Story on Limbaugh Auction Misleads in the Lede

The Times again misconstrued Rush Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment.

The Saturday New York Times story on Rush Limbaugh's eBay auction once again misconstrued his 'phony soldiers' comment in the opening - and mysteriously, allowed Limbaugh to make his point about how it was a literal meaning about men who falsified a combat history, in paragraph 12. Stephanie Strom's story began:

"After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as 'phony soldiers,' he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic senators. He decided to auction the letter, which he described as 'this glittering jewel of colossal ignorance,' for charity, and he pledged to match the price, dollar for dollar.

Later in the piece, Strom added context, quoting Harry Reid, but only vaguely summarizing Limbaugh, without even using names like "Jesse Macbeth."

"He predicted that the sale's success would anger one signer of the letter, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, whom Mr. Limbaugh calls Dingy Harry.

"But in a statement on the floor of the Senate on Friday, Mr. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, praised the auction. 'I strongly believe that when we can put our differences aside, even Harry Reid and Rush Limbaugh, we should do that and try to accomplish good things for the American people,' he said.

"Dated Oct. 7, the letter read: 'Although Americans of good will debate the merits of this war, we can all agree that those who serve with such great courage deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. That is why Rush Limbaugh's recent characterization of troops who oppose the war as 'phony soldiers' is such an outrage.'"

"Mr. Limbaugh has said that he was referring only to one soldier, who was critical of the war and had served only 44 days in the Army, never seeing combat."

The brief story ends strangely. I'm not a lawyer, but it strikes me as weird that the Casey foundation's donation to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation can't be tax-exempt:

"Marcus S. Owens, a lawyer who headed the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees charities and foundations, said the Casey foundation might incur taxes on its purchase because it would have difficulty demonstrating that buying the letter furthered a charitable purpose. 'They'd have to establish the link between the transfer of money for that letter and promoting free speech,' Mr. Owens said, 'and that's going to be tough.'"

"I have no doubt that Owens has expertise, but he's also had liberal clients since leaving IRS, including a liberal Episcopal church and the NAACP.

-Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center