- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 23, 2007

A political spat involving talk radio emerged in Congress on the heels of a report this week critical of “conservative dominance” of the industry, whose credibility is being questioned separately.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said he overheard two influential senators advocating a “legislative fix” for the influence of “extremist” talk-radio hosts.

Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barbara Boxer of California deny the conversation took place.

“This was on the elevator from the basement to the second floor of the Capitol to vote,” Mr. Inhofe told The Washington Times yesterday. “They were upset about something, they hardly noticed I was even there.

“They were complaining about something they heard on talk radio. They said, ‘This is just ridiculous — all these talk-radio shows, they’re all for right-wing extremists. There ought to be a legislative fix to this,’ ” Mr. Inhofe said. “I said to them, ‘You girls don’t understand. Talk radio is all market-driven and there’s no market for your liberal tripe.’ ”

Mr. Inhofe said the conversation took place about three years ago, but noted that he described it to a Los Angeles radio host yesterday as “the other day.”

The offices of Mrs. Boxer and Mrs. Clinton fired back yesterday.

Senator Boxer told me that either her friend Senator Inhofe needs new glasses or he needs to have his hearing checked, because that conversation never happened,” said Natalie Ravitz, Mrs. Boxer’s spokeswoman.

“Jim Inhofe is wrong,” added Philippe Reines, spokesman for Mrs. Clinton. “This supposed conversation never happened — not in his presence or anywhere else.”

The two offices also were quick to seize on Mr. Inhofe’s timing slip.

Mr. Inhofe said he shared the story in speeches numerous times, but it gained legs this week. On Thursday, the liberal think tank Center for American Progress and the liberal group Free Press released a report that concluded conservatives dominate the commercial talk-radio industry 9-1. Mr. Inhofe’s story was later posted as the banner item on the Drudge Report Web site.

“I have told this story on talk radio in speeches over a hundred times, and then all of a sudden somebody cares,” Mr. Inhofe joked yesterday in between appearances on Fox News Channel’s “Your World” with Neil Cavuto and “The Big Story” with John Gibson.

The report concluded that 91 percent of weekday talk radio is conservative, compared with liberal content at 9 percent. The group, which said it analyzed 257 news and talk stations owned by the five biggest radio broadcasters, calls for stricter media-ownership limits and fines for not abiding by public-interest requirements.

The 40-page report’s objectivity has been challenged by conservatives because one of its seven authors has commercial ties to the left-wing talk-radio industry.

Paul Woodhull, listed as a “special adviser,” is a founding member of the companies that produce two of the most popular liberal programs, “The Ed Schultz Show” and “The Bill Press show.”

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