As someone who has been consistently critical of Rush Limbaugh's brand of conservatism, I nevertheless agree with former Reason intern (and current editor at the Washington City Paper) Mike Riggs: quite a few media hacks owe the right-wing talker a serious apology. When Limbaugh announced his interest in purchasing the St. Louis Rams, CNN's Rick Sanchez and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow (the "perky and "articulate" host who, according to Time magazine, is in possession of "exhaustively researched opinions on everything from al-Qaeda to AIDS," who is "cheerful, careful and civil!"), attacked the popular radio host as a racist, using the following quote as evidence:
"I mean, let's face it, we didn't have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: Slavery built the South. I'm not saying we should bring it back. I'm just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark."
And this one, cited by Maddow:
"You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray. We miss you, James. Godspeed."
Now, I know it might be surprising to some readers that a hyperpartisan hack with "exhaustively researched opinions" would reference a spurious quote on air—which is self-evidently phony—but Maddow told MSNBC viewers that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomeyer should not despair because "When you get called racist by the guy who says the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. should get the Medal of Honor, consider yourself honored."
Maddow's colleague David Schuster recited the fake slavery quote on air, as did Sanchez and handful of others.
The Telegraph's Toby Harnden makes a number of good points here:
The irony is, of course, that the people reporting this as fact are the same types who are always denouncing bloggers and the internet as forces of evil intent on destroying proper journalism – proper journalism being the kind that involves checking facts. In the case of Rush Limbaugh, however, it seems to be enough that the intention (i.e. to show the talk radio host is a racist) is considered pure.
Even those who have been primary movers in spreading these malicious falsehoods – which would lead to payouts of hundreds of thousands in British libel courts if lawsuits were ever filed there – are brazenly unapologetic.
Also, check out Nick Gillespie's recent post on Chris Matthews' desire to explode Limbaugh's head with a CO2 cartridge, which includes a stirring (and convincing) defense of the best Bond ever, Sir Roger Moore.