March 16, 2004
Rush Limbaugh Attacks Widows and Children
by Maureen Farrell
"Most of us here in the media are what I consider infotainers.... Rush Limbaugh is what I call a disinfotainer. He entertains by spreading disinformation." --Al Franken at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, April 23, 1994
Given his history, people expect Rush Limbaugh to skew a few facts. After all, in Limbaugh Land, Democrats and liberals are the boogiemen in America's closet, even when a mountain of evidence suggests otherwise. When he recently defended Howard Stern, for example, he automatically tacked on the usual spin. "If the government is going to 'censor' what they think is right and wrong, what happens if a whole bunch of John Kerrys, or Terry McAuliffes start running this country?" he wondered. Never mind, of course, that the religious right is actively trying to turn America into a theocracy [MoscowTimes.ru] or that the FCC is headed by Colin Powell's son.
In a subsequent op-ed, Limbaugh challenged the notion that Stern was dropped from six Clear Channel stations because he criticized the president. "So are we now going to popularize loony conspiracy theories from the left-wing fringe to defend Howard Stern?" Limbaugh asked, overlooking the glaring fact that the "left-wing fringe" included conservative talk show host Charles Goyette, who openly admitted, on both NPR and in The American Conservative, that he was banished "to radio Outer Darkness" due to the "oil-and-water incompatibility of these two seemingly disconnected phrases: 'Criticizing Bush' and 'Clear Channel.'"
All that aside, Limbaugh's recent remarks directed at two Sept. 11 widows veer so far off his worn propaganda path that they bypass his "insensitive and inappropriate" statements concerning Donovan McNabb and venture into the realm of another shameful moment in broadcast history -- when he lit into 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton in 1993. "Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat. Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is a White House dog?" Limbaugh said on TV, before holding up a picture of Chelsea.
What could be worse than that? Accusing 9/11 widows of being political shills comes crassly close.
"I can now begin to take credit for some things that happened on this program on Friday - A barnburner of a program," Rush declared on March 9. "You remember the program opened with some audio examples that we had found of families, certain family members, 9-11 victims, all saying the same things. And I cringed. I couldn't believe that the Democratic Party would sink this low, to exploit and capitalize on the misery and loss of families. But they did it. They found a way. In fact, they found some family members - and I'm going to say this - they found some family members who seemed to have more concern over who the president of this country is than over the sanctity of the loss of their own family members."
Limbaugh replayed an audio montage, featuring the voices of Sept. 11 widows Kristen Breitweiser and Monica Gabrielle, who, he warned, "are actually part of the Democratic Party machine."
VOICE I: I think for someone like President Bush who has not cooperated with this commission, who has stonewalled this commission.
VOICE II: This president and his administration blocked the creation of the commission, have stonewalled the commission.
VOICE I: If this was realistic from the morning of September 11th, it would show President Bush before a group of school children listening to them read, while the twin towers were burning.
VOICE II: If he wants to show a picture of 9-11 depicting what he was doing, it should be a picture of him sitting and reading in a classroom to school children. That's where he was on 9-11.
VOICE I: And we need to find out why 3,000 people were murdered on his watch.
VOICE II: Well, you know, this happened on his watch.
"This is two different women, and they appeared on four networks: CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and NBC, and they each have three phrases that they use verbatim," Rush explained. "These were prepared by Democratic campaign consultants. In fact, these women sound like campaign consultants, not grieving family members, and I was reluctant to make this charge; it's the first thing that crossed my mind. As I say, we've now learned all the organizational effort that's going on behind this and these people are indeed aligned with the Democratic Party. . . " [RushLimbaugh.com]
Of course, anyone who's been following the saga of these women knows how ridiculous this assertion is. "For your information, I am one of the widows you are wrongly accusing of being 'schooled' by the Democratic party," Breitweiser reportedly wrote, in an open letter to Limbaugh. "I am not a Democrat. I voted for President Bush. So did my husband who was killed on 9/11. I would encourage you to educate yourself on who I am, prior to your making erroneous statements about me on your radio show."
"I expect an apology for your false statements and erroneous accusations," Gabrielle reportedly wrote Limbaugh. "NO Democratic or other party member 'schooled' me or prepared my statements!. . . Neither I, nor the Family Steering Committee has received ANY FUNDING from ANY person or organization. . . . The attacking of 9/11 families with false, inflammatory statements is beneath even you. Unfortunately, it accomplishes nothing and serves only avoid the real issues. [911citizenswatch.org]
Both widows also directed Rush to the 9/11 Family Steering Committee's Web site, which explains their apolitical mission. "We have been accused of being tutored by a particular political party to make statements against the current administration. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are Americans who care about the future of this country. Our nonpartisan mission has always been clear: to find out how 9/11 happened so that nothing like it will ever happen again," the Web site reads, before making it clear the 9/11 Family Steering Committee seeks to rectify the problems that led to "widespread government failures, encompassing current AND prior administrations." [911independentcommission.org]
Unfortunately, Limbaugh isn't the only pundit casting suspicion on the widows' motives. When Kristen Breitweiser appeared on Hardball on Dec. 18, Chris Matthews seemed to grasp the larger picture. "I think, in order for us to make sure as a country that 9/11 will never happen again, we need to make sure that the individuals who are responsible for the failures are held accountable," Breitweiser said.
"It sounds like the problem is at the top," Matthews later responded. [Scoop.co.nz]
But two weeks ago, when Matthews hosted Monica Gabrielle, that flicker of recognition was gone. After Gabrielle chronicled Bush's dismal record on Sept. 11, Matthews expected the grieving widow to understand G.W.'s "war president" campaign strategy. "If this president's going to run for re-election as a war president, if he's going to advance his cause and maybe the majority of the country's cause that we're in a war against terrorism, how can he fight that fight without mentioning what happened to us and then showing what happened to us dramatically, [on] 9/11?" Matthews asked.
But as Gabrielle tried to explain why using Sept 11 as a political platform was distasteful regardless of political persuasion, Matthews honed in:
And so it goes. To media shills, everything is political, the surface is all, and spin is substance. And despite the fact that the Firefighters of America also said that "the use of 9/11 images" is "hypocrisy at its worst" and that that Bush has "basically shortchanged fire fighters and the safety of our homeland" [USNewswire.com], the widows' message is lost.
"We don't care about politics. We never did. What we care about is finding out why this nation was so vulnerable to terrorists on the morning of 9/11. What we care about is making sure that something like that never happens again," Breitweiser recently said. [CNN]
So how consistent has the widows' message been? If you look at their record, way back when (when the Democrats were still cowering), they were fighting for truth, justice and the American way. In fact, within months of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Skyscraper Safety Campaign co-chairman Gabrielle was penning letters to editors [Skyscrapersafety.org] while, in Aug. 2002, Breitweiser came out swinging on Donahue.
Delving into everything from NORAD oddities to her sisterhood with fellow 9/11 widows, Breitweiser also explained the nature of their mission:
Since then, Breitweiser and Gabrielle have been tireless in their fight to protect all Americans. And Limbaugh's gross distortions aside, this montage reveals a much more accurate glimpse of their dedication.
VOICE I: "You know, I'm frustrated. I don't understand why we all do not share the same mission, which is to make this nation safe. And I don't understand why this commission has had roadblock after roadblock after roadblock. And we all want this nation to be safe. And I think because it's an election year, that's ridiculous. We should be safe here, not because it's an election year, not because people are embarrassed. We need to fix these problems, problems that have been made readily apparent in hearings. People need to care about this." – Kristen Breitweiser (American Morning, CNN, Feb. 5, 2004)
VOICE II: "We've been fighting for nearly 21 months -- fighting the administration, the White House. As soon as we started looking for answers we were blocked, put off and ignored at every stop of the way." – Monica Gabrielle ("Bush's 9/11 Cover-up?" Salon.com, June 18, 2003)
VOICE I: "If you were to tell me that two years after the murder of my husband that we wouldn't have one question answered, I wouldn't believe it." -- Kristen Breitweiser ("911 Chair: Attack Was Preventable," CBS News, Dec.18, 2003)
VOICE II: "In the course of two years we've had no accountability, no responsibility. You don't have a failure this large without many hands having screwed up." -- Monica Gabrielle ("Connecticut Families Brace For Second Anniversary Of 9-11:Attacks Transformed Many Families Into Activists," wnbc.com, Sept. 11, 2003)
VOICE I – "If we have an executive branch that holds sole discretion over what information is released to the public and what is hidden, the public will never get the full story of why there was an utter failure to protect them that day, and who should be held accountable." -- Kristen Breitweiser, ("Four 9/11 Moms Battle Bush," The New York Observer, Aug.25, 2003)
VOICE II:" Whatever President Bush and his administration may think, the one important point to remember is this: Since 9/11, they have stonewalled and prevented a transparent investigation of that horrific day. This is the echo that should be reverberating throughout our country." -- Monica Gabrielle, ("G.O.P. Campaign Evades 9/11 Truths" NY Times, Letter to the Editor, Aug. 3, 2003)
VOICE I: "I'm very disappointed in the press. I've been scheduled to go on Meet the Press and Hardball so many times and I'm always canceled. Frankly I'd like nothing better than to go head to head with Dick Cheney on Meet the Press. Because somebody needs to ask the questions and I don't understand why nobody is." -- Kristin Breitweiser ("Bush's 9/11 Cover-up?" Salon.com, June 18, 2003)
VOICE II: "I am doing this [rejecting millions in compensation] for my husband. He was a gentle man, and he was alive, trying to get out of that building that day. The dead. The dying. The smoke. The terror. No one should have suffered like that. I want accountability. I need answers." – Monica Gabrielle, ("Families Sue U.S., Reject 9/11 'Bribe': Ignore Deadline for Compensation," The Toronto Star, Dec. 23, 2003)
Get the picture? Unfortunately, it seems that if you ask questions -- or openly criticize King George's commercials -- Rush Limbaugh will accuse you of being an operative for the Democrats. And sadly, many dittoheads, blind to the truth, will listen to him and believe.
It's great that Limbaugh kicked his drug habit. But he should get also work on getting his facts straight. Anyone who's been paying attention for the past two years realizes that regardless what Rush thinks, Kristen Breitweiser and Monica Gabrielle are not "actually part of the Democratic Party machine."
"I cannot relate to being obsessed with all this hatred. I just don't get it. It is unspeakable to me. It is dirty. It is wounding, " Limbaugh said on March 9, while smearing these Sept. 11 widows a second time.
Considering how Rush has slandered and misrepresented these women, he
should be deeply and publicly ashamed.
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2004, Maureen Farrell
otherwise noted, all original