“I’m Not Davy Crockett,” Says Judge Accused by Limbaugh of Bear Murders

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Rush Limbaugh told his listeners last week that liberals should be concerned about Judge Roger Vinson, a federal judge in Florida who is hearing a challenge to the health-care law passed earlier this year. Vinson was appointed by President Reagan, which might mean he is relatively conservative, although who makes the appointment is not especially strong evidence of how a judge will rule. But it is probably better evidence than you will find on Wikipedia.

Limbaugh said on Tuesday, September 14, that liberals should be worried about Vinson because he is an avid hunter and amateur taxidermist who has killed three brown bears and once mounted their heads over his courtroom door to "instill the fear of God into the accused," taking them down later when liberal animal-rights groups protested. Number of true facts in that statement: zero.

It looks like the information came from Wikipedia. The edit history of the page about Judge Vinson shows that the bear allegations Limbaugh mentioned were added late Sunday (September 12), edited on Monday, and then removed entirely on Tuesday, all by the same anonymous person ("Pensacolian"). Limbaugh's show runs from noon to 3 p.m. Eastern, and the information was deleted at 2:21 Tuesday afternoon. So it would appear that somebody who knew Limbaugh does research on Wikipedia, and that he would be talking about Vinson on Tuesday, posted the bogus story hoping Limbaugh would repeat it, and then deleted the info once he did.

After some questioned the bear-killing story, a Limbaugh spokesperson insisted that a staff researcher had found the information on the website of the Pensacola News Journal, not on Wikipedia, citing a story posted on the News Journal's site on June 31, 2003. But it turned out that this citation was also part of the bogus material added to Wikipedia; the paper's editor said there had never been such a story.

There has never been a "June 31," either.

Judge Vinson Tends His CamelliasJudge Vinson confirmed that the story was not true.  "I've never killed a bear," he said, "and I'm not Davy Crockett." He did shoot a water moccasin last weekend at his cabin, he admitted, but had not stuffed that or any other creature, let alone mount any heads over his courtroom door to terrify the accused. (Anyone who has ever actually been to a federal courthouse knows that mounted heads are extremely rare, and that federal judges terrify everyone equally.)

Judge Vinson is not a taxidermist, but he is the president of the American Camellia Society. Whether that means conservatives should be worried about his health-care ruling is hard to say.