Friday, January 09, 2004

The Network War Against Rush Limbaugh

by Sherry Eros, MD and Steven Eros


This article was originally published in Human Events magazine and humaneventsonline

Rush Limbaugh's dependence on painkillers, his recent drug treatment, and related legal problems have headlined the three major network news broadcasts repeatedly over a period of many weeks now. The reports are consistently cast in the most lurid, exaggerated, inflammatory and prejudicial terms.

The persistent drumbeat began with Limbaugh's ESPN comments alleging media favoritism toward black quarterback Donovan McNabb and exploded in the days following the National Enquirer's disclosure of Limbaugh's addiction to painkillers.

Network anchors Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings all slyly insinuated that Limbaugh was himself participating in drug selling operations, with references to his involvement in a "powerful drug ring" (Rather-CBS) "drug-selling" (Brokaw-NBC), and "sale of black market prescription drugs" (Jennings-ABC).

The network news conjured up "recreational drug use," shooting-up "hillbilly heroin," "huge amounts of cash to buy drugs," "money laundering," and participation in "narcotics rings." For CBS anchor Dan Rather, simple doctor shopping was not enough, so he reported allegations of "serious doctor shopping" (perhaps attaining the level "serious" was what justified the prosecutors' "raiding" of Limbaugh's private doctors' offices for evidence).

Likewise, addiction to mere prescription painkillers was insufficiently sensational, so Rather's report spoke of drugs "often sold by powerful drug traffickers" (one wonders if this breathless reference to traffickers was to Limbaugh's alleged main source, the "powerful drug trafficker" who served as his housemaid for several years). Obscured or omitted was the fact that Limbaugh's use of painkillers was occasioned by pain resulting from what Limbaugh characterized as "unsuccessful spinal surgery" and from surgical insertion of a cochlear implant to cure his deafness.

Several Democratic Party leaders, presidential candidates, and left-wing activists seemed openly gleeful. Presidential contender Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) could not resist his trademark "cheap shot" when, in the middle of the Oct. 9, 2003, Democratic Party presidential debate, the senator quipped, "There are two ways for you to have lower prescription drug costs. One is, you could hire Rush Limbaugh's housekeeper."

In the same spirit, NBC "Today Show" host Katie Couric tittered, "I feel actually good. Rush Limbaugh sat next to me. . . . And he gave me some vitamins. Whoo!"

So interchangeable have become position statements made at Democratic Party presidential debates and jokes made on NBC's "Tonight Show." Al Franken's ubiquity as conservative media critic and Democratic Party mouthpiece would seem to fit the same pattern of commutability and commensurability of opposites. Perhaps to former Gov. Dean's "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" must be added the "Media Wing of the Democratic Party."

Other Democratic Party presidential hopefuls were more direct in expressing their hatred of, and preoccupation with, Rush Limbaugh. Dick Gephardt, in a Dec. 22, 2003, Wall Street Journal article, explains widespread Democratic hatred of President Bush by reference to what he terms "Limbaugh invective" suffusing the media. Howard Dean and Al Sharpton demanded Limbaugh resign for his McNabb remarks. Bizarrely, presidential contender Wesley Clark wrote letters demanding that ABC and ESPN fire him for "hateful and ignorant speech." Insisted the retired general who succeeded in ridding the world of the likes of Milosevic but patiently believes Saddam Hussein should have been retained as Iraqi dictator, "Mr. Limbaugh should be fired immediately."

The Rush Limbaugh timeline below exposes the elite media's political effort to demonize and discredit Rush Limbaugh, giving a false impression of criminal activity in the absence of any evidence. Taken together with the other media and political attacks on the conservative broadcasting superstar, these comments signify nothing less than an all-out "War Against Rush Limbaugh" jointly being waged by the elite media and Democratic Party politicians.

About the criminal probes, Limbaugh attorney Roy Black asks rhetorically, "Of all of the . . . millions of people who've become addicted to painkillers, some very well-known people, have you ever seen search warrants served on their doctor's offices? Have you ever watched people on television leafing through records, calling out the names of their doctors and a list of medications they were using? Has anyone ever seen that before? The first person is Rush Limbaugh. And you have to ask yourself, why is that?"

The talk radio legend suggested that he knew the answer, cryptically commenting, "I know where the story comes from. I know who's behind it. And I know what the purpose of the. . . story is. And I'll be able to tell you at some point."

Why the involvement of the Democratic Party presidential candidates? Why the inflammatory rhetoric of the network news anchors? Why the politically motivated raids on Limbaugh's doctors' offices? Simply viewing the Rush Limbaugh timeline makes the answers quite obvious here, now, today, without having to wait for Limbaugh's own explanation.

Does anyone remember seeing any such sleazy network news coverage of the dredged-up allegations of decades-old recreational use of cocaine by NBC's own Matt Lauer that surfaced a few weeks ago? A search of the news databases found not a one. Yet the Lauer story featured in the National Enquirer the same month as the Limbaugh allegations. Did Dan, Tom, Peter, and Katie simply overlook it?
Media TimelineSept. 28, 2003:Limbaugh criticizes McNabb on ESPN: "The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well"

Oct. 1, 2003: Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark writes letter urging ESPN and ABC to fire "hateful and ignorant" Limbaugh for McNabb remarks; more than 20 House Democrats urge ESPN to fire Limbaugh

Oct. 2, 2003: AP report: "Democratic presidential candidates Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, the Rev. Al Sharpton had called for ESPN to fire Limbaugh."

Thursday, Oct. 2, 2003: Peter Jennings, "World News Tonight," ABC: "the NAACP and at least one Presidential candidate said today ESPN should can him."

Thursday Oct. 2, 2003: Limbaugh Reported Out As ESPN Sports Analyst.

Thursday Oct. 2, 2003: National Enquirer Story, "Rush Limbaugh Caught In Drug Ring!"

Thursday Oct. 2, 2003: Dan Rather, CBS "Evening News": HEADLINE: Rush Limbaugh resigns ESPN job over racist remarks and is now under investigation for connection to drug ring.

Dan Rather: "Rush Limbaugh . . . he's being investigated for possible connections to a powerful drug ring in south Florida."

Thursday Oct. 2, 2003: Peter Jennings, "World News Tonight," ABC: "As for Rush Limbaugh . . . [he is] now being investigated for possible involvement in the sale of black market prescription drugs."

Thursday, Oct. 2, 2003: Tom Brokaw, NBC "Nightly News": ". . . tabloid headlines that he's involved in an illegal prescription drug-selling probe in his home state of Florida."

Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2003: Dan Rather, CBS "Evening News": Dan Rather: "stories abound about Rush Limbaugh and a drug gang . . . ."

Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2003: Dan Rather, CBS "Evening News": ". . . talk radio's Rush Limbaugh and renewed focus on narcotics rings that traffic in the potent painkiller OxyContin."

Friday, Oct. 10, 2003: Dan Rather, CBS "Evening News": "Rush Limbaugh, who refused to talk for days about allegations. . . is hooked on drugs . . . often sold by powerful drug traffickers. "

Friday, Oct. 10, 2003: Rush Limbaugh Admits Dependence and Resolves To Enter Drug Rehabilitation.

Monday, Oct. 13, 2003: Hannah Storm, co-host "The Early Show," CBS: "Rush Limbaugh . . . he is a drug addict . . . he lost his job at ESPN . . . forced to make this admission . . . OxyContin. . . that's hillbilly heroin, 'cause people shoot that up to get high. . . . How can you make the distinction that he wasn't using that for recreational purposes . . . should he go to jail?

Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2003: Rush Limbaugh Exits Drug Rehabilitation.

Monday, Nov. 17, 2003: Rush Limbaugh Resumes Broadcasting After Month Long Stay At Drug Rehabilitation Clinic.

Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2003: Peter Jennings, "World News Tonight," ABC: HEADLINE: A Closer Look: Rush Limbaugh Under Investigation. Peter Jennings: "The talk show host just finished five weeks of treatment. His legal difficulties may continue. Officials are now looking into whether Limbaugh laundered money . . .". Brian Ross, investigative reporter: "Limbaugh's lawyers say he did not do that and that he is being falsely accused by those who want to force him off the air. Officials say a decision on whether to prosecute Limbaugh on money laundering charges or anything else, Peter, will be made in the next few weeks."

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2003: Elizabeth Vargas, "World News Tonight," ABC: "Talk show host Rush Limbaugh . . . may face money laundering charges. . . huge amounts of cash to buy drugs. Limbaugh doesn't deny. . . ." Rush Limbaugh: "There wasn't any money laundering going on. And I know where the story comes from. I know who's behind it. And I know what the purpose of the, of the story is. And I'll be able to tell you at some point."

Thursday, Dec. 4, 2003: Tom Brokaw, NBC "Nightly News": Tom Brokaw: "There's more trouble for radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh . . . investigators raided his doctor's offices [for] what they call 'doctor shopping' for prescription painkillers."

Friday, Dec. 5, 2003: Dan Rather, CBS "Evening News": Dan Rather: "CBS investigates serious doctor-shopping drug allegations against Rush Limbaugh."

Friday, Dec. 5, 2003: Katie Couric, NBC "Today show": "Rush Limbaugh with a big legal headache today. Investigators stormed the offices of four of his doctors."

Friday, Dec. 5, 2003: Roy Black, Rush Limbaugh's attorney, appears on NBC "Today show": "Sure. Does anybody really believe Rush Limbaugh went to an ear surgeon and had an implant put in his head so he could have an excuse to get prescriptions? I mean, when you think about this it's really absurd. And look where this started. It started out, 'he's part of a drug ring, or drug trafficking.' Then, supposedly, 'he does money laundering.' Now they've gone all the way to say 'doctor shopping.' Every week it is something new. . . an elected public official in Florida simply could not ignore the name Rush Limbaugh. And guess what? He's being treated differently than anybody else I've ever seen in the history of this country . . . . Let me ask you this: Of all of the . . . millions of people who've become addicted to painkillers, some very well known people, have you ever seen search warrants served on their doctor's offices? Have you ever watched people on television leafing through records, calling out the names of their doctors and a list of medications they were using? Has anyone ever seen that before? The first person is Rush Limbaugh. And you have to ask yourself, why is that?"

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