WASHINGTON – A letter sent to Rush Limbaugh's boss demanding he be chastised for comments he made on the air about "phony soldiers" is now on the auction block, and the latest bid is a cool $45,000.
One hundred percent of the money raised from the eBay auction will go to educate the children of Marines and law enforcement officers who died while on duty, the auction says.
Bids will continue until Friday for the letter signed by 41 Democratic senators and sent on Oct. 2 to Mark P. Mays, president of Clear Channel, the parent company of the conservative talk show host's radio broadcast. The winning bidder will get the letter, the "Halliburton briefcase in which this letter is secured 24 hours a day;" a letter of thanks from Limbaugh and a picture of the talkmeister announcing the auction at a speech in Philadelphia delivered last Thursday.
"This historic document may well represent the first time in the history of America that this large a group of U.S. senators attempted to demonize a private citizen by lying about his views. As such, it is a priceless memento of the folly of (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid and his 40 senatorial co-signers," reads the eBay announcement.
As of early Monday, 108 bids by 43 bidders had been made on the letter, whose opening bid price was $100.
Playing up the controversy over comments Limbaugh made last month in which he used the term "phony soldiers," seemingly to describe U.S. troops opposed to the Iraq war, Limbaugh told his audience last week that he is going to turn lemons into lemonade.
"Over the last 20 years, I've been called a chicken hawk. I have been accused of being blindly supportive of the military. Now, all of a sudden, I hate the military. All of a sudden, I'm critical of soldiers who are critical of the war — which I have never been," Limbaugh said in his Friday broadcast.
"I would like to issue this challenge to Senator Reid and the 41 senators who signed his letter. You say you support the military. You say you're big, and you think it's patriotic, and that I was unpatriotic. Well, I would like for each of you, Senator Reid, and the 40 senators who signed, to match whatever the winning bid is. Show us your support for the U.S. military by all 41 of you pro-military people, Democrats in the Senate, match whatever the winning bid is and send that amount to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation," Limbaugh said. Limbaugh sits on the board of the foundation that has dispersed $29 million for scholarships.
The publicity stunt regurgitates a fierce feud earlier this month in which the letter, signed by the Senate Democratic leadership and four Democratic senators running for president, urging Mays "to publicly repudiate" comments made by Limbaugh "that call into question" the service and sacrifice of troops who oppose the war in Iraq.
"Our troops are fighting and dying to bring to others the freedoms that many take for granted. It is unconscionable that Mr. Limbaugh would criticize them for exercising the fundamentally American right to free speech. Mr. Limbaugh has made outrageous remarks before, but this affront to our soldiers is beyond the pale," reads the Democratic letter to Mays.
Mays, who Limbaugh describes as a friend, came to the radio host's defense in an equally strong response letter to Reid.
"Mr. Limbaugh's comments have stirred a lot of emotion, and I have carefully read the transcript in question," Mays wrote. "Given Mr. Limbaugh's history of support for our soldiers, it would be unfair for me to assume his statements were intended to personally indict combat soldiers simply because they didn't share his own beliefs regarding the war in Iraq. ... I will not condemn our talent for exercising their right to voice them."
Limbaugh has denied the term "phony soldiers" referred to former servicemen and women who served in Iraq and now oppose the war, but to those who lied about their service. A literal reading of the Sept. 26 show in question shows that the controversial host did not in fact say that soldiers opposing the war are "phony."
Since the original show, Limbaugh has several times repeated that he was referring to one man: disgraced, convicted former Army soldier-turned-antiwar-activist Jesse Macbeth. Macbeth falsely claimed to have participated in war crimes in Iraq and received a Purple Heart, but in reality, he was discharged after only 44 days of service, never placing a foot in Iraq.
Macbeth was sentenced to five months in prison for fraudulently collecting more than $10,000 in benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Senate Democrats had refused to offer a resolution on the floor condemning Limbaugh, saying to do so would bring more attention to him. Limbaugh's auction clearly keeps the dispute alive, at least until the end of the week when the bidding ends.