Liberal politicians have turned up the volume on their criticism of conservative talk-radio hosts.
Democrats on both coasts have authored official resolutions condemning Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh this week, turning partisan disagreements over content and style into a matter of public record and raising potential questions about First Amendment rights.
Mr. Savage irked the San Francisco Board of Supervisors after quipping on the air in July that students intent on drawing attention to immigration reform through a hunger strike “fast until they starve to death.”
On Tuesday, the 11-member board approved a resolution deeming his comment “symbolic of hatred and racism” and that his words actually “urged the death” of the protesters.
“Have these people forgotten what sarcasm and satire is? Since when has sarcasm and satire become illegal in America?” Mr. Savage asked during a phone interview yesterday.
“This is how the Soviet Union once operated. It is unheard of for public officials to do this, and I am shocked that a state body can condemn an individual,” he said. “This and the congressional attack on Rush Limbaugh have convinced me these events are not random or separate. They’re an orchestrated plan of action by Democrats who want to marginalize the opposition and quell any debate or discussion.”
Mr. Limbaugh also rated political action after a stray comment that he made during a Sept. 26 broadcast was taken out of context by the nonprofit research group Media Matters and several Democratic lawmakers — and made much of.
On Monday, Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado introduced a resolution before the House. Mr. Limbaugh, he said, had insulted the American military by saying that an Army corporal and antiwar activist convicted of falsifying his experience was part of the nation’s population of “phony soldiers.”
The partisan collective then called upon Texas-based broadcaster Clear Channel, which syndicates the radio host, to discipline him.
Within 24 hours, Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican, vowed to introduce a countermeasure calling for lawmakers to support Mr. Limbaugh.
Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson joined the fray, calling Mr. Limbaugh “one of the strongest supporters of our troops” and saying that the Democrats were “pandering to the loony left.”
“This is all grandstanding on the part of these politicians. It’s far-fetched for anyone to think they are going to get media personalities off the air. That’s not the way it works in this country,” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Regulatory guidelines that govern broadcasters were eliminated in the 1980s, he said.
“It’s the listeners and the advertisers who rise up in protest. That’s essentially what happened to Don Imus earlier this year when he lost his job due to a single comment,” he said.
Mr. Savage, meanwhile, said he was no longer “hurting” about his situation.
“I’m convinced that we’re living in a very dangerous time, though,” he said.