Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
The president probably has not even heard of the headlines-making dispute between talk radio industry leader Rush Limbaugh and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino.
But the White House is a “big fan” of talk radio, she said.
She was responding to questions from Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House, about the situation that prompted Reid to use the floor of the Senate to call for an apology from Limbaugh.
“Yesterday, on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Rush Limbaugh of ‘going way over the line with unpatriotic comments in one of his typical rants, indistinguishable from his usual drivel.’ Does the president agree with any of this?” he asked.
“I don’t think he’s heard of it,” she responded.
“He didn’t hear about it?”
“I don’t think so,” she said.
Kinsolving’s followup related to the same issue.
“Months ago, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott declared, ‘Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.’ And my question: As the president’s leading dealer with the media, what would you advise talk radio listener Lott to do,” he asked.
“I won’t advise Sen. Lott to do anything. We’re big fans of talk radio,” she said.
The controversy erupted when Reid and other Democrats latched onto a couple of words Limbaugh used during a conversation he was having with someone critical of soldiers who oppose the military’s assignment in Iraq.
The caller, Mike, said he now is serving in the Army, and described his anger about talk of a pullout from Iraq. The transcript shows the conversation included:
CALLER 2 (Mike): …What’s really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.
LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.
CALLER 2: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they’re willing to sacrifice for their country.
Reid, D-Nev., took the Senate floor to address what he perceived as a problem.
“Rush Limbaugh took it upon himself to attack the courage and character of those fighting and dying for him and for all of us. Rush Limbaugh got himself a deferment from serving when he was a young man. He never served in uniform. He never saw in person the extreme difficulty of maintaining peace in a foreign country engaged in a civil war. He never saw a person in combat. Yet, that he thinks his opinion on the war is worth more than those who have been on the front lines,” Reid said.
“Rush Limbaugh owes the men and women of our armed forces an apology,” he said.
Limbaugh said it was a plain and simple smear campaign.
“What they are trying to do is flood a false story into the Drive-By Media and have that survive and suffice as the evidence and as the story of what I said when it wasn’t,” he said.
He said just a week earlier ABC had done a feature on phony soldiers, and there has been a series of cases cited, including one man who alleged to have witnessed atrocities in Iraq, only to have it revealed he had never been there. Limbaugh later explained he was referencing that case.
“If anybody in this country has been trying to demoralize the troops, it is you, sir, and your members of the Democrat Party,” Limbaugh said, addressing Reid. “You have waved the white flag of defeat. You have claimed that they cannot win. You are trying to shift the focus from your perception, the perception, accurately, that people have of you and your party, to me, who everyone who has listened to me any length of time whatsoever knows that these allegations are just totally untrue.”
Some analysts say the brouhaha was created in order to deflect attention from a recent newspaper ad paid for by a group that largely endorses Democrat ideals that condemned the commanding officer for Iraq operations, Gen. David Petraeus, as “Gen. Betray us.” The ad produced a negative reaction to its sponsors.
The White House previously spoke out against efforts in Washington to control talk radio.
Former White House spokesman Tony Snow earlier said the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which periodically is raised as an issue by members of Congress, is not needed. Such a provision requires broadcast outlets to air both sides of any issue, and was instituted when the industry often had only a single station outlet in some cities.
“Since you are the only White House press secretary who has ever been a talk radio host, I wanted to ask you about your reaction to an organization called Media Matters for America, which is financially supported by George Soros and is campaigning for returning the so-called Fairness Doctrine,” Kinsolving had asked several weeks earlier.
“Our views on the Fairness Doctrine are well known, which we don’t think it’s necessary,” Snow said.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has lobbied for the provision. “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”
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