NBC Slams Limbaugh, Not Pelosi, As Example of 'Extreme' Rhetoric

On Sunday's Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory showed his panelists an out-of-context clip of Rush Limbaugh announcing: "There are far more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler than between these people showing up at town halls to protest a Hitler-like policy." New York Times columnist David Brooks was taken aback: "I hadn't seen the Rush Limbaugh thing. That is insane. What he's saying is insane."

Brooks should not have trusted that NBC was giving him the whole story, since Limbaugh's remark was part of a lengthy reaction to scornful statements by Pelosi smearing anti-ObamaCare protesters at town hall meetings as thugs "carrying swastikas."

Limbaugh began his August 6 monologue by defending the protesters from Pelosi's attacks: "She's running around now claiming that we're Nazis, that not only are we an unruly mob but that people are showing up wearing swastikas....This woman is deranged....You have the Democrat Speaker of the House saying that people, citizens who are concerned about health care are now wearing swastikas. She's basically saying that we are Nazis. She is saying that the people who oppose this are Nazis...."

But NBC viewers - and Brooks, too, apparently - had no inkling that Pelosi had triggered the exchange with such a venomous charge. Instead, Gregory led into his roundtable on the August 9 Meet the Press by recounting how the health care debate has "turned chaotic" with "death threats against members of Congress, taunting and shouting, even fistfights." NBC showed a protester carrying a sign with Obama's face and a Hitler-esque mustache pencilled in, as if that was typical.

Gregory played two clips of Democrats suggesting the unruliness was solely the responsibility of conservatives, then ran the clip of Limbaugh as an example of how the "rhetoric has become extreme."

GREGORY: Republicans in office and on the airwaves insist the anger is real, reflecting real fears about a government takeover of the healthcare system. But the rhetoric has become extreme.

CLIP OF RUSH LIMBAUGH ON HIS RADIO SHOW AUGUST 6: There are far more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler than between these people showing up at town halls to protest a Hitler-like policy.

It was after that set-up that Brooks declared Limbaugh's remark "insane."

Here's the full segment of the August 9 Meet the Press (full transcript here), followed by a lengthy excerpt of Limbaugh's monologue from his August 6 radio show:

DAVID GREGORY: And we're back. If you thought the healthcare debate was heated in Washington, outside the Beltway it's gotten downright hostile. From Tampa, Florida, to Austin, Texas, to Romulus, Michigan, town hall meetings over health care have turned chaotic; death threats against members of Congress, taunting and shouting, even fistfights. Democrats claim it's all political theater organized by reform opponents.

CLIP OF WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS: I also have no doubt that there are groups that are - have spread out people across the country to go to these things and to specifically generate videos that can be posted on Internet sites.

CLIP OF SENATOR KENT CONRAD (D-ND): I mean, is that what we've come to in the United States, that we're going to have people basically functioning as thugs, coming into meetings trying to disrupt them, shouting people down?

GREGORY: Republicans in office and on the airwaves insist the anger is real, reflecting real fears about a government takeover of the healthcare system. But the rhetoric has become extreme.

CLIP OF RUSH LIMBAUGH ON HIS RADIO SHOW AUGUST 6: There are far more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler than between these people showing up at town halls to protest a Hitler-like policy.

GREGORY: White House advisers say the tactics will backfire against the GOP. But can the president retake center stage of this debate? And we're joined now by Jon Meacham of Newsweek magazine, CNBC's Erin Burnett and David Brooks of the New York Times. Welcome to all of you. So, David, that is the question. What's going on here and how does the President retake center stage?

DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: I hadn't seen the Rush Limbaugh thing. That is insane. What he's saying is insane. But I guess I would say the, the first thing is it has been a conventional wisdom among the smartest people in Washington that this is such a tough issue you got to do it on a bipartisan basis. And the Obama administration, for better or worse, decided not to do that. There was a thing called the Wyden-Bennett bill that really could have launched a bipartisan, so leaders of both parties could have gone out to these town meetings. They didn't do it, they chose more or less a Democratic plan and now all hell is breaking loose. And we are now - and it's not just the crazies, among whom we just saw some. But if you take overall poll ratings for health care, they are - people are - the American public is now as skeptical as they were when Clinton care collapsed. So there - it's not just the crazies, there's a real public concern about real issues, aside from the stuff that Rush Limbaugh says.

Now, the full context for the Limbaugh quote (full transcript can be found here):

Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House. She is very powerful, one of the most powerful people in the country. This is what I mean by unraveling. She's running around now claiming that we're Nazis, that not only are we an unruly mob but that people are showing up wearing swastikas....This woman is deranged. They are unraveling, but that is not insignificant. You have the Democrat Speaker of the House saying that people, citizens who are concerned about health care are now wearing swastikas. She's basically saying that we are Nazis. She is saying that the people who oppose this are Nazis....

They accuse us of being Nazis and Obama's got a health care logo that's right out of Adolf Hitler's playbook. Now what are the similarities between the Democrat Party of today and the Nazi party in Germany? Well, the Nazis were against big business. They hated big business and, of course, we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working one of which was the Autobahn.

They were against cruelty and vivisection of animals but in the radical sense of devaluing human life, they banned smoking. They were totally against that. They were for abortion and euthanasia of the undesirables as we all know and they were for cradle-to-grave nationalized health care. I have always bristled when I hear people claim that conservatism gets close to Naziism. It is liberalism that's the closest you can get to Naziism and socialism. It's all bundled up under the socialist banner. There are far more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler than between these people showing up at town halls to protest a Hitler-like policy that's being heralded by a Hitler-like logo.

-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.