Fox News Runs With GOP Talking Point That White House Is Focusing On Limbaugh To Distract From The Economy

Yesterday, Politico reported on an alleged “strategy” to paint hate radio talker Rush Limbaugh as the face of the GOP, and claimed that it was “hatched” by Democratic strategists and is “being guided in part from inside the White House.” From there, Greg Sargent detected a “new media meme” that the White House “is entirely to blame for the Rush Limbaugh story getting so much media attention and turning into a media circus.”

Today, Limbaugh charged that the White House is “playing manipulative games with washed up talking heads, targeting me on the taxpayer dime. This country doesn’t need another administration playing dirty tricks and making enemy lists.”

Doing their part to defend Rush, House Republicans have ascribed sinister motives to the White House’s alleged strategy. They claim it is an intentional effort to distract the nation from more pressing issues. “Political operatives in the White House are trying to divert attention away from the challenges facing our economy,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) complained yesterday. Fox News is amplifying the talking points:

BRET BAIER: Is the White House using Rush Limbaugh as a diversion? We’ll look at the controversy that just won’t go away.

SEAN HANNITY: Now it took quite a bit of coordination between the White House and the liberal media, but they have succeeded in distracting the attention of the American people away from President Obama’s free wheeling spending spree and towards Rush Limbaugh and the leadership of the Republican Party.

KARL ROVE: This is misdirection. They’re trying to draw attention away from the things that the country wants to talk about and that they know they’ve got a vulnerability on in order to have a conversation about Rush Limbaugh.

Watch the compilation:

Except there are a couple problems. As Sargent noted, “it’s a grotesque exaggeration” to say a coordinated campaign hatched in the White House to focus on Limbaugh:

[T]he Politico piece just doesn’t say this. If anything, the reporting in there proves the opposite. The piece says that the “strategy took shape” after Dem strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg polled on Rush and found him to be deeply unpopular. But as Steve Benen notes, Carville and Greenberg aren’t Obama advisers, let alone White House advisers. That’s not all. The piece explicitly says that groups outside the White House…were the first to push the strategy.

But also, this media “meme” ignores the more important point that Limbaugh himself started the “diversion” when he said he hopes Obama fails. From then on, Republicans of all stripes have either criticized (and then apologized to) Limbaugh, praised him, debated his role in the Party, and elevated him by giving him the keynote speaker slot at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, where, once again, he reiterated his desire for Obama to fail.