Liberal firebrand Rev. Al Sharpton is telling audiences that the Federal Communications Commission should take Rush Limbaugh off the airwaves because of perceived offenses toward racial minorities and other groups.
The attack was only the latest in a series of attacks by Democrats, including President Obama, who suggest that America's political discourse is being crippled by talk radio and cable news shows.
Specifically, Sharpton suggested that the FCC should establish "guidelines" or "standards" to regulate speech.
"You've got to remember that those stations that Rush Limbaugh is on and others are regulated by FCC, granted by FCC; they go back to them to get waivers," Sharpton said on his own radio show on Nov. 19th
"They go back to them to get consolidation," Sharpton continued. "They have the right to set standards. That does not impair your right to speak what you believe, but it does say that you are not going to do that to offend groups of Americans based on their race, their gender, their sexual status - none of that."
Sharpton's broadside followed a similar attack last week by Sen. Jay Rockefeller. The West Virginia Democrat went after both right-leaning Fox News and left-leaning MSNBC.
Said Rockefeller during a Senate hearing: "There's a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to Fox and to MSNBC, 'Out. Off. End. Goodbye.' It would be a big favor to political discourse; to our ability to do our work here in Congress; and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and, more importantly, in their future."
And earlier this year President Obama himself lamented what he described as the sad state of political discourse hampered by iPods and cable TV shows.
"And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations - none of which I know how to work - information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation," Obama said during a commencement address at Hampton University in Virginia. "So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it's putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy."
Conservatives and civil libertarians are concerned by what they see as a growing tolerance by liberals to regulate and even censor the airwaves, especially as outlets like Fox News and shows like Limbaugh's grow ever more popular.
Limbaugh is the most listened to radio host in the nation with more than 15 million weekly visitors. Fox News continues to trounce its cable news rivals CNN and MSNBC in ratings.
"This is scary stuff," lamented an editorial in Investors Business Daily. "Strong speech has always been quintessentially American.
With the airwaves and cyberspace replacing soapboxes, it's more vital than ever to protect it against politicians favoring a new 'fairness doctrine' that would keep voters from being armed with the information and analysis that can be used to unseat them."
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