Despite the fact that the print media have mostly backed off the "phoney soldiers" smear against Rush Limbaugh, on Wednesday's "Hardball," host Chris Matthews refused to correct the record, instead choosing to toss a softball to anti-war Congressman Jack Murtha as he asked him on Wednesday's "Hardball":
"What do you think of Rush Limbaugh's comment the other day that somebody was a phony soldier because they opposed the war? He also said they were a phony Republican, by the way, because he said Republicans couldn't possibly, a Republican couldn't possibly be against the war? What do you make of that?"
Rep. Jack Murtha: "I don't watch Rush Limbaugh."
Matthews: "Ha! You don't have to watch him, you gotta hear about him. I don't either, I hear about him."
Matthews never pointed out Limbaugh was referring to soldiers who were proven not to have served in Iraq and it's not as if Matthews doesn't know better. On the October 2 edition of "Hardball" he gave The Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti a chance to clarify Limbaugh's actual position:
After a segment in which liberal radio talk show host Ed Schultz and Heidi Harris debated the topic, Continetti felt the need to let Matthews know he was off-base with his claim that Limbaugh was calling any soldier who criticized the Iraq war as being "phony":
The following discussion occurred on the October 2 "Hardball":
Matthews: "We're back with the New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, the Houston Chronicle's Julie Mason, and the Weekly Standard's Matt Continetti. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to go back to the fight we had a few minutes ago, before you all came on, involving Rush Limbaugh. I always like to say on this program, I am not a media critic. I don't like baseball players that make fun of other baseball players. It's kind of unsavory, if you will. I let people who do it for a living, like Howie Kurtz or whatever, of the Washington Post, do this business. But Matt, I hear you wanted to make a clarification or a correction in the way we discussed that issue of Rush Limbaugh's reference to, to phony soldiers, or soldier, or whatever. What's your correction?"
Continetti: "Well I just think, rather than correction, Chris, we need to break it down this way. If Rush Limbaugh was saying that all soldiers who were anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-surge are phonies, then he was totally out of line and that's incorrect to say and it's dishonorable to say. However, if Rush Limbaugh was saying that some of the soldiers who have taken those political positions have turned out to be phonies, then I think-"
Matthews: "Oh, you mean they weren`t really soldiers, they never really fought?"
Continetti: "No, the, their stories, their stories have turned out to be phony."
Matthews: "Oh okay."
Continetti: "And later Limbaugh mentioned one in particular, and there are, there have been others."
Matthews: "If he's saying that, then I do think that's a legitimate fact."
Matthews: "Okay, you know, it's interesting, I looked back after you called us on this, and I checked back the context, which I find fascinating because he also said to the guy, you can't possibly be a Republican. You can't possibly be against the war and be a Republican. And you and I know there are a lot of Republicans around, not just Ron Paul, Gordon Smith, Chuck Hagel; there are Republicans out there who think the war, not that they're against it ideologically. They just think it was a bad U.S. policy mistake and they think we ought to cut our losses. You heard that in his arguments. Rush Limbaugh is really out on a limb here saying you can't disagree with the Republican policy if you're a Republican. Well that's a tautology."
Continetti: "So is the idea of Rush Limbaugh going out on a limb. Right?"
Matthews: "Okay, great, great."
Continetti: "I mean he's an entertainer. He's been doing it for 20 years."
Earlier, on Tuesday's show, Matthews repeated the "phony soldiers" charge several times, as seen in the following excerpts from the October 2 segment:
Chris Matthews: "Welcome back to Hardball. Democrats in Congress are going after Rush Limbaugh after the radio talk show host called those who served in Iraq but then came home to oppose the Bush administration's war policy as ‘phony soldiers.' Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called on the chief executive of Clear Channel Communications, I guess it's the company that runs Limbaugh's operation, to condemn or denounce Limbaugh's remarks, which he says are, quote, ‘hateful and unpatriotic.' So who is right in this fight, Harry Reid or Rush Limbaugh? Ed Schultz hosts a syndicated radio talk show host. And Heidi Harris is also a radio talk show host. Let me ask, Heidi, first of all, what do you make of Rush Limbaugh's reference to soldiers who oppose the war as phony soldiers?"
Heidi Harris: "Well, he was talking about one particular soldier. He was using a phrase someone else had used to describe people who weren't really soldiers and tried to be and tried to make points that way. And ultimately, you know, Harry Reid is the last person who should be criticizing Rush Limbaugh for anything. Harry Reid is the one who said, if we continue on the same path, the war is lost. Harry Reid, talk about a guy who shouldn't even look for rocks, it's ridiculous. And he is really wasting a lot of time, government time, by the way, that I'm paying for on the floor of the Senate, denouncing Rush Limbaugh. For what reason? It is ridiculous, the whole thing."
Matthews: "Well, let me go to Ed Schultz on that. Do you think that Rush Limbaugh was right to call people who oppose the war who have served 'phony soldiers?'"
Ed Schultz: "No. It's insulting, Chris. And the Republicans started all of this by-"
Matthews: "Well, it is meant to be insulting. We know that. It's meant to be insulting. But let's move on from that."
Schultz: "Well, of course it is meant, and it is the wrong thing to do. It is not supporting the troops. It is not showing the respect that they deserve after serving. I don't believe Limbaugh has served any time soon. And it's not about one soldier. This is a pattern of behavior. It's about a policy. Every time somebody comes out against the war, they become a target for Limbaugh, and his cronies on the right. They, they went after Chuck Hagel. They've gone after Paul Hackett. Even said Paul Hackett went to Iraq to pad his resume. Is this what you get if you serve in the military, if you don't go along with the policy, that you get called a phony? I think that Limbaugh is a phony. I think that."
Matthews concluding the segment: "Believe it or not, despite all this heat, and I love the heat, there's been some illumination here. I think you both agree that it's wrong for any commentator to refer to pol-, the political views of soldiers who come back having faced the action and been shot at and, in many cases wounded, that they have a right to speak in this country, generally. Don't you agree with that, Heidi?"
Matthews: "So we're agreed, so we all disagree with Rush Limbaugh. Anyway, thank you very much Ed Schultz and Heidi Harris."
Harris: "I don't know about that."