Conservatives Criticize Pelosi's Support of 'Fairness Doctrine'

Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:33pm EDT
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( - Conservative leaders on Wednesday sharply criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for endorsing a revival of the "Fairness Doctrine," which was described as "nothing short of an attack on free speech."

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the measure, which was enforced from 1949 to 1987, "outdated" and "a 1940s law that would take away radio and television licenses if broadcasters express their opinions."

"Let's be honest, the Fairness Doctrine is an undisguised attack on freedom itself," Boehner said. "It is nothing less than a sweeping takeover by Washington bureaucrats of broadcast media, and it is designed to squelch conservative speech on the airwaves."

Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center (MRC) -- the parent company of Cybercast News Service -- also released a statement on the issue in which he called the Doctrine "an abomination of free speech and the Constitution."

The comments came in response to an article at the Human Events Web site in which Political Editor John Gizzi described a conversation he had with Pelosi during a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on Tuesday.

Gizzi asked the California Democrat if she would permit the Broadcaster Freedom Act sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) to get a floor vote this year if the bill to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine failed to get out of committee.

"Pelosi replied 'No' without hesitation," he reported.

"She added that 'the interest in my caucus is the reverse' and that New York Democratic Rep. 'Louise Slaughter has been active behind this [revival of the Fairness Doctrine] for a while now," Gizzi wrote.

"Pelosi pointed out that, after it returns from its Fourth of July recess, the House will only meet for another three weeks in July and three weeks in the fall," he wrote. "There are a lot of bills it has to deal with before adjournment, she said, such as FISA and an energy bill.

"'So I don't see it [the Pence bill] coming to the floor,' Pelosi said.

"Do you personally support revival of the 'Fairness Doctrine?'" Gizzi asked.

"'Yes,' the speaker replied, without hesitation," he quoted her as saying.

Boehner noted that Pelosi's comment stood in contrast to the chamber's stance in 2007, when 309 House members supported a bipartisan, one-year moratorium" on re-implementing the policy, which is "aimed squarely at rationing and regulating the free speech rights of specifically targeted audiences," particularly conservative talk radio.

"This sensible bipartisan moratorium should now be extended into a permanent ban," the minority leader said.

He added that he was "disappointed to learn" that instead of supporting Pence's bill, "the speaker has formally endorsed policies that would allow the so-called Fairness Doctrine and its attack on free speech in America to move forward."

Boehner then urged all his House colleagues who supported last year's moratorium to immediately sign a discharge petition to force floor consideration of the Broadcaster Freedom Act because "the Fairness Doctrine is wrong and should be banned by this Congress."

Bozell of the MRC stated that Pelosi's comments expose liberals who have been publicly denying any interest in reviving the Fairness Doctrine as "liars."

"We knew that liberals wanted to return to government censorship of political free speech," he said. "The Fairness Doctrine is an abomination of free speech and the Constitution, neither of which apparently bothers the Speaker or the Democratic Caucus."

As a result, "now more than ever, there must be a vote and let every member of Congress go on the record either for or against censorship of free speech," he declared. "It is unimaginable that political leaders in this country would favor a policy that not only undermines free speech, but democracy itself.

"Now more than ever, it's time to sign the discharge petition for broadcaster freedom by July 4th," Bozell added.

As Cybercast News Service reported earlier this month, Pence has been unable to gather the 218 signatures needed to bypass a committee vote on his bill, so he challenged House Democrats to "declare their independence, stand for freedom and sign the Discharge Petition for Broadcast Freedom before the 4th of July."

And on Wednesday, Pence responded to Pelosi's remarks by stating that "so far, not one single House Democrat has signed our petition for an up-or-down vote on broadcast freedom ... and now we know why."

"'Defending freedom is the paramount interest of every member of the American Congress," he said, calling on Democrats in the chamber to oppose their leadership's plan "to censor the airwaves of American talk radio and American Christian radio."

"Help us send the Fairness Doctrine to the ash heap of broadcast history, where it belongs," Pence said.

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