Rush, Sharpton, Jackson

 For daring to be part of a group bidding for the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, Rush Limbaugh was viciously slandered and libeled as a racist. For days. Practically no one in the dominant media culture rose to Rush’s defense—just weeks after many prominent figures defended pedophile fugitive director Roman Polanski. And there have been few if any public apologies from those who peddled the false, absurd, and grotesque claim that Rush pined for the days of slavery and wanted to give Martin Luther King’s assassin a posthumous Medal of Honor.

But in today’s culture, being a liberal means never having to say you’re sorry, Jim Lakely writes.

Rush defended himself well in today’s Wall Street Journal, but it is still worth talking more about the larger picture here. When the destruction of Rush was in the early days, commenters at the Infinite Monkeys blog argued (roughly) that the dumping of Rush from the group trying to purchase the moribund Rams was the "free market" at work, Rush has no right to own an NFL team, he’s paying the price for his big mouth, etc.  It’s a theme Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson promotes, as well. Yet Ramesh Ponnuru made quick work of that foolish argument and got to the crux of why what Rush went through is outrageous, at The Washington Post’s forum:

In his gleeful column about Limbaugh’s failed attempt to become an owner of the Rams, Eugene Robinson writes: "In announcing that Limbaugh was no longer associated with his bid for the Rams, Checketts said it was ‘clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction.’ That’s the way the free market works in this great country of ours. I know that Rush will join me in a chorus of ‘God Bless America.’"

Nice try. Since nobody is talking about using government regulation to keep Limbaugh from suffering from a smear campaign or its fallout, conservatives’ belief in the free market is entirely irrelevant to the controversy. (People acting under no government compulsion make foolish and even wicked decisions all the time. Has any conservative ever denied this obvious truth?)

Conservatives’ criticism has been directed at the invented quotes that much of the media have used to portray Limbaugh as a racist: the vile claims that he approved the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and favors slavery. Incredibly, Robinson does not mention these journalistic fabrications.

And it’s much the most interesting facet of this story. Much of the press was willing to believe that Limbaugh believes these hateful things, and even broadcast them — and that millions of American conservatives listen daily to this type of filth. This is what a lot of liberal journalists think about their conservative fellow citizens. Is it any wonder their coverage is so frequently unfair?

As Limbaugh himself noted on his radio show Thursday (and later in his WSJ piece), this is not really even about him. Rush is just a conduit for the liberal establishment’s attack on conservatism, which they believe to be racist at its core. Whether or not most liberals actually believe that, the leading lights of liberalism that get on news chat shows and write columns are quick use race as a club to shut down debate and discredit their political opponents. One must look no farther than attempts to portray criticism of Obama as having no grounding in principle, but in racism.

As but the latest example of this technique, Michael Wilbon, a sports columnist I used to greatly admire in The Washington Post, did not use his column Thursday to walk back from his unfair characterization of Rush. Instead, he doubled down.

But Limbaugh has [a] long history of the same insults and race baiting, to the point of declaring he hoped the president of the United States, a black man, fails. I never understood why someone with Limbaugh’s gift for communication was so nasty and, in my opinion, gave cover to bigots everywhere under the guise of conservatism. Clearly, I’m not alone.

So … Limbaugh, as principled a conservative as you can find — one who even opposed John McCain for president (until the only other option was Obama) — opposes the ultra-liberal Obama because he is black. Must be the only explanation. (Sigh.) This from a man who admits he doesn’t listen to Limbaugh — but everyone he knows tells him that Rush is a racist, so it must be true. (How much do you want to bet Wilbon has few if any friends who have listened non-stop to a single hour of Rush’s show, let alone a week’s worth?)

Certainly, Rush Limbaugh does not have a "right" to be a minority owner of an NFL team. And there is no "right" that protects him from being unfairly called a racist (though libel laws do give him the right to seek judicial punishment for the slander). Yet we should all agree that what has happened to Rush this week was a terrible wrong. In a just society, those who peddled the lies about what Rush said should be thumped out of the public commentariat.

There are no accusations more damning in American society than to be unfairly portrayed as a racist, especially if one makes his living as a public commentator. And to be falsely accused of saying on the air that the assassin of MLK deserves a Medal of Honor? To say that slavery "wasn’t all bad"? Egad! Yet I’ve heard no one who peddled those vicious libel fully take it back (Excising the quotes from stories with an "editor’s note" stating Limbaugh "claims" he never said it, or that it can’t be proven is almost as shameful as the original smear).

Of course, the two loudest howlers against Rush — Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson — continue to enjoy fawning media attention despite their own long history of race hustling and perpetuating mythical "race crimes" (See: Rape Case, Duke Lacrosse; Brawley, Tawana). They are never even asked to apologize, let alone have it in them to do it.

So, yes. My wish is about the true race hustlers being marginalized is as likely to come to pass as I am to be signed by an NFL team. But I will cling to it nonetheless — and so should everyone who thinks it’s finally time to elevate our national discourse, especially on matters of race.

(Cross-posted at Infinite Monkeys