Local massage clinic targeted by Limbaugh Program

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - It was not a very relaxing day for a local massage clinic, where the owners were accused by the Rush Limbaugh program, of accepting federal stimulus dollars.

Everything was so peaceful at Escape Massage in Midlothian this week, until co-owner George Nuckolls, answered the phone.

"Somebody was asking me about how I could spend their tax money," Nuckolls said.

One unusual call isn't a big deal. But 14 or 15 just like it, is a problem.

"I was shocked, and overwhelmed, because I didn't understand it," said co-owner Mike Vines.

Later, the owners began to make sense of it all. The guest host on Tuesday's Rush Limbaugh program, read from an Internet list of so-called "ridiculous uses of stimulus funds." Right there at number eight, was Escape Massage accused of taking $168,000 in tax dollars. The owners, say it's not true.

"Somebody, I don't know who, basically twisted the information," Vines said.

In reality, the owners took out a $168,000 bank loan, which was guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA, has received hundreds of millions in stimulus dollars to encourage the growth of small businesses.

"It's just one of many businesses, we probably did over 900 loan guarantees last year. We have 121 banks in the program," said Ron Bew of the SBA.

A day later, following a brilliant front-page headline ["Rubbed The Wrong Way"], and support from local radio, the angry calls have gone away.

"It's opened my eyes to how easy it is for somebody to just say what they want to say, for whatever reason they want to say it," Nuckolls said.

But in the place of hot towels, and hot oil - the owners have a new sign, to keep themselves out of hot water. It reads: "Escape Massage, no stimulus money here."

The SBA must make information on its loan guarantees public, but would only get involved further if Escape Massage defaults on its loan. The owners say, at this point, it's mostly paid back.

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