A truly extraordinary thing happened on CNN Sunday: a mainstream media representative actually took Rush Limbaugh's side in a dispute with Bill Clinton.
As readers are likely aware, the conservative talk radio host and the former President exchanged words last week over who was to blame for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
"Reliable Sources" host Howard Kurtz broached this subject in Sunday's second segment eliciting a rather surprising response from Reuters' global editor-at-large Chrystia Freeland:
I have to say, on this one I'm on Rush Limbaugh's side...I'm not accusing Rush Limbaugh of being guilty of too much balance, but I do think blaming the media is a very weak thing for politicians and businesspeople to do. And I think we in the media should really be pretty, pretty careful before we agree with the criticism.
Not surprisingly, Salon's Joan Walsh didn't agree, and once again found herself alone in her perilously liberal views as the cameras were rolling (video follows with transcript and commentary):
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: It's a debate that began amid the wreckage of the federal building in Oklahoma City 15 years ago this week and has continued in some form ever since. President Clinton tied that devastating bombing to what he called the purveyors of hate on the airwaves, and Rush Limbaugh was his chief target.
Now they, along with other political figures and talk show hosts, are at it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Any future acts of violence are on your shoulders, Mr. Clinton. You just gave the kooks in this country an excuse to go be violent. Nobody on the right is doing this. Nobody on talk radio is advocating anything of the sort that you are predicting.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't make sense. We shouldn't demonize the government or its public employees or its elected officials. We can disagree with them, we can harshly criticize them, but when we turn them into an object of demonization, you increase the number of threats.
LIMBAUGH: The template was established, the narrative was there. Bill Clinton and Obama blaming the Tea Parties for a future Oklahoma City-type bombing which hasn't happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joan Walsh, is it fair 15 years ago or now for Bill Clinton to blame the likes of Rush Limbaugh and other talk show hosts for, in effect, inciting violence?
JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SALON.COM: Yes, I think it is fair, Howie. And, you know, I think this whole debate about whether media figures are responsible or whether the debate is inflamed, it's an interesting discussion and debate to have.
But the thing it obscures is right now, there is a climate of violence on the right. There are threats being made to Democratic lawmakers. I mean, Congressman Raul Grijalva had to close his office on Thursday because he was getting death threats. Patty Murray, senator from Washington -- I mean, there have been a pattern --
KURTZ: But what is the link between that and people who make their living behind a microphone?
WALSH: I think the link is that liberals are demonized in the most personal way. I mean, Rush comes out and has this wonderful op- ed piece in "The Wall Street Journal" at the end of the week, and saying, you know, conservatives are protesting because we love our country. And unfortunately, the rhetoric of the right has all too often been they love their country and we on the left do not.
We are traitors. We are un-American. We are unpatriotic. Obama is weakening our national defense on purpose. A Congress member said that.
Fairly consistent and predictable meme from Walsh who just last Tuesday looked like a hapless idiot on the set of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when she wasn't able to name one left-wing extremist. Lest we not forget her moving bar concerning what's un-American and who's allowed to say so dependent on whether there's a "D" or an "R" next to one's name.
But I digress, for no one else during this segment was going to agree with Walsh:
KURTZ: All right. Let me get Amy Holmes in
AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I have to disagree violently.
WALSH: Don't be violent, Amy.
HOLMES: The political rhetoric across the spectrum can be so ugly. I think anyone in public life has been the target of it.
I mean, I've been called the N-word on many multiple Web sites. When Tony Snow was stricken with cancer, I saw on left-wing Web sites people saying that they hoped that he died.
WALSH: Commentators said that, not --
HOLMES: There are kooks and there are nuts. And I think with Bill Clinton, it reminds us what we don't like about him, and that was the demagoguery. And I don't believe that Rush Limbaugh or any right- wing talk radio person is responsible for this any more than an environmentalist is responsible for the Unabomber.
KURTZ: Chrystia Freeland, there's a certain surreal quality to this argument, because no major act of violence, other than that nut job who flew the plane into the IRS office in Austin, has taken place yet. It's almost like a preemptive debate.
And here comes the money shot:
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, GLOBAL EDITOR-AT-LARGE, REUTERS: Yes, I agree. And I have to say, on this one I'm on Rush Limbaugh's side as well.
I think that it's incredibly easy for politicians, for businesspeople to criticize the media. In those Goldman e-mails I was telling you about that I enjoyed so much on Saturday there's a great line where Lucas van Praag, the Goldman spokesman, is sending an e- mail to his bosses, and he says, "This story will have balance." And then he puts in brackets, "i.e., something we don't like."
I'm not accusing Rush Limbaugh of being guilty of too much balance, but I do think blaming the media is a very weak thing for politicians and businesspeople to do. And I think we in the media should really be pretty, pretty careful before we agree with the criticism.
Obviously, to call -- openly call for violence openly is illegal. People shouldn't be doing that. But to just use heated language, I think you hear that on both sides of the debate. And on the left you're hearing that a lot directed towards Goldman Sachs right now.
As you might imagine, Walsh was not only going to disagree, but also further stick BOTH feet in her mouth:
WALSH: I'm not hearing death threats against people at Goldman Sachs, Chrystia. And I really object to this idea --
FREELAND: People at AIG felt like they were really, really under threat during the bailouts at AIG. I mean, there were people who said that they had to get guards for their homes and so forth.
HOLMES: And Congressman Eric Cantor from Virginia, he testified that he has gotten death threats as a Republican.
Ouch! Double smack-down!
WALSH: Oh, come on. That crackpot --
HOLMES: Hold on though.
WALSH: That crackpot --
HOLMES: The person who went to the Pentagon, who drove across the country to go with a gun --
WALSH: You know what, Amy? Actually, Howie asked me the question. Howie asked me the question.
KURTZ: All right. One at a time.
Let Amy make her point.
HOLMES: May I?
And the person who went to the Pentagon, it turned out he was a pot activist. He was someone who grew pot on his balcony and wanted to legalize pot. But do we blame --
WALSH: He was an all-purpose nut. He was an all-purpose nut.
WALSH: No. He was an all-purpose nut. And the guy who threatened Eric Cantor also threatened President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the filmmakers who made the movie "Babe." OK?
HOLMES: My point exactly.
WALSH: So, look, there are nut jobs on both sides, and we all can condemn them. But I think that the right makes a practice of a certain kind of demonization.
Look, you guys, I went up trying to have a civil debate with Bill O'Reilly almost a year ago, where he told me I personally had blood on my hands. I got thousands, thousands -- literally thousands of e- mails from people wishing that my mother had aborted me, that I had aborted my daughter. I have personally experienced the demonization of the right, and I think it's just of an order of magnitude different.
You can go on comment boards on Salon or "The Huffington Post." People love to do that. There's somebody anonymous saying something awful. But the fact is, the right makes a business out of incendiary rhetoric that personally demonizes Democratic lawmakers and pundits. And it doesn't happen that way on the left.
KURTZ: A brief response from Amy and I need to move on.
HOLMES: I would say that it does happen that way on the left. I read plenty of it about myself, about other people in public life. And unfortunately, when people get to be anonymous they get to say very ugly things.
FREELAND: Can I jump in really quickly, Howard? The difference is in power right now. The Democrats are in charge. And I think you always have more passionate rhetoric from the guys who are in the opposition.
Game, set, and match!
Nicely done, Chrystia and Amy. Brava!
As for Walsh, she should learn from her encounters in the past week: stick to MSNBC prime time programs where no one is likely to challenge her on her views.
*****Update: Hot Air's Ed Morrissey accurately noted Monday --
Perhaps Walsh took an eight-year vacation during the Bush administration, when the Left demonized the President and most of his administration in terms at least as ugly as anything said in the last fifteen months. No one seemed to worry about violence then, even when protests actually resulted in violence, such as at the 2008 Republican convention or at the WTO talks over the years. Clinton himself must have pulled a Rip Van Winkle over that time, too, which all of the national media giving him a platform for this ridiculous meme have passed on mentioning as part of their coverage.
Indeed. It really is shameful.