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Limbaugh baselessly suggested Downing Street memo "may be a fake"
Syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh suggested that the Downing Street memo "may be a fake" and compared it to the disputed memos used by CBS in its controversial story about President Bush's National Guard service.
From the June 20 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: I purposely haven't talked about this Downing Street memo much because, frankly, a) it didn't interest me and, you know, if it doesn't interest me, I'm not going to talk about it. And the reason it didn't interest me is because it was just another one of these ginned up things by the libs, and it looks like it's got some similarities to Bill Burkett and the forged documents of CBS and Rathergate.
Later in the program, Limbaugh responded to a caller's question about the Downing Street memo by saying, "What is it? The Downing Street memo doesn't say anything, and it may be a fake. It may be a forgery."
In fact, multiple news organizations have authenticated the document, which London's Sunday Times first published on May 1. The memo records the minutes of a July 23, 2002, British Cabinet meeting, including British intelligence chief Richard Dearlove's statement that in Washington, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Since the Downing Street memo's publication, several related British documents have been published, which multiple news outlets have also authenticated.
Limbaugh's assertion appears to be based on claims circulating on the Internet following a June 18 post on the conservative weblog Little Green Footballs. The claims -- which were repeated on another conservative blog, Captain's Quarters, and subsequently linked to by National Review Online's blog, The Corner, and by the Drudge Report -- arose from a June 18 Associated Press article reporting that "[Michael] Smith [the Times reporter who first revealed the memo] told AP he protected the identity of the source he had obtained the documents from by typing copies of them on plain paper and destroying the originals."
But contrary to AP's assertion, Smith has stated publicly that he destroyed copies of the documents and returned the originals. In a June 14 interview with Rawstory.com, Smith described how he first obtained, photocopied, and returned the originals in September 2004. Then, working off of the copies, he reproduced the documents with a typewriter and then destroyed the photocopies (not the originals as the AP reported):
"The copying and re-typing were necessary because markings on the originals might have identified his source, Smith said. ... "The situation in Britain is very difficult but with regard to leaked documents the police Special Branch are obliged to investigate such leaks and would have come to the newspaper's office and or my home to confiscate them," he explained. "We did destroy them because the Police Special Branch were ordered to investigate."
Captain's Quarters concluded that based on this apparently inaccurate AP account, "One fact certainly stands out -- Michael Smith cannot authenticate the copies. And absent that authentication, they lose their value as evidence of anything" (emphasis in original). But the suggestion by conservatives that the documents were forged is baseless, given the multiple news outlets that have authenticated the existence of the memo and related documents.
The Associated Press released excerpts from the memos, including the July 23 memo, on June 18. "The following are excerpts from material in secret Downing Street memos written in 2002. The information, authenticated by a senior British government official, was transcribed from the original documents," the AP wrote.
Similarly, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported June 14 on NBC's Nightly News that "war critics have come up with seven more memos verified by NBC News." A June 13 article by Mitchell on MSNBC.com, published before her report aired on the Nightly News, also noted that the memos were "verified by NBC News."