Here it is, as recounted by the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus in his journal First Things:
A heinous crime against reputation is going on at present in the United States, created by a national media for whom their profession has become an ethics-free zone, with the willing complicity of Democrat politicians and their accomplices in the liberal punditocracy, f'rinstance those public menaces the Race-Shakedown Twins, Sharpton and Jackson.The story is told of St. Philip Neri (1515-1595) that he gave a most unusual penance to a novice who was guilty of spreading malicious gossip.
He told him to take a feather pillow to the top of a church tower on a blustery day and there release all the feathers to the wind. Then he was to come down from the tower, collect all the feathers dispersed over the far countryside, and put them back into the pillow. Of course the poor novice couldn't do it, and that was precisely Philip's point about the great evil of tale bearing.
Slander and calumny have a way of spreading to the four winds and, once released, can never be completely recalled. Even when accusations are firmly nailed as false, the reputations of those falsely accused bear a lingering taint. “Oh yes,” it is vaguely said, “wasn't he once accused of . . . "
The words of the Bard that you learned in grade school are entirely to the point:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
Limbaugh categorically denies having said them, and challenges the slanderers to produce a single authentic source for any one of them -- a task that not one slanderer has succeeded in doing, and the furious back-peddling has begun already, though with reservations and without apology or retraction.
One of the areas where Limbaugh can be the most edgy is in matters of race, or more specifically, racial politics. One might sometimes be able to characterize his mode of delivering uncomfortable truths as "offensive" or perhaps, more accurately, "abrasive" -- but I challenge anyone to reveal a single abrasive utterance for which an intelligent person, in the cool light of reasoned debate, could not make some coherent and persuasive arguments. Others might disagree, but even Limbaugh's most outrageous claims ARE basically arguable.
Anyone who claims otherwise, and who attributes to him the kind of mindless bigotry embodied in the controversial "quotes" now scurrying around on the public winds.... well, you could say a lot of things about such a person, but one thing is for certain: he or she has NEVER been a listener to the Rush Limbaugh program. IMPOSSIBLE. In fact, Limbaugh's harshest critics, on any subject, prove again and again that they could not possibly have listened to his show for more than a sound bite. (Or, I will allow, it's possible that they did listen longer than a bite, but they have demonstrated themselves too blind and stupid to grasp what they heard.)
There are any number of legitimate criticisms one could make about Limbaugh's program and his manner in delivering it -- I've made a few above, and there are more. I'm always surprised at how his most vitriolic critics seem to miss everything that they might genuinely criticize, and then spew with abandon criticisms that are patently false, even as they themselves engage in all the crass, hateful, superficial, often cruel ad hominem attacks and dishonesty of which they accuse their target. It's a strange thing -- one which, I'm thinkin', betrays nothing so much as FEAR.
Now, I can picture some sort of academically-inclined leftist phiilosopher/ideologue -- of an intensely serious and humorless and apocalyptically tragic mentality -- cultivating the kind of visceral hatred for Rush Limbaugh which has clearly gripped his opponents in media and politics. But I cannot picture this serious partisan lowering himself to engage in the mindless schoolyard savaging, the casually bald-faced lying, the hysterical bogey-manning that issues from Limbaugh's media enemies day in and day out, to their everlasting humiliation; the non-stop indulgence in the very sins for which they would burn Limbaugh at the stake (or some other form of execution, as cheerily recommended by Chris Matthews and others).
What's going on here is just wrong. And the purpose of it is not simply to discredit Limbaugh's opinions, but to destroy his reputation in order to prevent him, as a private citizen, from pursuing a private business transaction to become part-owner of a sports franchise.
Limbaugh has become very rich doing what he does, and that's probably his biggest sin -- he has enough ready cash to fulfill the ultimate sports fantasy, especially for the fan who was never talented or fit enough to play himself. How much, one wonders, does rank jealousy of both his money and his sports-dream lie behind this all-out effort to sabotage Limbaugh's bid for the St. Louis Rams?
On such things apparently the world turns, and, like Hitler at the English Channel, this advance must be halted in its tracks. A proud moment for the fifth estate.
St. Philip Neri, Holy Fool, pray for us.