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Rushing to Spin

The ConWeb gallops to Rush Limbaugh's defense once more by repeating his lawyer's spin and deflecting all criticism.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 5/4/2006

When charges of pain-pill addiction and doctor-shopping to obtain more of said pain pills first surfaced against Rush Limbaugh in 2003, the ConWeb was first to rush (so to speak) to his defense, as ConWebWatch documented. NewsMax, WorldNetDaily and the Media Research Center did this by smearing his accusers, bashing the prosecutor, hypocritically attacking the tabloids where the allegation first surfaced -- they had defended tabloids that unearthed the seamy scandals of Democrats -- and shielding Limbaugh himself from blame.

With the April 28 announcement of the plea agreement regarding Limbaugh's doctor-shopping charges, the ConWeb happily performed the same service once again.

NewsMax set the tone of ConWeb coverage by demonstrating its slant right off the bat -- its first report came in the form of a reproduction of a press release by Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, that spun the story in Limbaugh's favor. WorldNetDaily similarly quoted only Black in its sole report on the deal.

The Media Research Center soon joined in. An April 28 post by Brent Baker (repeated in a May 1 CyberAlert) bought into Black's spin by falsely implying that it was wrong to report that Rush Limbaugh was "arrested" as part of his plea bargain on doctor-shopping charges because it "was really more of a booking session that did not put Limbaugh into handcuffs or any jail." This was followed the next day by a post by Tim Graham similarly bashing the Washington Post for committing the same alleged infraction.

In fact, Limbaugh was indeed under arrest at the time of his booking, as CNN reported:

Although Black urged reporters not to call it an arrest -- because Limbaugh turned himself in and was never handcuffed -- a sheriff's spokesman said technically he was under arrest during his booking.

Even Limbaugh himself admitted that the question of his arrest is all about "semantics." He was in fact arrested, but he and his lawyer -- and the ConWeb -- refuse to honestly use the term.

The echo chamber then kicked in, with NewsMax reworking Graham's post into an April 30 article. Another NewsMax article, on April 29, touted Limbaugh's $250,000 donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while not saying a word about the plea deal he entered into a day earlier.

An April 29 NewsBusters post by Brent Baker (also repeated in a May 1 CyberAlert) performed hair-splitting services on Limbaugh's behalf by claiming that ABC didn't back up its claim that Rush Limbaugh was "a hypocrite for previously condemning drug users" because it "didn't offer any evidence Limbaugh has ever denounced those hooked on prescription pain medication." While ABC did play a clip of Limbaugh saying, "The people who are caught doing this stuff ought to be sent away. They ought to be punished," Baker parsed it away:

What, however, was the "stuff" to which Limbaugh referred? [ABC reporter Jeffrey] Kofman did not specify in delivering his broadside, but if Limbaugh was condemning users of illegal hallucinogenic substances, such as cocaine or heroin, that's quite a bit different than obtaining an excessive level of legal drugs to control pain.

As if the process of addiction and withdrawal is somehow different for Limbaugh because he's a conservative icon and not a street junkie.

Baker similarly whacked The New York Times for "an uncorroborated broadside which didn't differentiate between illegal mind-altering drugs and legal, prescription-controlled pain relievers."

Over at the MRC's TimesWatch, Clay Waters similarly uses a May 1 item to defend Limbaugh against charges that he's a "hypocrite" for previously suggesting that drug abusers should be jailed. Waters' exculpatory evidence: Limbaugh said it in 1995, which "suggests that perhaps Limbaugh didn't 'regularly' say much about drug users," and that "Limbaugh is talking not about addiction to legal painkillers, but illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin."

A May 1 NewsMax column by James Hirsen revived the attack on the rule of law, calling the prosecutor who pursued Rush Limbaugh on doctor-shopping charges "a Ronnie Earle wannabe prosecutor" and claiming that he engaged in "a politically motivated investigation"; Hirsen offered no evidence to support his claim -- the same lack of evidence it had to support a similar attack back in 2003.

NewsMax took one more stab the "arrest" angle, blaring in the headline of a May 1 article, "Newsweek: Rush Limbaugh 'Arrest' Reports Were Bogus." But as the article itself states, Newsweek actually claimed that "the word 'arrest' was misleading" -- Earth to NewsMax: "Bogus" and "misleading" aren't synonymous -- a charge that itself is miselading because Limbaugh was in fact under arrest. (Not to mentioned contradicted by the photo of Limbaugh accompanying the Newsweek article, which states that "Limbaugh was arrested.")

Eager to put a lid on things once and for all, a May 1 NewsBusters post by Brian Boyd sums up ConWeb sentiments by complaining that ABC's "Good Morning America" reported on the Limbaugh plea "even though there's nothing new to say."

In predictably rushing to Rush's defense yet again, the ConWeb has demonstrated that it has nothing new to say.

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