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Obama and the Fairness Doctrine

Will Obama flip-flop on equal time requirements in broadcasting?

by
Guy Benson

Bio

September 25, 2008 - 8:44 am

In June of this year a spokesman for Barack Obama had this to say about reimposing the “Fairness Doctrine”:

Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters. He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible. That is why Sen. Obama supports media-ownership caps, network neutrality, public broadcasting, as well as increasing minority ownership of broadcasting and print outlets.

On its face, the statement seems reassuring. But Barack Obama has proven himself virtually incapable of adhering to a consistent position. His willingness to brazenly toss previous policy preferences under the bus as soon as they prove inconvenient to his short-term interests cannot be ignored. If he hasn’t hesitated to repeatedly betray liberal orthodoxy to satisfy his immediate needs, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to envision Obama discarding a right-of-center pledge faster than you can say, “This isn’t the fairness doctrine I once knew.”

It’s also important to consider this matter through the lens of Obama’s mythical history of “bipartisanship.” In the United States Senate, Obama voted the Democrat Party line 97 percent of the time; more often than his own caucus’ leader. It takes quite an effort to out-liberal Ted Kennedy and Bernie Sanders, but the non-partisan National Journal says Obama managed to do just that, ranking him the most liberal senator in the chamber last year. With that in mind, consider this: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful members of Obama’s party, has clearly stated her desire to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. When asked if she’d allow a vote on Indiana Republican Mike Pence’s anti-Fairness Doctrine legislation, Pelosi shot back, “No. The interest in my caucus is the reverse.”

Can the public really trust an Obama administration to resist a Democratic Congress’ efforts to revive the censorship measure? Considering that Senator Obama hasn’t stood up to his own party in any substantial way thus far, it’s unlikely a President Obama would magically adopt the practice.

Beyond the hypothetical, the Obama campaign’s actions betray speech-muzzling impulses. On numerous occasions during his general election campaign, Obama has sought to silence, rather than engage and refute, his critics.

On August 27, respected radio talker Milt Rosenberg invited National Review journalist and Ethics and Public Policy Center Senior Fellow, Stanley Kurtz, on to his nightly program in Chicago. For months, Kurtz had been conducting thorough research into Barack Obama’s extensive ties to the radical Left, including the fraudulent get-out-the-vote group, ACORN. Kurtz’s latest project involved investigating Obama’s connection with unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers; specifically, their collaboration on a left-wing education “reform” organization called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.

Hours before the show aired, Rosenberg’s producer, Zack Christenson, called Obama’s Windy City headquarters to offer airtime to challenge Kurtz’s claims. The Obama campaign declined, opting instead to fire off a hysterical Obama Action Wire email to supporters, encouraging them to inundate Rosenberg’s station with complaints and demands that the Kurtz interview be axed. The email branded the mild-mannered, Harvard-educated Kurtz a “right wing hatchet man,” and a “slimy character assassin.” Almost immediately, enraged callers began bombarding the radio station’s switchboard. Their prevailing message was summed up by one woman, who angrily stammered, “We just want this to stop!”

A few weeks later, author David Freddoso was a featured guest on the same Chicago radio show. This time, the offending guest was actually paired with a liberal sparring partner, yet the Obama campaign nonetheless saw to it that its army of cyber-goons disrupted the interview. This time, the Obama Action Wire email dug deeper into its barrel of melodramatic verbiage: Freddoso, author of the meticulously-researched book The Case Against Barack Obama, was nothing more than a “vicious” partisan hack who peddled in “baseless lies” and “hate-mongering.” Obamabots were urged to “confront” Freddoso before “this goes any further.” Yes, enough with the scrutiny and research! Once again, the phones lit up.

In both cases, Obama’s followers were instructed to report their guerrilla tactics back to the campaign through a special dedicated page on the campaign’s official website. (By all means, inform us of your thuggish behavior perpetrated on Barack’s behalf! We’ll add you to our “nice” list.)

When it’s not busy mobilizing the virtual masses to interfere with legitimate political discourse, the Obama campaign is dispatching attorneys to stifle dissent. Last month, the Obama camp asked the Justice Department to go after a political group that created an advertisement highlighting Obama’s longtime friendship and working relationship with Bill Ayers. They argued the ad — the contents of which are undeniably true — violated federal election law. The group behind the spot is fighting back, decrying Obama’s litigious reaction as “threats” and “intimidation.”

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Virginia has blocked an anti-Obama issue advertisement from airing. Although the Obama campaign isn’t directly involved with, and won’t comment on, the legal battle, the New York Times is delighted. The independent organization “trashes” the Democratic candidate, the paper editorialized, by daring to employ “an Obama-like voice pledging to make taxpayers pay for abortions, help minors conceal abortions from their parents, and legalize late-term abortions.”

Of course, this is precisely what Obama himself promised to do when he told a Planned Parenthood gathering that signing the hard-left Freedom of Choice Act, which would erase almost all restrictions on abortion, would be his very first act as president. But who cares about the facts? Just shut up! As Ramesh Ponnuru points out, “There’s a reason the Times doesn’t try to back up its claim that this organization is lying; it can’t. No wonder it would rather the group be silenced.” The pro-life organization is appealing the decision.

But rest assured, Obama “does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine.” Don’t trust your lying eyes. Trust The One.

Guy Benson is a radio talk show host on Chicago's AM 560 WIND. He is a regular columnist for Townhall, and contributes to National Review Online's Media Blog.
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