about this controversy. Below are transcripts of their comments and links to their audio-taped conversations with CNSNews.com reporters.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.): (Hear him say it)
Levin: "I thought it was plural. Was he referring to a single person?"
CNSNews.com: "He went on to talk about this Jesse Macbeth and mentioned other soldiers, other people similarly."
Levin: "From what I know about it, I don't have all the exact words, I don't buy it. I think it was obviously broader than one soldier."
CNSNews.com: "Have you had a chance to see or read the entire transcript?"
Levin: "I've read a part of the transcript."
CNSNews.com: "Is it the part that Media Matters [for America] has put out, that perhaps Sen. Reid (D-Nev.) has been..."
Levin: "Yes. It looked to me like he was not referring to one specific [soldier]."
Sen. John Warner (R-Va.): (Hear him say it)
"Look, I don't know anything in particular about this incident, but actually I think I've met Rush Limbaugh once. I find him to be, to the extent there's any clear definition of a patriot, I think he would fall in within the variations definitions of being a patriot. And I don't think about this incident, I don't think he would do anything to malign the men and women of the armed forces. That's my own view."
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.): (Hear him say it)
"I don't know what Rush Limbaugh meant, but if someone is portraying themselves to have been a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq and witnessed things in theatre and they didn't do it, they didn't serve and they couldn't have seen what they said they saw, then not only is that phony, that's a fraud.
"Now, anyone who served in Afghanistan, Iraq or the military in general has absolutely every right in the world to express themselves within the confines of military law. And solders who have served over there who are critical of the war have a right to express themselves just as people who support it so I don't see what the fuss is about."
CNSNews.com: "Do you think that it's fair to call someone like Jesse Macbeth a phony?"
Graham: "I think he's a fraud and phony, yeah, absolutely."
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.): (Hear him say it)
"What we've got into right now is a situation where MoveOn.org was hammered by the other side, so it's not surprising that now you've got a sort of the return of that in case of Limbaugh. Quite honestly, I don't get involved in those unless it's about me, and I consider talk radio entertainment as well as news, and so I just don't pay much attention to it."
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii): (Hear him say it)
"Well I feel that any citizen has a vote, a right to voice their opinion on anything they want to do and I think this Limbaugh, though I don't agree with him on many things, has the right to say what he says. And I don't think we need do legislation to get at him. I think, however, it's something that people can talk about and maybe help them render judgments. But I don't think we need to set any laws to stop that."
See Earlier Stories:
Senate Amendment Calls for 'Balance' on Armed Forces Radio (June 17, 2004)
Media Watchdog Expands Effort to Discredit Conservatives (July 19, 2004)
Liberals Want Limbaugh Booted Off Armed Forces Radio (May 27, 2004)
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