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First paper to run Limbaugh “slavery” quote issues retraction

In the wake of the news that radio host Rush Limbaugh was hoping to buy a chunk of the St. Louis Rams, Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote a column containing the now-infamous quote, supposedly from Limbaugh, regarding the notion that slavery “had its merits.”

We first became aware of the quote not from perusing the copy of the Post-Dispatch that arrives in our mailbox every morning in West Virginia, but because Limbaugh mentioned the issue during the Monday broadcast of his radio show. (Indeed, if Limbaugh had never talked about the quotes on his radio show, we and likely many others would have never even known about the issue.)

When posting on the matter on Monday, we made it clear that Limbaugh contends he never said the words. (The next day, he supplied a more forceful denial; the practical effect was that even more people became aware of the allegedly false quotes.)

But now the toothpaste is being squeezed back into the tube by the Post-Dispatch. In an Editor’s Note published today, the newspaper says that the quote in question “cannot be verified, and its use did not meet the Post-Dispatch‘s standards for sourcing.”

The Post-Dispatch also points out that the source of the quote was Jack Huberman’s 2006 book, 101 People Who Are Really Screwing America. “The book provided no details about the origin of the quote,” the Editor’s Note explains. “When contacted by the Post-Dispatch, Huberman said that he had a source for the quote but declined to reveal it on advice of counsel. The book’s publisher, Nation Books, did not return calls to the Post-Dispatch.”

(Huberman’s response suggests pretty strongly to us that he never actually heard Limbaugh say the words on the air, or in any other setting.)

Others have cited the same quote from Huberman’s book, and others likely will be providing similar retractions and/or clarifications. We’ll be adding an Editor’s Note to our original story on the matter, pointing out that the Post-Dispatch has retracted the quote.

As you know, we’ve never contended that Limbaugh uttered the words that have been attributed to him by Huberman. Unless and until Huberman identifies a compelling source, there is absolutely no evidence that Limbaugh uttered the words.

In our view, Huberman should not be permitted to hide behind legal advice. He needs to either identify a source or publicly admit that the quote is false. Until Huberman (or anyone else) identifies a compelling source, we will assume that the quote is false, and that Limbaugh is telling the truth.