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Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Oklahoma City: Ten Years Later and Some People Just Don't Learn
In 1995, William Jefferson Clinton (never one to shy away from an absurdity) suggested that the Oklahoma City bombing was in part the product of conservative talk show hosts complaining about high taxes and excessive regulation -- thereby promoting disdain for Washington.
The more common variant is that Clinton blamed Rush Limbaugh for inciting the Oklahoma City bombers. In 1995, I remember seeing Limbaugh on his television show (which was produced by Roger Ailes, who is currently running the fair-and-balanced news network) screaming about how Clinton was trying to blame him for the bombing. In her book Slander: Liberal Lies About The American Right, Ann Coulter wrote, "When impeached former president Bill Clinton identified Rush Limbaugh as the cause of the Oklahoma City bombing, he unleashed all the typical liberal curse words for conservatives. He blamed 'loud and angry voices' heard 'over the airwaves in America' that were making people 'paranoid' and spreading hate."
This is right-wing mind rot of the worse kind. It was a lie then and it's a lie now. Here is the offending statment that caused Feder, Limbaugh, Coulter and the rest of the radical right to attack Clinton:
In this country we cherish and guard the right of free speech. We know we love it when we put up with people saying things we absolutely deplore. And we must always be willing to defend their right to say things we deplore to the ultimate degree. But we hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate. They leave the impression that, by their very words, that violence is acceptable. You ought to see -- I'm sure you are now seeing the reports of some things that are regularly said over the airwaves in America today.
Nowhere does Clinton attempt to implicate Limbaugh. Nowhere does Clinton attempt to blame the bombing on "conservative talk show hosts complaining about high taxes and excessive regulation." Clinton was referring to people who were using the airwaves to foment violence against others and government officials. For example, talk show host G. Gordon Liddy recommended shooting government law enforcement agents in the head and crotch. Talk radio jack Chuck Baker is another example (click here and here).
In fact, Clinton's words show amazing insight about the harm of speech that advocates violence. Had Coulter heeded Clinton's words instead of trying to score cheap political points, she would have had the foresight not to have made the following comment: "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." (as well as the lame explanation for the original comment: "Of course I regret it. I should have added, 'after everyone had left the building except the editors and reporters'")