Rush Limbaugh Wasn’t The Only Big Fat Liar

Several years ago, before he joined the US Senate, Al Franken wrote a book titled “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Liar.” Its accusations were accurate, and–because it was Al Franken (who should never have been run out of the Senate for a dumb joke)–it was also pretty funny.

Today, Rightwing liars aren’t funny. We live in a time of rampant lying, politely called “misinformation,” and thanks to a deficit of critical skills and a surfeit of confirmation bias, those lies do enormous damage.

Case in point: a while back, The American Prospect ran a story about “misinformation” feeding the Right’s current anti-Trans frenzy.

Former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss recently founded a publication called The Free Press, and several weeks ago it published an account from a woman named Jamie Reed. Reed, who worked as a case manager at a Washington University gender clinic in St. Louis, made inflammatory accusations (with more in a sworn affidavit) that numerous children at the clinic were being carelessly shoved into irreversible gender treatment en masse.

Reed’s article went viral on social media, and was cited by numerous conservatives and transphobes as conclusive proof that too many kids are getting transition care. A couple of prominent liberals joined in as well. Matthew Yglesias cited it as credible on Twitter and Substack. “The picture she paints of the clinic’s treatment of children is ghastly. The affidavit she signed is even worse,” wrote Jonathan Chait at New York magazine. (It’s of a piece with an ongoing trend in liberal and centrist publications of writing anxious articles raising questions about youth transition care.)

There is just one problem. Reed’s account is a pile of garbage.

As the article pointed out, any sensible person would have noticed a number of obvious red flags when the article first was published. Reed’s  lawyer had founded an openly transphobic organization, and Reed made several wildly mistaken claims about the side effects of some gender treatments.

In her affidavit, Reed claimed that children came into the clinic identifying as “mushroom,” “rock,” or “helicopter,” only to be quickly given puberty blockers or hormones. This is not only facially preposterous, but in the last case suspiciously lines up with a common right-wing transphobic “joke.”

Subsequent reporting demolished Reed’s story, but a great deal of harm had been done–and people who harbor animus against the LGBTQ+ community  still cite it. For that matter, as the article accurately notes, the United States is currently in the grip of a full-blown transphobic moral panic, and “dubious, unrepresentative, or entirely made-up anecdotes are trumpeted across right-wing media.”

That “misinformation” has buttressed the GOP’s legislative attacks on trans youth and overwhelmed credible academic studies, which have overwhelmingly confirmed that “transition is quite rare, de-transition relatively unlikely, the regret rate of gender affirmation surgery low, and treatment difficult and expensive to access.”

Trans children aren’t the only targets of the Right’s intentional lying, a/k/a “misinformation campaigns.” Talking Points Memo has documented one of the many efforts to portray Black Lives Matter as some sort of criminal organization.

When Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) failed, the Right immediately condemned that failure as an example of how“woke culture” had made the bank inefficient. As Josh Marshall wrote,

Ground zero for this is the allegation that SVB had donated over $73 million to the “BLM Movement & Related Causes.” That struck me as quite a lot of money for a single company, even a large and profitable one, to give to any cause or even all causes. So I tried to find out where this factoid came from and rapidly found my way to a Trumpist think tank….

The claims come from a database posted earlier this week by the Center for the American Way of Life, a project of the Claremont Institute. As Claremont put it in a Newsweek article introducing the database, “Americans deserve to know who funded the BLM riots.”

Marshall found no evidence of the purported donation; it appeared that the Center counted any giving by any major corporation to anything tied to civil rights or diversity or just Black people generally as a gift to BLM.

Campbell’s Soup, for example:

Those were grants to Black Girls Code, National Urban League, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Campbell Canada’s Black History Month Fund, the Equal Justice Initiative and the Boris L. Henson Foundation. Again, tied to Black people, so it’s all “BLM.”

Marshall goes through the database’s “reports” on several other corporations and found  any donation in any way connected to Black people listed as  support for “BLM riots, mayhem and violence.”

These sorts of assaults aren’t innocent “mistakes.” They’re deliberate lies, in service of hateful ends.

The tactic didn’t die with Limbaugh.


  1. One of the first groups old Adolf & his Italian pal Ben targeted with lies and distortions were the LGBTQA, along with Roma, Jews, etc etc. The parallels are frightening.

  2. “…Center for the American Way of Life…” We have reached a level of abundance of accepted lies from the right where any organization or publican claiming to be “American” must be questioned and researched for the source. Like the many stages on which Trump appeared being fully lined behind him with numerous American flags and his idiotic hugging a flag and grinning as proof of his Americanism; it falls under the heading of what Kellyanne Conway’s term “alternate facts”. Trump is a bigger and fatter liar and the greatest danger to this nation out of office as he was in the office throwing fast food at the White House walls when his lies were disputed.

    We have learned over the past 2 weeks or so that convicting him in court does not end his “civil” attacks on his victims and admonishments from sitting judges have no meaning to him. This was to be expected if you have been watching and listening. The delays in any actual action taken against him and his minions will fade into the background as the promised legal actions drag on and on as they have since he began his business career and sexual attacks against women approximately FORTY YEARS AGO. It all adds up to nothing being done because he remains above all felony and misdemeanor laws of this country with full support from his appointed federal judges up to and including the Supreme Court.

    Compare Putin’s determination to destroy Ukraine with his scorched earth tactics with Trump and his MAGA, White Nationalist, Freedom Caucus determination to destroy democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitution leaving them the ruins to control.

  3. “As Claremont put it in a Newsweek article introducing the database, “Americans deserve to know who funded the BLM riots.”

    This is true, but the outcome was a lie. We also deserve to know who funded the 1/6 riots, but NOT a single mainstream media went after that story. Why?
    It’s worth noting that both Charles Koch, who owns consumer products, and Albertson’s grocery are advertisers, yet none of the committees called upon their funders to testify. Sadly, politicians are allowed to lie, and they frequently do so, with their social media feeds being rife with disinformation and falsehoods.

    Right-wing institutions use propaganda tactics frequently as it tends to be more effective on their constituents who are less likely to question what they read or hear. Unfortunately, disinformation and money often work in tandem to oppress people, and this trend is not new; it dates back to the 1930s with figures such as Hitler and Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew.

    As long as those misleading the public face no negative consequences, the oligarchy will continue to use these tactics, as they are highly effective. This issue also speaks to the heart of free market economies, which require “rational actors.”

    Every single day we destroy the myth of free markets on this blog.

  4. Sheila, you’re mixing up two of Franken’s books: “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, and Other Observations” and “Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right”.

    My post from yesterday applies today. Alongside Fox, these lies serve to create an alternative reality for these people to inhabit. And they believe it religiously.

  5. long ago,somewhere. we had gosip, and face to face encounters. today we have the veil of? we see the underground world sending messages,to change minds,and seek their own accords. mystery and whos-who, these paid for bites are think tank driven and lameass ,er limbaugh was a co founder. there were many before. tech age savy and politcal science,psycop and mind control, it works. send for free ink on the net and social media,we have again,no one reads the context,only the headlines. while driving truck during limbaughs time,back in the 90s i read newspapers left behind on tables and chairs, the view of left and right prevailed,but they were responsable,somewhat to what they printed. after reading a subject,the it was lameasses turn on the air.a.m. radio and clear channel cumilus etc provided as the bought up all the home town a.m. stations, turn the dial and ya couldnt lose him after 12 p.m.the same subject,i read was now a twisted mass of right wing imagination. then came social media. nuff said..
    this would make a good subject for school kids, if you can find a school system that still
    teaches resposabilities.

  6. I certainly appreciate your effort to call it like it is. Misinformation and disinformation are plainly just LIES!

    Down here in sunny southwest Florida, our good governor DeMentis has taken away the need to fear our trans neighbors by denying them health care. They will either have to leave the state or sacrifice their well-being. Which would you choose?

  7. What I find so shocking is how people (that I used to consider intelligent) believe the extremely outrageous lies and never hesitate to wonder if they are true. The radical right wing media easily grabs their attention and then wraps tentacles so tightly around their brains that viewers/listeners lose the ability to think for themselves.

    A college friend called me a couple weeks ago and after we had caught up on each other’s lives for the past year she pivoted to politics. That had always been a subject we chose not to discuss since we have opposite political views. She suddenly asked me what I think should be done about all the illegal migrants that Biden refuses to stop. Her voice rose as she asked the question in a very accusatory manner – as if it is all my fault since I am a Democrat. She also complained about all the homeless people and how horrible it is that Chicago’s Millennium Park had been taken over as a tent city. I told her that I had not read or heard anything about that and thought it would have made national news. She assured me it was now ruined by the homeless.

    She went on about several other ‘horrible’ things happening since Biden became president. I asked her if she gets all her news from Fox. She said “NO, I watch Newsmax”. I told her Newsmax is even worse than Fox and spreads much worse lies and propaganda. She assumed I get my news from CNN. I told her I’ve never watched CNN nor MSNBC and that I get my news from nonpartisan sources that research and vet their info.

    After our call ended I googled about homeless tents in Chicago parks. All I could find was a story about two homeless tents in Touhy Park, which is a small neighborhood park on the far north side of Chicago.

    She asked what sources I use for news so the next day I sent her the list of my news sources along with info proving she is being fed lies about all the issues she brought up on the phone call. I suggested that in the future she conduct her own search for facts to back up any stories that seem outrageous and infuriating, instead of just accepting what she hears as the truth.

  8. Nancy; when I lived in Florida my best friend was a gay Catholic Republican man who was not only a college graduate but retired from Michigan University Administration. We had never talked politics but did discuss the conditions of streets and some of the beaches but one day as he was helping me clear a dead pine tree remains he commented he was surprised I was a “lefty” because I support the death penalty (for such as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacey, ets.). No more was said till after I moved back here; he and his new partner visited me here fro a week and later sent me a plane ticket to visit them for a week. He even heated his pool so we could swim. After I returned he E-mailed me that his partner James was surprised to learn I am a “lefty” so he was going to prove it by conversing some political issues with me. I had no idea who or what he was talking about; had heard nothing of the issues or the Democrats he mentioned; his messages kept getting more and more irate and after an insult I said he had hurt my feelings. He claimed that was a typical female response and that our friendship needed a hiatus. I do understand the meaning of that word and assumed, as a college graduate, he did too. That was in 2006 and his hiatus continues; no responses to my E-mails and a few years ago I could check the status of my AOL sent E-mails which he deleted. This seems to be a mental trait in Republicans; ending family connections and friendships with those who disagree with their political issues which they turned to personal issues. I often wonder if he supports Trump; probably know the answer but would never get a response if I asked him.

    I didn’t lose a good friend…but he did.

  9. Limbaugh and Trump would have long since been hung in George Washington’s day, as were Major Andre and Benedict Arnold (had the latter not escaped to England). In those days veracity was an important measure of character.

    No more. Lying is now commonplace and even necessary where one of the political parties is in transition from center-right status to fascist-lite status, i. e., lite so far. How else to explain to gullible believers and consumers of the Kool-Aid that democracy is rooted in neo-Nazi philosophy and that the libs are traitors?

    Can you spell projection via lying on a massive scale by the likes of Limbaughs, Trumps et al? Where does the freedom of speech under the First Amendment end when the speech in question is plainly designed to undermine our democracy?

  10. JoAnn,
    You are correct – your former friend lost a good friend. It is unfortunate that we fail to recognize the small and hateful minds of some of our friends until they reveal their political radicalization.

    Regarding the phone call I mentioned – I managed to remain calm and objective on the phone call while she continued to aggressively ask questions like she wanted me to apologize for everything she was angry about. While she unloaded on me I managed to provide actual facts to disprove each of her questions or complaints. She later sent me two (sort of) apology emails and sent a text the next day before I even had a chance to send her the info sources she requested. I chose not to acknowledge her apologetic messages. While I’m glad that she realized she was wrong to attack me, I will not soon forget it. I do hope that she took my advice to fact-check the info and stories from her chosen news sources.

  11. I’m a Minnesotan and an Al Franken voter.

    “who should never have been run out of the Senate for a dumb joke.”

    That’s “misinformation.” Several women made credible allegations of being groped by Sen. Franken. I wish he would not have resigned when he did so those would have gotten more publicity and his resignation would have been understood as legitimate. I am deeply disappointed in him because he was doing good things in the Senate, but he didn’t deserve to be there.

  12. Lying in American politics goes way back to the 1800’s, but with the speed of light dissemination
    thereof now possible, and the blatant biases all too ready to absorb the BS, we are in a different
    situation than we were in the 1800’s.
    No one ought to expect TFG to hold back with distorting the truth, the evidence backed facts, whether
    he is delusional or simply manipulating, just because he has been found guilty of any, or all, of the
    crimes for which he is accused of having carried out. He remains a malignant narcissist incapable of
    accepting responsibility for his actions and/or their consequences.
    It was Rush L. announcing to his rancid audience that Trump was their man, that helped put this lifelong
    criminal in the political spotlight, btw.
    Oh, just so everybody is clear about how awful, odious, some Floridian legislators can be, one of them has
    offered legislation honoring the Big Fat Liar of the title of today’s blog!!

  13. Gerald, your reference to Benedict Arnold is a bit harsh. If you dig into history, you find a number of things about the general that might make you think differently. History is written by the winners, of course, so it rarely gets the story either right or complete.

  14. Peggy – I am aware that Arnold was first a heroic Revolutionary War general and a good friend of Washington, but that in my view only makes his fall from grace all the more grating.

  15. Nancy, what many so-called skeptics absolutely do not understand is that one must be most skeptical about things that support one’s own beliefs. This is the blind spot that we all have, and it must be considered always. It’s difficult, of course, as we all have our biases.

    I find that many “skeptics” today simply accept unquestioningly anything they _want_ to believe, and just as simply dismiss anything they don’t. With people who fall into this group, of any political stripe, there is no (real) research, or analysis, or critical thinking taking place at all. This mindset makes real discussion and debate impossible.

    I suspect that your friend never looked at anything you sent, and has just written you off. (If you find out otherwise, I’d be thrilled to hear it, as it would be very hopeful news.)

  16. It reminds me of the “repressed memories” scare and the McMasters Day Care trial — only on steroids — and with louder lies. Still secret underground tunnels or whatever for Satanic rights (complete with digging up the land) does come close with the hysterical lies.

    and to prove I am politically incorrect (and to prove that intelligent people can have diametrically opposed views of something), Franken was convicted without an investigation. He was accused of kissing and pretending to touch a model’s breasts, not groping “p” a la Trump. It may have been even less.

    I may be showing my age but back in the day, touching a breast got you a slap and a bad reputation. Touching lower got you arrested.
    USO shows were always sophomoric, and abounding in sexual innuendo. I remember Bob Hope.

    Here is another take on the “scandal” (you may have to copy and paste the link)

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