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There are the facts, then there's Limbaugh


THERE'S ONLY one thing Rush Limbaugh loves more than Florida orange juice -- himself.

And why not?

Mr. Limbaugh has made tons of money promoting himself. And he should be proud of that. This is, after all, America, land of opportunity.

Like any good spinmeister, Rush knows what statistics to use and which to ignore to make his case.

He cheers on conservative causes (but only if they suit his big-business internationalist point of view); he pokes fun at liberals involved in controversy (and plays down conservatives embroiled in similar controversies) and generally takes credit for making political life miserable for President Clinton.

(something Clinton unfortunately needs no help doing).

As a regular listener and sometimes viewer of Mr. Limbaugh's radio and TV shows, I can separate the schtick from the serious.

Last winter, for instance, Rush was warning his listeners that low-interest rates were not the economic panacea that the Clinton folks proclaimed them to be. Then, once the Federal Reserve Board, which acts independently of Clinton policies, decided to tinker with interest rates, Rush started to blame Mr. Clinton's deficit-reduction package for higher interest rates.

No mention from the Rushmeister about the steady growth in jobs in the past year or about how economists were pleased that the Fed's tinkering had slowed inflation.

Mr. Limbaugh's schtick can be frustrating, if you take him seriously -- which apparently is what the 2.2 million-member National Education Association has done. It is the latest group to call for boycotting Florida orange juice if Limbaugh's $1 million advertising contract is renewed by Florida's citrus agency.

Mr. Clinton, too, was complaining recently about Rush's distortion of the facts.

The president and boycott promoters are giving Rush more attention than he deserves.

Instead of boycotting orange juice or pooh-poohing Mr. Limbaugh's First Amendment right to be a jerk, why not simply expose how he cooks up "facts?"

Here are recent examples of Limbaugh distortions, compiled by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a nonprofit group that monitors the news media:

* "If you have any doubts about the status of American health care, just compare it with that in other industrialized nations," Mr. Limbaugh has written.

Fact: The United States ranks 16th in life expectancy and 21st in infant survival among industrialized nations. How's that for doubt?

* "For the first time in military history, U.S. military personnel are not under the command of United States generals," Mr. Limbaugh said about U.S. troops answering to United Nations command in Bosnia.

Fact: During the Revolutionary War, Americans served under the command of France's Lafayette. As recently as World War II, Americans served under Britain's Gen. Montgomery. Both winners.

* "You know the Clintons send Chelsea to the Sidwell Friends private school. A recent eighth-grade class assignment required students to write a paper on 'Why I feel Guilty Being White,'" Mr. Limbaugh said.

Fact: No such assignment was given, a spokesman for the school said, noting that it would be difficult, at best, for 28 percent of the students to write such an assignment because they are not white.

There are many more examples of inaccuracies that Mr. Limbaugh has used to disrupt everything from the stock market to Congress. But, hey, when you're a self-consumed fella talking for three hours a day on the radio and a half hour on television, you're bound to make a fool of yourself.

Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.

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