White House Distorts Limbaugh Comment on Haiti Earthquake Charities
January 15, 2010 - 7:58 PMThe White House on Thursday mischaracterized comments by conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh regarding charitable donations to earthquake victims in Haiti.
On Thursday, David Corn, the Washington bureau chief of the liberal magazine Mother Jones, asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, “Robert, Rush Limbaugh says that Americans shouldn’t donate to Haiti. What do you say about that?”
Gibbs answered: “Again, I'd refer you back to the -- again, I think in times of great crisis there are always people that say really stupid things. I don't know how anybody -- I don't know how anybody could sit where he does, having enjoyed the success that he has, and not feel some measure of sorrow for what has happened in Haiti. I think to use the power of your pulpit to try to convince those not to help their brothers and sisters is sad. My sense is that most people, though, because they understand we're part of an amazing world, won't listen, and instead will seek to help those that they know, because through no fault of their own, have suffered an unspeakable tragedy.”
However, on his Wednesday, Jan. 13 broadcast, Limbaugh did not say that people should not donate money to help the people in Haiti. What he commented on were the donations going through organizations that were posted on the White House Web site. In response to a caller to the program, Limbaugh had the following exchange:
Limbaugh: “Back to the phones. We’re gonna’ start in Raleigh, North Carolina. Justin, you’re first today. Great to have you with us. Hello.”
Caller: “Mega-Rush-buddy dittoes! My question is: Why did Obama – in the soundbite you played earlier, when he’s talking about if you want to donate some money, you can go to Whitehouse.gov, to direct you how to do so. Why, if I wanted to donate money to the Red Cross, why do I need to go to the Whitehouse.gov page and -- ?”
Limbaugh: “Exactly. Exactly. Would you trust that the money’s going to go to Haiti?”
Limbaugh: “But would you trust that your names going to end up on a mailing list for the Obama people to start asking you for campaign donations for him an other causes.”
Limbaugh: “Absolutely right.”
Caller: “That’s the point.”
Limbaugh: “Besides, we’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”
The caller then said his mother was planning to go on a missionary trip to Haiti that day. Limbaugh responded by talking about churches and private groups that have been doing charitable work in Haiti and in Africa for decades.
Limbaugh further said: “There are people that have been trying to save Haiti, just as we’re trying to save Africa -- you just can’t keep throwing money at it because the dictatorships there just take it all. They don’t just spread it [money] around, and even if they did, you’re not creating a permanent system where people can provide for themselves. It’s a simple matter of self-reliance.”
“Nobody takes that approach down there [in Haiti],” said Limbaugh, “because this has always been a country run by dictators – incompetent ones.”
Nowhere in the conversation did Limbaugh say that “Americans shouldn’t donate to Haiti,” as David Corn stated in his question to Press Secretary Gibbs. Nonetheless, liberal Web sites and bloggers have criticized Limbaugh for his remarks on Haiti.
Specifically, The Huffington Post, Media Matters, and other critics of Limbaugh have focused on his remark, “We've already donated to Haiti -- it’s called the U.S. income tax,” as evidence that he was discouraging charitable contributions to the earthquake ravaged country.
On Thursday, Jan. 14, in response to a caller who accused him of discouraging giving to Haiti, Limbaugh challenged her to state when he made that remark.
“I mean you call here and ask, ‘Where do I get off suggesting that we don't donate to Haiti because we do in the income tax?’ and I tell you I said that, but I also said private donations are going to be much better than a government donation,” Limbaugh told the caller.
“They're all going, go to the Red Cross, do other things, don’t go through the government,” said Limbaugh. “It's just going to go through hands and bureaucracies and a dollar is going to end up being 30 cents by the time they get through with it. I did not say, ‘Don't make donations.’”
Limbaugh has made other comments about the Haitian earthquake and what he considered President Obama’s politicized reaction to it.
“The problem with Haiti is there's no capitalism there,” Limbaugh said. “This place has been led by dictators or communists, which is one and the same, since the thirties.”
On Friday, in reaction to some of the criticism, Limbaugh further said: “I'm gonna respond to this absolute BS that I said don't donate [to Haiti]. But, you know, I do not make this program about me. I try very hard not to make this program about me. So if I have time to deal with that, I will. I'm confident everybody in this audience knows what I said and what I didn't say. Even the Washington Post says without the context, ‘What Limbaugh said is horrible.’”
“All I said was, if you paid your income taxes, that's how you donate to government for aid, and sure enough, here comes Obama announcing $100 million from the government for aid to Haiti, fine and dandy,” said Limbaugh. “But, you paid for it, it's your taxes. All I said was if you're going to donate, do it outside the government, pure and simple.”
“I was attacked, folks, because I am the leading voice of mainstream conservative views, not for any other reason,” he said. “And this outrage is totally feigned, just as Tony Blankley said, all this outrage at me is totally faked up. They know exactly what I said, and they know for a fact that I would never tell people not to donate to any charitable cause like this, so it is what it is.”
Michael W. Chapman contributed to this report.