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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rush Limbaugh's False Smears about Obama's Harvard Record

Today on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that he got a phone call during a break that revealed Barack Obama had the “lowest grades ever in Harvard, never went to class.” This, of course, is a complete lie.

Here's what Rush said:
I got on the phone with somebody who said they went to school with Barack Obama at Harvard. And the guy told me that Obama got the lowest grades that any Harvard graduate ever got and that a bunch of professors gave him B's and C's when he didn't even show up to class. And then he hung up. Now, this guy from Harvard said that Obama had the lowest grades anybody ever got at Harvard, had professors that covered for him and he wasn't even there.

Rush repeated the charge:
He said, "Rush, this guy got the lowest grades that anybody ever got at Harvard. And he didn't even go to class a lot of times, and he got B's and C's.”

It's quite well known that Obama graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School in 1991, a designation based solely upon grades which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only is it impossible for Obama to have had the “lowest grades that any Harvard graduate ever got,” but also that Obama was one of the top students at Harvard Law School.

I'm sure that some Limbaugh defenders will claim that this is all a joke Limbaugh is making in response to Harry Reid saying he got a call about Mitt Romney's taxes. And it's certainly quite possible that Limbaugh is fabricating this claim of getting a phone call about Obama, just as he regularly fabricates a 99.8% accuracy rating and many other parts of his show. Did Limbaugh lie to his listeners and fake a call, or did he merely report an obviously false rumor?

But Limbaugh's charge is not satire. Limbaugh has made this same false claim about Obama's Harvard Law School grades at least twice before, completely seriously.

In 2008, Limbaugh declared that Obama "probably didn’t get out of Harvard without affirmative action."

In 2010, Limbaugh claimed:
I think this is the first time in his life that there's not a professor around to turn his C into an A, or to write the law review article for him he can't write. He is totally exposed. There is nobody to make it better. I think he's been covered for, all his life.

At the time, I asked Harvard professors to respond to these charges.

Laurence Tribe wrote to me, "The allegation is absurd. Obama earned every one of his enormously high grades. ‘Affirmative action’ had nothing to do with his success there. He was the most impressive student and research assistant I have taught in my 40 years at Harvard."

Charles Fried, a Harvard Law Professor who served as Solicitor General during the Reagan Administration, wrote, "It’s paranoid nonsense. Grading is anonymous by a randomly generated exam number and it takes a vote of the faculty to change a grade."

Limbaugh, the man who flunked out of Southeast Missouri State due to his laziness and intellectual failings, obviously doesn't understand what “magna cum laude” means or anything about academia.

But Limbaugh's attacks on Obama are more than just intellectual jealousy and ignorance about higher education. It's hard not to see racism when a white dropout accuses a black man with academic honors of receiving preferential treatment based on race, despite clear proof of the contrary. And as I document in my book, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh's Assault on Reason, Limbaugh has repeatedly made racist comments about Obama. When Limbaugh declares that Obama got fake grades at Harvard and dismisses him as a beneficiary of affirmative action, he's not just lying; Limbaugh is also trying to provoke racist feelings among his audience.

Crossposted at Academe Blog and DailyKos.

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