Free Markets, Free People

Should Rush Sue?

For anyone who has been paying attention to how the media treats conservatives, the current smearing of Rush Limbaugh should comes as no surprise. The radio personality expresses an interest in being a part owner of the St. Louis Rams and, because the players in the NFL are something like 75% black (which, of course, nobody has a problem with), the racial knives come out in an instant. Unsourced and ill-founded claims that Limbaugh is a racist immediately flood the media airwaves. The problem is, quotes alleged to have been uttered by Limbaugh are entirely made up. Not that the media made any effort to find that out.

So where are these racist soundbites? Where’s the audio? Where’s the transcript? Name the year. Heigh-ho, say CNN’s Rick Sanchez and the rest of the basement-ratings crowd. Not our problem: It’s for Limbaugh to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he’s never said it.

We’re too busy fact-checking anti-Obama jokes to fact-check our own reporting . . .

The conservative commentator is now threatening to sue for defamation (via Gateway Pundit). I carry no water for Limbaugh, and have only heard snippets of his show a few times in the past 15 years or so. When he called out the media for lauding Donovan McNabb just because he was a black quarterback, I thought he was being ridiculously divisive and adding politics where it wasn’t needed, even as I agreed that the Eagle QB was overrated. What I have never seen is any actual evidence that Limbaugh is a racist or that he supports racism in any way. For that reason, and because I think the media needs to be held accountable for its unmitigated torturing of the truth on a daily basis, I hope that Limbaugh follows through with his threat.

Now, despite being an attorney, I’m actually pretty non-litigious. Most people don’t understand how expensive, invasive and stressful being involved in a court case can be, even when they have ironclad circumstances in their favor. In Limbaugh’s case, he would have it even tougher because, thanks to Times v. Sullivan, he would have to prove actual malice (i.e. that the libelous statements were made with knowledge that they were false or with reckless disregard of whether they were false or not), which is harder than it seems. Even so, he has an excellent case to punish the MSM for its routine malpractice, and if he’s willing to spend the money I think he should go for it.


35 Responses to Should Rush Sue?

  • Now, despite being an attorney

    I knew there was something wrong with you…


    I kid, I kid…

  • If his goal is to “win” he shouldn’t sue because he will never win any damages or admissions of wrongdoing.

    If his goal is to publicize the issue and expose fools such as Sanchez and Jason Whitlock for the lazy journos they are (and to get the word out there about the false quotes) he should go for it.

  • I agree, he has the money to do it if he wants to, i think it would be good to simply prove the quotes false and publicly let it be known. While i think he could get then on malice, the point was to stop him from getting the Rams, i think they could prove that perhaps. But willingly knew it was a lie? Thats hard to prove, even thought th left routinely calls people out for lying while they would never win it in court and they know it.

    • The individuals have provided proof. I heard a sound bite where the “journalist” repeated the slavery statement, acknowledged his denial and then went on to say it doesn’t matter if he actually said it because he obviously thinks it.
      If you repeat a lie often enough and loudly enough does it make it true?

  • If in Limbaugh’s best prudential judgment, in consultation with attorneys and business advisors, he has suffered material damage to his reputation from the reporting of made-up quotes as things he has not said, then I think that he should go ahead with a libel action. He has the money to see it through, and I think that he can overcome the Times v. Sullivan standards that relate to him being a public figure. The reporting of these made-up quotes was clearly dripping with malice.

    I recall that one of the bravest litigations of this kind was leveled by the entertainer Carol Burnett against (I believe) the National Enquirer. The paper reported that she had been wildly drunk in public. But she was a lifetime abstainer who was very sensitive about being called a drunk because of, I think it was, a tragic family history of alcoholism. She sued and won and I don’t know if there were any money damages but she got a retraction and an apology.

    Limbaugh could sue, let’s say CNN, for $50 million, but agree to withdraw the suit on the basis of a retraction, correction, and a apology.

    • Given his audience, though, being a racist probably enhances his career, so that makes the question of harm a more interesting one.

      • I’d be surprised if any plaintiff were to use that as part of a defense strategy. Defending yourself from charges of defamation by defaming millions of other people doesn’t strike me as a very effective way to proceed.

  • It seriously makes me wonder how many other false claims about people have made their way through the media over the years before there was a way for the innocent party to be heard.

    Well, at least the media is ready to fact-check SNL skits. We don’t have to worry about any falsehoods being spread by a comedy show (unless you’re Palin).

    • I’ll have to be vague here because I’m too lazy to go to, but there is a book out about the Columbine shootings that I think attempts to demonstrate that nearly everything said about that event in the media was wrong. A lot of it just plucked out of the rumor ether, apparently.

      I don’t think that the standards of American journalism have ever been very high, but now that the reporters take sides without mentioning it, and it circles the world in an instant on the internet, it has become a predatory profession.

      • Look no further than the fantasy that passed for Katrina aftermath coverage

        • Like the non-reporting of the Louisiana department of homeland security not allowing the Red Cross to enter New Orleans in the aftermath of the storm coupled with the screaming about the conditions in the Superdome and the civic center. Shepard Smith at Fox being the very first of the worst among them.

          At least Kathleen Blanco knows why she’s no longer governor of Louisiana, if no one outside the state was ever privy to the truth.

  • Normally Rush just lets criticism roll off his back or responds to it only on his show, but the smear campaign against him has gotten so vicious that I don’t think he has a choice but to draw a line. I doubt he expects to get a dime from any legal action but he needs to send a warning shot across the bow of media sources that are repeating defamatory false quotes without making any effort whatsoever to verify their accuracy.

  • He can’t win a law suit (too much a public figure), and if he goes into a legal process he’d also be subject to scrutiny he probably doesn’t want. As a threat, though, it gets him some publicity. If he goes to far, it could backfire on him (though he’s already got extremely high disapproval ratings, I think about 70-80%)

    • “(though he’s already got extremely high disapproval ratings, I think about 70-80%)”

      Among who, the Obama administration?

    • He can’t win a law suit (too much a public figure). I don’t care what lawyers say. I am a wise leftist with godlike powers of political science, and and also the Amazing Expert on Everything in the World, so you can rely on me to show up at QandO every few days to set you dense righties straight about something. Like that military coup in the Honduras, and I don’t care that even the UN is backing off of that, it’s one of my multiple truths, so you thick righties shut up about me getting stuff wrong! Just shut up!

      If he goes into a legal process he’d also be subject to scrutiny he probably doesn’t want. Yes, he will suffer scrutiny beyond what George Soros’ band of transcriptionists already do. The intrepid band of garbage sifters we wise leftists turned loose on Sarah Palin would be sent after Rush post haste, and they would probably find that he had a baby for one of his relatives, or something.

      As a threat, though, it gets him some publicity. If he goes to far, it could backfire on him. And he should listen to wise leftists like me about that, even though he’s able to attract tens of millions of listeners and I’m so pitiful I have to come to this blog to get anyone to pay attention to me except for students who are forced by degree requirements to take my class.

      Of course, he’s already got extremely high disapproval ratings, I think about 70-80%. And, no, I don’t have to find any links or support for that assertion, so stop asking for that. I decree it. Besides, I think I’m being generous because his disapproval rating in the faculty lounge is 100%. And stop asking how someone with disapproval ratings that high could possibly have such a large audience, just stop asking that! You need to study post-modern arithmetic and you would be able to calculate out such things for yourself.

    • You’re a real ‘tard.

  • ” When he called out the media for lauding Donovan McNabb just because he was a black quarterback”

    There you go again. And you say you are an attorney? I guess that is why the statement is close to the truth without being entirely accurate.

  • Scott: Rush’s negatives aren’t that high, depending on who’s polling you trust.

    From his Wikipedia page:

    In a March 2007 Rasmussen Reports poll, 62% of those surveyed had an unfavorable opinion of Limbaugh, while 33% had a favorable opinion. More recently, in a February 2009 Public Policy Polling poll, 46% had a favorable opinion of Limbaugh, while 43 percent viewed him negatively, with 10% being unsure. In a February Gallup poll, 45 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of Limbaugh, to 28 percent with a favorable opinion. The partisan divide was steep, with Republicans favoring Limbaugh 60-23, while Democrats disapproved 63-6.

  • He can’t win a law suit (too much a public figure) …

    What? “Too much”? How much or how little do you have to be win? How do you measure?

    … and if he goes into a legal process he’d also be subject to scrutiny he probably doesn’t want.

    Again, what? What scrutiny would he not want? The media is spreading blatant lies about him, but he’s the one who should be afraid of scrutiny? What would he be afraid that the public might learn, that he’s too honest?

    If he goes to far, it could backfire on him (though he’s already got extremely high disapproval ratings, I think about 70-80%)

    He’s not a politician, so what does he care about disapproval ratings? The only thing he should care about are his Nielson or Arbitron ratings. BTW, they show that Rush is the most listened to talk radio host in the nation.

    • Frankly, I don’t think Rush has to win in order to “win”. I would expect the discovery process alone to yield some very interesting and damaging findings on the CNN/MSNBC side.

  • F*ck the courts: Rush would not get a fair hearing there. Best options:

    1. Get into a verbal war with CNN, MSNBC and the rest. Rush has plenty of daily listeners, including libs who (for various masochistic reasons) can’t NOT listen to him. Call out Sancheze, Cwissy, and the rest on a daily basis. Take their words and shove ’em right down their throats. Ridicule is a great weapon, and libs have demonstrated time and again that they can’t withstand it.

    2. Start doing a little “investigating” of his own. These people have skeletons in their closets; find them and publicize them.

    3. Fight fire with fire: start publicizing alleged quotes from these MiniTru types and challenge them to prove that they never said it. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I say.

  • No one is really a fan of Rush especially in one of the most integrated American pastimes.

  • Outside of his echo chamber, Rush is realizing most people don’t like him…

  • Such a suit would be totally retarded. (a) truth is a defense; (b) whether one is a racist is like a matter of non-actionable opinion.

    Either of these would sink his case, and I could easily see either carrying the day.

    • As Steverino mentioned below, truth is only a defense if the defendant can prove the defamatory statements are true.

      And whether someone is racist is a matter of opinion? What a ridiculous statement. Besides, he could be the most racist jerk in the world and that wouldn’t change the fact that the actionable statements at issue weren’t uttered by Rush Limbaugh.

      None of that is to say that Limbaugh would win his case. Overcoming the Sullivan standard is exceedingly difficult. But that doesn’t mean that nothing good could come from litigating. If Limbaugh were to negotiate a public apology and/or unqualified retraction, that would be worth quite a bit, regardless of whatever monetary claims were made.

  • This is from Public Policy Polling, dated February 23, 2009:

    American voters are nearly split down the middle when it comes to their opinions on Rush Limbaugh, the newest survey from Public Policy Polling finds.

    46% have a positive perception of him with 43% viewing him negatively. There is a massive gender gap in those numbers, with 56% of men but only 37% of women holding a favorable opinion of him.

  • (a) truth is a defense;

    How is truth a defense when we’re talking about made-up quotes?

  • Mr. Limbaugh must pursue this. He doesn’t need the money. He should donate the money to charity. CNN and MSNBC must not be allowed to continue spreading fiction as fact. It is high time they be held legally accountable for their bias.

    • Limbaugh can’t win. As a public figure, he’ll have to show anyone using the quotes knew they were false and used them to intentionally hurt him. Saying they should have checked the quotes is not enough, saying it was bad journalism, is not enough. And, of course, given the things he says about people on his show, I find it delightfully ironic the way he’s complaining now. Sort of puts a smile on my face.

      • As I suggested to MichaelW above I don’t think Rush has to win. He just has to discover enough embarrassing information to force CNN and MSNBC to eat some serious crow feathers in public. They do not have the stomach to see this go to litigation.