Rush Limbaugh#039;s shame

by Beacon Staff • November 8, 2006

Michelle Malkin writes a book defending the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II; Republicans question the patriotism of former Sen. Max Cleland, a Vietnam veteran who lost multiple limbs in battle; and Ann Coulter defends Joe McCarthy and attacks 9-11 widows.,Until last week, it seemed right-wing smear merchants could not set the bar any lower.

Michelle Malkin writes a book defending the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II; Republicans question the patriotism of former Sen. Max Cleland, a Vietnam veteran who lost multiple limbs in battle; and Ann Coulter defends Joe McCarthy and attacks 9-11 widows.

This must be rock bottom, right?

Wrong.

It appears the depths of Rush Limbaugh's ignorance, hatred and vitriol go much deeper than one would expect.

Last week, he accused actor and Parkinson's disease sufferer Michael J. Fox of faking the side effects of the star's ailment in a campaign ad for Missouri Democratic Senate Candidate Claire McCaskill.

"He's moving all around and shaking, and it's purely an act," said the conservative host while literally shaking his body and flailing his limbs to mimic the side effects of Fox's illness. Contrary to several reports, Limbaugh has not apologized for his statement. "I take back none of what I said," he said.

Upon learning that Fox's condition was sincere, many on the right accused him of being exploited by Democrats, despite the fact that Fox campaigned for Republican Senator Arlen Specter in 2000.

It would be nice if we could just ignore the bigotry and idiocy of Rush Limbaugh and the like-minded simpletons who spread his hate-filled venom. If only we could turn our heads, rest assured in the knowledge that others will do the same.

In this talk-radio world, however, it is not enough to merely suffer morons. We also must make pains to counter their gross distortions of reality-because, sadly, people actually listen to their blather.

Rush Limbaugh's nonsensical musings reach an audience of 13.5 million people every week, according to Arbitron, an audience research organization. Many of these listeners hang on his every word as if it were gospel. Worse, President Bush appeared on the program the same week that Limbaugh made his statement, seemingly unperturbed by the fact that Limbaugh baselessly attacked a disabled person.

This talk-radio infrastructure is a very effective tool at discrediting those who dare to dissent, no matter how credible. As a victim of Parkinson's disease, Fox is especially qualified to comment on the need for federal funding for stem cell research. Who could have more ethos on the issue of medical research than someone who suffers everyday while science searches for a cure? He represents in flesh and blood those victimized by Bush's veto as well as our government's disdain for science.

"Conservatives are very worried that people will actually see the real-world implications of their policies," said Sam Seder of Air America. "This is what Rush Limbaugh's audience needs ... They need Rush to be there to give them an excuse to not take [Michael J. Fox] seriously."

And an excuse is exactly what he gave them. Thirteen million people now have a excuse to ignore disease: Rush told them it is part of a liberal conspiracy.

This was the exact same approach that some on the right took with Cindy Sheehan, who, as a mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq, was especially capable of understanding the cost of a failed policy. She was shamelessly smeared and her words were endlessly distorted.

The pattern is clear. When opposition rears its head, the radical right reaches back to the playbook of dirty tricks.

To his credit, Michael J. Fox responded to these offensive attacks with remarkable poise.

"I could give a damn about Rush Limbaugh's pity or anyone else's pity. I'm not a victim. I'm someone who is in this situation," said Fox. "I think I'm in this situation along with millions of other Americans, and we have a right, if there's answers out there, to pursue those answers with the full support of our politicians. And so I don't need anyone's permission to do that.

"There's 100 million Americans that are either touched by an incurable illness or know somebody who has incurable illness or love somebody who has incurable illness," he added. "most of the American population-70 percent-favor [stem cell] research because they know what it means."

Meanwhile, Limbaugh's tirade has served only to further the cause of science. In the week building up to a key midterm election, the country was talking about stem cell research.

Michael J. Fox may have Parkinson's disease, but it's clear that Rush Limbaugh and his shameless cohorts are the ones who are sick.