Rush-ing to Judgement

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Filed under: Media Pranks

Limbaugh Taken In: The Judge Was Not Loaded for Bear
by Kevin Sack
The New York Times
September 15, 2010

Pensacola, Fla. “” Anyone listening to Rush Limbaugh”™s radio show Tuesday could be forgiven for thinking that Judge Roger Vinson has the federal government dead in his sights.

Mr. Limbaugh spent some time profiling Judge Vinson, a senior judge on the Federal District Court in Pensacola, who had just announced he would allow a legal challenge to the new health care law to advance to a full hearing. The conservative radio host informed his listeners that the judge was an avid hunter and amateur taxidermist who once killed three brown bears and mounted their heads over his courtroom door to “instill the fear of God into the accused.”

“This,” Mr. Limbaugh said, “would not be good news” for liberal supporters of the health law.

But, in fact, Judge Vinson has never shot anything other than a water moccasin (last Saturday, at his weekend cabin), is not a taxidermist and, as president of the American Camellia Society, is far more familiar with Camellia reticulata than with Ursus arctos.

Apparently, Mr. Limbaugh had fallen prey to an Internet hoax.

On Sunday night, and again Monday morning, someone identified only as “Pensacolian” edited Judge Vinson”™s Wikipedia entry to include the invented material. The prankster footnoted the entry to a supposed story in The Pensacola News Journal. The article “” like its stated publication date of June 31, 2003 “” does not exist. The same person who posted the information removed it on Tuesday afternoon, Wikipedia logs show.

As calls flooded in about Mr. Limbaugh”™s depiction, Judge Vinson, 70, took it all in stride. “I”™ve never killed a bear,” he said Wednesday, “and I”™m not Davy Crockett.”

His wife, Ellen, was less amused. “It offended me,” she said, “because I don”™t think you should be able to broadcast something nationally if you can”™t verify it.”

Kit Carson, a spokesman for Mr. Limbaugh, said a staff researcher had found the information in an article on the Pensacola newspaper”™s Web site, and not on Wikipedia. But Ginny Graybiel, the paper”™s managing editor, said it had never published such material.

Ms. Vinson acknowledged that she had bought two stuffed animal trophies “” a deer and a goat “” at a garage sale to decorate their cabin. But she said the portrait of her husband”™s ferocity was comical.

“Can you imagine the president of the American Camellia Society having three stuffed bears in the courthouse?” she asked.

thanks Erin and Peter