by Mark Silva
Anti-war veterans are not letting up on Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host who derisively spoke of "phony soldiers'' last week during an on-air conversation with callers about people calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
A leading anti-war veterans coalition is taking out television ads on Fox News and CNN Wednesday and Thursday. The ads feature a wounded veteran saying: "More and more troops and veterans of Iraq believe George Bush's military policy has been a disaster.''
The ad pictures not only the decorated soldier's Purple Heart, but also the scars of his head wound and strong anti-war talk.
Limbaugh's "phony soldiers'' comment has been something of a public relations disaster for the conservative commentator -- or perhaps a boon, depending on one's point of view. Limbaugh claims he was not alluding to war-protesting veterans in general, but only one, Jesse MacBeth, who had told stories of witnessing atrocities in Iraq but was later found to have never served there. MacBeth has since pled guilty in federal court to making a false statement to the VA.
Yet Limbaugh's "rant,'' as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called it this week, certainly sounded like a slap at "phony soldiers'' protesting the war -- and Limbaugh went on to expand his roster of "genuine phony soldiers'' on his show Friday, adding Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylania, a retired Marine colonel and decorated Vietnam veteran who opposes the war in Iraq.
Limbaugh maintains it is his critics who owe veterans an apology for misconstruing his remarks. Critics are pressing Limbaugh for the same.
"This is not just the anatomy of a smear,'' Limbaugh complained on his program yesterday. "There's much more going on with this than just smearing me. There is an attempt, I think, as they have done throughout my career, to discredit me.''
(Rush Limbaugh on the radio. AP Photo by Medialink/WirePix, Jim Sulley)
VoteVets.org, a group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, is launching a modest run of TV ads -- there's only $60,000 behind an overall TV and radio buy, which won't corner much cable time. The group says it will air a radio version of the ad during the Rush Limbaugh Show in the Washington, DC., market and and in his home market of Palm Beach, Florida.
The ad features Brian McGough of Washington, who was wounded by shrapnel in an enemy's explosion. McGough received the Purple Heart for his traumatic brain injury.
"More and more troops and veterans of Iraq believe George Bush's military policy has been a disaster...I am one of them,'' McGough says in the ad, facing the camera with stern words for the radio commentator. "Rush Limbaugh called vets like me "phony soldiers" for telling the truth about Iraq.
"Rush, the shrapnel I took to my head was real,'' he continues. "My traumatic brain injury was real. And, my belief that we are on the wrong course in Iraq is real. Until you have the guts to call me a "phony solider" to my face, stop telling lies about my service."
The ad closes with the comment: "Tell Rush Limbaugh to stop insulting our troops and veterans.''
Jon Soltz, an Iraq war Veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org, says: "Maybe Rush Limbaugh and his ilk haven't heard, but there's a new sheriff in town - America's troops and veterans, who are not going to sit idle while people like Rush demean the service of those who oppose the President's failed policy in Iraq.
"Maybe Rush got away with smears like this in the past, but he's not going to on our watch,'' Soltz says. "There's nothing phony about those who chose to wear the uniform and fight. And someone like Rush Limbaugh, who avoided service, is the one of the least qualified people on the face of the earth to pass judgment on us."