- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 30, 2003

The first weekly address from the Congressional Black Caucus will air tomorrow at 8 p.m. on American Urban Radio Networks affiliates, with an estimated listening audience of 20 million nationwide.

The caucus chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat, and Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat, taped the first four-minute spot on Thursday that was fortified by criticism of the Bush administration’s tax cuts and war on terrorism.

“Should we choose to put forward irresponsible tax policies that benefit only millionaires while 40 million Americans go without health care insurance and millions of our children live in extreme poverty?’” Mr. Cummings asked.

“Or, do we decide that in a time when unemployment is at one of its highest points in years, to sacrifice for the greater good of our fellow citizens. Should we choose to go at it alone on the world stage, cavalierly pushing our views out on to the rest of the world?

“Or do we seek to be part of a global community, leading the effort to combat hatred, deadly diseases, hunger, poverty and political repression?”

The messages will be delivered by a rotating cast of caucus members, as well as other black leaders “who share the same priorities as the caucus,” said caucus spokesman Doug Thornell.

He emphasized that the addresses from the exclusively Democratic caucus are not meant as a response to the agenda of the Bush administration.

“We will talk about issues that are important to a broad range of listeners,” Mr. Thornell said. “They will be for whites, African-Americans and Hispanics, and this is a way to speak to people on a weekly basis about what the caucus is doing.”

The leadership of the 39-member caucus will deliver the speeches in the next several weeks, including Reps. Danny Davis of Illinois, Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas and Corrine Brown of Florida.

And if in five or six weeks the prescription drug bill comes out of Congress, Mr. Cummings will ask the person he believes to be the best qualified to deliver the speech that week, Mr. Thornell said.

In a statement Thursday, Mr. Cummings said, “This is the greatest country in the world and, as leaders, it is critically important that our vision for this country gets out to those who have elected us to lead. The Congressional Black Caucus, on a weekly basis, intends to promote issues and solutions that speak to the center of people’s lives.”

After tomorrow’s broadcast, the addresses will be aired on Saturday mornings, just as President Bush’s weekly speech is presented.

The caucus forged another media alliance last month, when Mr. Cummings and Fox News Channel Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Roger Ailes announced that the caucus will partner with Fox news to host two presidential debates this fall.

The first debate, which will be held at Morgan State University, will air Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. The second will be held in Detroit on Oct. 26.

Mr. Cummings said he hoped to entice Fox, or perhaps another network, to televise the weekly addresses, but no deal has materialized.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Republicans spent more than $1 million on four radio commercials broadcast by the network that targeted black voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky and Missouri.

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