(1st Add: Corrects attribution of quote in story's final paragraph)
Washington (CNSNews.com) - Talk radio and cable news outlets were blasted by liberal activists during a seminar in Washington, D.C. Thursday, with one speaker describing the followers of conservative-dominated radio programs as "drunks."
The three-day "Take Back America" conference is being sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future, which states as its goal pushing the Democratic Party to the left. Several Democratic presidential candidates addressed the group Thursday - but noticeably absent was Connecticut U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who is trying to appear more moderate than his rivals for the party's 2004 nomination.
Activists pulled no punches in attacking not only conservative-dominated media outlets, but also the Bush administration.
Jeff Faux, distinguished fellow at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, lashed out at the culture of talk radio during a panel discussion entitled "Shrubbed: The Radical Project of George Bush."
"I turn on the radio, and I hear these talk shows with right wing drunks calling in, and I ask myself, where are our drunks?" Faux said. But, he added: "The advantage of being a progressive is that you don't have to get drunk to make your speech."
Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, charged that "Rupert Murdoch [and his] cronies" are "stifling our messages and keep our messages from being heard, and when we get them out, they are drowned in a sea of lies." Murdoch is chairman of News Corp., which owns the Fox News Channel.
Gandy described her reaction to being seated near Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, host of The O'Reilly Factor, at this week's Congressional Correspondents' Dinner in Washington.
"As I looked over at him at the next table holding court, I thought of the fact that there are literally millions of people who get their news from Bill O'Reilly," Gandy told the audience. "[They] actually think that he is telling them the truth about what is happening in the world.
"They get their perspective on the world from The O'Reilly Factor and from Stupid-borough Country, uh...Scarborough Country," she added, a reference to MSNBC's Scarborough Country, hosted by former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough.
Gandy believes conservatives control the media in America.
"It's gotten to the point that Pat Robertson can just retire from his television career because his job has been taken over by Fox News and MSNBC and Clear Channel Broadcasting," Gandy said.
She praised the country music singing trio, the Dixie Chicks, who received a torrent of criticism from conservatives after challenging the wisdom of President Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq. "Can we hear one round for the Dixie Chicks?" Gandy asked to loud applause. "They have lots of new fans all over the country."
Thursday's panelists also laid into the Bush administration and its allies in Congress. Bush is running "the most right wing administration in modern American history," according to Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way.
"George W. Bush, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Trent Lott, [John] Ashcroft - they are the schoolyard bullies, and what do we do with schoolyard bullies? We stand up to them, and we stand up to them and fight," Neas said.
Neas had pointed criticism for the president's federal judicial nominees, warning that the U.S. is "facing one of the greatest constitutional threats to our constitutional scheme of government since the Founding Fathers.
"We are going to block any right wing nominee in the mold of Scalia and Thomas," he vowed, a reference to conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, blamed "ideological extremism on the right" for making bipartisanship "impossible."
"You can't have bipartisanship when one side treats you like a tornado treats a trailer park," Henderson claimed.
Maude Hurd, president of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), said liberals have been "bushwhacked" by the president.
"George W. Bush has pushed so many right wing proposals through Congress that many progressives have begun to despair," Hurd explained. "Bush's endless demands for tax cuts for millionaires are so willfully blind that he reminds me of a substance abuser," Hurd added.
Deb Callahan, president of the League of Conservation Voters, asserted: "This is undeniably the worst administration that we have seen in the history of this nation on [environmental] issues."
Callahan lamented the opposition that the green agenda encounters in the current political environment and said she yearns for a return to the 1960s.
She told the audience that she once asked former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall how it felt to be able to pass environmental regulations during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations without much opposition.
"I asked: 'What was it like when you were running the Interior Department, and you all created the Endangered Species Act, you protected amazing lands, you did these new and insightful and far-reaching things to protect our natural environment?" According to Callahan, Udall answered: "Basically, if you could think it up, you could do it."
Callahan observed: "I have come to realize that is my guiding principle. I want to return to a time in this country when if we can think it up, we can do it."
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