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Top Democrat blasts Limbaugh for 'phony soldiers' comment

  • Story Highlights
  • Top Senate Democrat calls Rush Limbaugh's comment "beyond the pale"
  • Democrats say Limbaugh questioned patriotism of veterans who criticize war
  • Limbaugh says "phony soldiers" comment taken out of context
  • Conservative radio talk show host says attacks part of a "smear"
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The top Democrat in the Senate slammed Rush Limbaugh Monday over his recent controversial "phony soldiers" remark, despite the conservative talk-radio host's protests that his words have been taken out of context.

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said his comments were taken out of context.

Limbaugh's comments in question came Wednesday when Limbaugh and a caller were discussing critics of the Iraq war:

"What's really funny is, they [Iraq war critics] never talk to real soldiers," the caller said. "They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media."

"The phony soldiers," Limbaugh then said.

Several Democrats released statements late last week condemning the remarks, and in a speech on the Senate floor Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the comments "so beyond the pale of decency that it cannot be left alone."

"Just as patriotism is the exclusive realm of neither party, taking a stand against those who spew hate and impugn the integrity of our troops is a job that belongs to all of us," Reid said.

"I can't help but wonder how my Republican colleagues would have reacted if the tables were turned -- if a well-known Democratic radio personality had used the same insulting line of attack against troops who support the war," the Nevada Democrat added.

Reid, along with several other Democrats, also plan to send a letter to Clear Channel Communications CEO Mark Mays this week, calling on him to formally condemn Limbaugh's comments.

Clear Channel syndicates Limbaugh's show.

Limbaugh blasted Reid on Monday, saying on his radio program, "These people have had three, four days now to learn the truth about this, and they no doubt know the truth, which doesn't matter."

"What they are trying to do is flood a false story into the Drive-By Media and have that survive and suffice as the evidence and as the story of what I said when it wasn't," he added.

Responding to his critics on Friday's show, Limbaugh said he was "taken out of context," adding his remark was referring to one soldier specifically -- Jesse MacBeth, a vocal war critic who falsely claimed to have served in Iraq.

"The effort here is simply to discredit people that they consider effective and powerful on the right ginning up, leading up into the '08 elections," Limbaugh said Friday.

Speaking on his radio show Friday, Limbaugh called the Democratic attacks on him "a smear" and said "this is is a great illustration of the liberals and the Democrat Party playbook for '08, which is underway now."

On Thursday, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, a veteran of the Vietnam War, called the comments a "disgusting attack."

"In a single moment on his show, Limbaugh managed to question the patriotism of men and women in uniform who have put their lives on the line and many who died for his right to sit safely in his air-conditioned studio peddling hate," Kerry said in a statement.

The controversy over Limbaugh's statement comes after the liberal advocacy group accused the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, in full page ad in the New York Times last month of "cooking the books for the White House" in his testimony to Congress last week.

Last week, the House voted 341-79 to condemn the liberal group's recent newspaper ad dubbing Petraeus "General Betray Us?" The Senate also approved a resolution condemning the ad on a vote of 72-25. said it stands by its ad.

"With every passing day, more information comes to light casting more and more doubt on the validity of the facts and conclusions presented by Gen. Petraeus in his testimony before Congress," Eli Pariser,'s Executive Director, said in a statement released after the House vote Wednesday. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Alex Mooney, Ted Barrett and Scott Anderson contributed to this report.

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