Note: I'm going to play a number of Limbaugh's most racist comments on my AM760 radio show this morning. Tune in at www.am760.net. - D
"Numerous sportswriters, CNN, MSNBC, among others, falsely attributed to me statements I had never made. Their sources, as best I can tell, were Wikipedia and each other...I never said I supported slavery and I never praised James Earl Ray. How sick would that be? Just as sick as those who would use such outrageous slanders against me or anyone else who never even thought such things." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/17/09
Forget the double standard of Rush Limbaugh, a free marketeer, now decrying as outrageous the NFL corporation's logical business decision to protect its brand from his taint. In all the hullaballoo about whether or not the NFL should have allowed Limbaugh to invest in the St. Louis Rams, the most telling narrative is the radio host's victimization narrative.
In the Sunday Wall Street Journal (and on his radio show), Limbaugh insists that there is no concrete proof that he uttered two quotes about race - one trumpeting Martin Luther King's assassin, another trumpeting the virtues of slavery - that a book attributed to him and that the media then echoed. Limbaugh is correct - there is no proof, and Nate Silver is also correct in suggesting that anyone who has publicly attributed those to him should correct their mistake (BTW - I corrected the record about 5 minutes after I made the mistake on my radio show on Thursday).
However, Limbaugh is now using this misattribution as supposed proof that he is not a racist, that he is, in fact, being unduly persecuted for his conservative beliefs and that actually, he is one of America's leading voices espousing a "belief in a colorblind society where every individual is treated as a precious human being without regard to his race." You can't make this shit up.
This is part of the broader conservative grievance ideology - no matter how much power conservatives have, they will constantly insist they are the ones under attack and under persecution, particularly by black people who supposedly mislabel all conservatives as "racist."
But this time, the diversionary tactic really insults everyone's intelligence. Not only have the majority of NFL owners' political contributions gone to the Republican Party Limbaugh so strongly supports, but more importantly, Limbaugh has made a whole series of racist comments that he does not and cannot deny - comments that prove he is a pretty blatant racist not the enlightened voice for "a colorblind society where every individual is treated as a precious human being without regard to his race."
Here's the Huffington Post's Matt Osborne recounting just some of the most disgusting ones:
The wingnutosphere insists: Rush has never, ever made a racist comment! Ever!...Except for this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one and this one, and this one, and this one and this one.
Sure, Limbaugh didn't make two racist comments attributed to him, but he made a bunch of others that we can verify. That doesn't mean those who attributed the two comments to him shouldn't correct the record, but it also doesn't mean Limbaugh and his dittoheads should be able to get away with citing the mistaken attribution as wholesale proof that Limbaugh isn't a racist. If you listen to those clips linked above, it's clear that he is - and frankly, if you can listen to those clips and still insist that he's not a racist, then you probably are a racist yourself.
Indeed, there was a good reason so many people believed Limbaugh might have made those two statements misattributed to him. As St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell says:
The quote was so in character with the many things that Limbaugh has said before that we didn't verify it beyond the book...Let's play along for the time being and take him at his word that he was inaccurately quoted in the Huberman book. Heck, let's go along for the full ride and believe that it was all a horrible "fabrication." So what are we left with? Well, essentially, I think we just threw a deck chair off the Titanic.
There is still a huge pile of polarizing, bigoted debris stacked up on the deck of the good ship Limbaugh that he can't deny or even remotely distance himself from.
Limbaugh, of course, is within his First Amendment rights to have made these comments. However, as Digby notes, the First Amendment guarantees one only the right to free speech - it doesn't grant anyone the right to evade the consequences of one's speech. In this case, the consequences are a private corporation - the NFL - saying it wants nothing to do with Limbaugh.
Certainly, you can certainly disagree with that business decision for various reasons, some of which have nothing to do with political ideology or Rush worship at all (one argument I've heard is that if the NFL is going to let Michael Vick play, they should also let Limbaugh invest). However, the decision has nothing to do with the First Amendment or political persecution and everything to do with a private corporation wanting to steer clear of branding itself to an overt racist - a billing that even the dittoheads shouldn't be able to deny.