As an example of Rush Limbaugh supposedly trying to deceive his audience, Franken points to Limbaugh showing a New York Times headline to his audience:
BUSH ASSAILS CLINTON’S PATRIOTISM DURING VIETNAM WAR PROTEST ERA.
(Definition of “assail”: To attack violently)
Rush cited the headline as an example of media bias, explaining the article mischaracterized what Bush had said. He then rolled a clip from the October 4, 1992 interview, which was from Larry King Live, so the audience could judge for themselves. But, according to Franken, it was a clip from “a totally different part of the interview.”
Franken of course claimed that the headline accurately represented the interview. Franken even cited what he considers the relevant excerpt from the show–the real “attack on Clinton’s patriotism.”
In a minute we will discuss the relevance of the clip Limbaugh aired. But first, the part of the interview Franken accused Rush of hiding. According to Franken, it constitutes an “attack on Clinton’s patriotism.” This is the quote:
Maybe I’m old fashioned, Larry, but to go to a foreign country and demonstrate against your own country, when your sons and daughters are dying halfway around the world? I’m sorry, I–I just don’t like it. I think it is wrong.
(October 4, 1992).
That was a factual description of what Clinton did, then a follow-up of “I’m sorry, I–I just don’t like it. I think it is wrong.”
“Wrong” could mean unproductive. Or unjust. Or uninspiring. Or unfair. Or unwise. Or unsportsmanlike, unprofessional or unethical. Why would Franken assume Bush was using it to mean “unpatriotic?”
Remember the headline:
BUSH ASSAILS CLINTON’S PATRIOTISM DURING VIETNAM WAR PROTEST ERA
The Times is the one connecting the actions of Bill Clinton with a lack of patriotism. Bush did not connect Clinton’s actions with a lack of patriotism, he merely said he didn’t like it and thought it was wrong.
Therefore, Franken and the Times are implying that Clinton’s actions were so overtly unpatriotic that the mere recounting of the facts surrounding what Clinton did is by default a reference to patriotism.
So it was Franken, not Bush, who questioned Clinton’s patriotism.
Now the clip Rush played. When Franken claims the clip was from “a totally different part of the interview,” he wants the reader to think it was “totally different” than the subject of the articles. In reality, it was the primary focus in most of the articles and was the part of the interview being routinely mischaracterized by journalists to accuse Bush of attacking Clinton’s patriotism.
The comments in the clip had to do with Clinton visiting Moscow. Bush was asked a question about it and answered rather benignly, yet the backlash against him was swift and vicious. In many instances, the media compared Bush with McCarthy.
So, while the New York Times headline was one of the examples Rush showed his audience, it was only part of a larger issue Rush was confronting. Therefore, there was a very good reason for Rush to play the clip. Here’s the transcript of what Bush said in the part of the interview played by Rush:
KING: What do you make of the Clinton Moscow trip thing? You think that’s…
KING: He says it was just a student trip.
BUSH: Larry, I don’t want to tell you what I really think because I don’t have the facts. I don’t have the facts. But to go to Moscow one year after Russia crushed Czechoslovakia, and not remember who you saw, I think — I really think the answer is level with the American people. I made a mistake. I’ve said I made mistakes. But don’t try to — you can remember who you saw in the airport in Oslo, but you can’t remember who you saw in Moscow.
KING: In other words, you’re saying…
BUSH: I’m just saying level with the American people on the draft, on whether he went to Moscow, how many demonstrations he led against his own country from a foreign soil — level. Tell us the truth and let the voters then decide who to trust or not.
After playing the clip, Limbaugh countered the distortions that were being made about this part of the interview, saying, “I didn’t hear one assault on patriotism. I didn’t hear one word or syllable questioning Bill Clinton’s patriotism…” As Rush pointed out, “patriotism” is love for one’s country.
The racket Franken uses here is interesting. To recap:
a) Bush is asked a question about a controversy surrounding his opponent.
b) He answers saying that he doesn’t have the facts but he thinks his opponent should level with the people.
c) This innocent call for the challenger to answer the questions he was being asked is twisted into “red baiting”– like when Dan Balz of the Washington Post asserted that the comment had “moved the issue to a different level by invoking the old specter of anti-communist suspicion and innuendo that marked American politics of an earlier era.”
d) Rush then exposed these types of distortions using the actual quote–about Moscow—the media had distorted.
e) Enter Franken. He tells his reader about a different comment Bush had made in the King interview, a comment having nothing to do with the Soviet Union or Moscow.
f) Franken does not mention the controversy about the Moscow quote.
g) Franken then quotes Rush discussing a headline and complaining about it. Franken’s reader is led to assume the headline is about the comment Franken mentioned. Franken’s reader does not know there is a reason for Rush to focus on a different quote.
h) Therefore, when Franken writes that Rush ran “a twenty-second clip from a totally different part of the interview”, which was really the Moscow clip, the reader thinks that Rush is dishonest.