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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rush Limbaugh's Big Fat Lies about Michelle Obama

Last week, Rush Limbaugh called Michelle Obama fat. In my new book about Limbaugh, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh's Assault on Reason, which is being published today by Thomas Dunne Books, I write about Limbaugh's racism, his sexism, his nutty conspiracy theories, and his propensity for telling lies. The “fat” Obama tale is a perfect example of this.

Limbaugh has a long history of attacking how women look and calling them fat, a reflection of his sexist double standards. For Rush to call any woman fat is a puerile, hypocritical insult; to call Michelle Obama fat is nothing short of baffling because obviously it isn't true. Consider Limbaugh's words: “our first lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you.” When did swimsuit model become the standard for how a First Lady (or any healthy woman) must look?

But beyond Limbaugh's sexism, his rudeness, and his hypocrisy, this attack on Michelle Obama is noteworthy because it was based entirely on a lie. Limbaugh said, “it doesn't look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary dietary advice.”

After falsely declaring that Michelle Obama was “requiring what everybody can and can't eat,” Limbaugh claimed that the First Lady "took the kids out to Vail on a ski vacation and they were spotted eating. And they were feasting on ribs, ribs that were 1,575 calories per serving with 141 grams of fat per serving."

It's not clear how Limbaugh came up with his very precise and yet totally imaginary figure of 1,575 calories, since he offers no evidence.
In reality, according to the restaurant where they ate, the ribs had 600 calories and came with a side of kale.

This isn't the first time Limbaugh has lied about Michelle Obama's eating habits in order to accuse her of hypocrisy. Limbaugh claimed during the 2008 campaign, “Michelle Obama called room service and ordered lobster hors d'oeuvres, two whole steamed lobsters, Iranian caviar and champagne" and then repeated the story, declaring “it's hypocrisy.” It was a completely fabricated tale, and the New York Post quickly retracted it and apologized. Two weeks later, Limbaugh briefly mentioned that the story was false, without apologizing or mentioning his role in spreading the lie.

Not satisfied with making up only one story, Limbaugh also claimed there was a video showing Michelle Obama using racial language: “They're waiting to use it in October, of Michelle going nuts in the church, too, talking about ‘whitey’ this and ‘whitey’ that.” The videotape never surfaced because it didn’t exist, and Michelle never went “nuts” in a church talking about “whitey,” despite Limbaugh’s fantastic racial imagination. He never offered an apology or a correction.

Limbaugh hates everything about the Obamas, and expresses it openly, even critiquing Michelle Obama's sweaters and accusing the woman widely admired as the most fashionable First Lady in decades of having a “classless wardrobe”--quite a feat for a man whose sole contribution to fashion consisted of selling loud, overpriced ties designed by his then-wife.

Limbaugh even claims to see troubles in the Obama marriage, whether he's hinting (falsely) that Barack is cheating on his wife, or claiming (falsely) that Barack and Michelle dislike each other. In 2010, Limbaugh recounted his memories of Obama's 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention:
RUSH: What I remember about that speech is his wife. Honest. Folks, honestly. I don't remember one thing 'cause I tuned it out, 'cause I knew it was all a lie. It was being delivered by a Democrat at a convention that had nominated John Kerry. For crying out loud, what are we talking about here? But when I saw Michelle come out there and I saw that introduction, Barack Obama told me everything I needed to know about him. She gave one of the most forceful, supportive, upbeat speeches. I have never seen a political wife speak of her husband that way in my life, and he came out and ignored her.
CALLER: I don't see remember that.
RUSH: "Here he is, my man, my baby's daddy, my man! He's the greatest man, Barack Obama," and he came out and ignored her and didn't pay her a bit of attention, and I said this doesn't compute here. You at least give her a kiss. You at least put your arm around her, raise her hand with yours and acknowledge the applause. But he just ignored her. She didn't exist when he came out there. That's what I remember about it.
CALLER: Yeah, I don't remember that.

Rush had made it all up. Michelle didn't introduce her husband at the Democratic National Convention (Dick Durbin did), and after the speech, the Obamas embrace and then leave the stage holding hands.

Limbaugh was apparently referring to a different speech, Obama's November 2, 2004 victory speech after winning the Senate race. Michelle did indeed introduce her husband. But otherwise Limbaugh's summary is completely wrong. Barack immediately gave his wife a long embrace. Back in 2008, Limbaugh recounted his same fictional version of the event (this time correctly placing it as Obama's victory speech) and declared, “I thought, 'How in the world do you not thank your wife after an introduction like that?'"

Limbaugh said all this while looking at a CNN transcript (which he didn't read for his audience) that showed Barack Obama declaring in this speech his greatest thanks for “the biggest star in the Obama family...the love of my life, Michelle Obama, give it up for Michelle.”

Limbaugh usually focuses his attacks about Michelle Obama on her body, her clothes, and her relationship with her husband. But to me the worst insult Limbaugh makes about Michelle Obama is when he attacks her professional career. Limbaugh repeatedly claimed about Obama, “He had to get his wife a no-show job at Chicago hospital.” He asserted over and over again, “Michelle Obama did not have to show up for her hospital job.” Michelle Obama always showed up for her job at the University of Chicago hospitals. There is no evidence, not even an allegation, to support this lie Limbaugh said over and over again.

For Limbaugh, lying about a woman's career, making up stories about her eating habits, insulting her appearance, and doing everything to smear her is just routine behavior for a man committed to denouncing liberals no matter what the facts are.

Crossposted at DailyKos.

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