So there I am yesterday in good old Mom’s hospital room, the television turned to CNN. Mom, 90, was giving me an adventure in the American health care system with her small stroke, pneumonia and atrial fibrillation. She’s just fine, the health care system was A-plus and were she in Massachusetts today she’d be voting for Scott Brown too.
But I digress.
As we sat there, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez was holding forth on Haiti, the obvious story of the day. Suddenly, Mr. Sanchez veers off into something he calls “Rick’s List,” a new feature of his show. Part of this list, in Mr. Rick’s own words, concerns “The List You Don’t Want To Be On.” According to his website, which I later checked, “This is the where people and institutions who take us for granted, who think we’re stupid, who constantly pee on our legs and tell us it’s raining will get called out publicly.”
OK. Got it.
The problem? Mr. Rick looked the camera in the eye and proceeded to tell Mom and myself that at the top of his “List You Don’t Want to Be On” was — Rush Limbaugh. Who had beaten out number two — Mehmet Ali Agca.
That’s right. A CNN anchor was telling Mom and me that Rush was worse than the man who shot the Pope. Why might this be? Because, informed the CNN anchor Mr. Rick, Rush was opposed to sending aid to Haiti.
Now, as it happens, I had taken a hospital break earlier in the day to race home and edit the piece on Ted Olson, which appears elsewhere on this site today. As I did so, Rush was on, discussing this nonsense, thoroughly detailing what he actually said and calling out those who, yet again, were trying in deliberate fashion to claim he said something he never said. Since this happens, as Rush listeners know, with some regularity not only to Rush but to just about any conservative on the airwaves, I listened, shook my head for the umpteenth time and kept working.
So when I heard Mr. Rick…hours later…I was astonished to hear him, post-Rush, post-radio broadcast to a Rush audience of almost 20 million people…tell Mom and me and whoever the other six people were in his audience that Rush was opposed to sending aid to Haiti, I have to say I was astonished. Here was a CNN anchor reporting something about Rush — as fact — that he had to know was utterly false. Untrue. I knew it, because I had heard Rush’s original broadcast. Twenty million Rush listeners knew it. Yet Mr. Rick was telling his CNN audience what I knew was a flat, factual untruth. And he never batted an eye.
As it happens, I was on CNN not long ago, a guest on what turned out to be Lou Dobbs’ last show. In the kerfuffle surrounding the Dobbs departure, much was made by CNN flacks that Mr. Dobbs was too opinionated for CNN tastes, that CNN wanted to position itself in the cable news world as the neutral just-the-facts network.
But is this really so? Based on Rick Sanchez’s obviously deliberate broadcasting of an untruth — a checkable untruth — about Rush Limbaugh yesterday, one can only shake one’s head at the notion this kind of bunk is what is causing Fox to beat the pants off CNN.
Yesterday, Rick Sanchez looked Mom and me in the eye and told us a blatant untruth. He never blinked. And shot his own network in the foot.
The last time he did this kind of thing, the Limbaugh legal team forced an on-air apology.
This time, the most appropriate apology would be to Sanchez’s own bosses for taking an on-air whack at CNN’s credibility.
If the whole thing weren’t so junior high school, it might even be serious.