Tuesday, March 13, 2012 | 12:56 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., today refused to back down from her call to silence conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, despite critics who say she is on the wrong side of the First Amendment.
“This has nothing to do with the First Amendment. I am merely asking Clear Channel to make a business decision to get somebody who uses and abuses the public airwaves off the airwaves,” Berkley said. “Obviously, 141 sponsors of his show agree with me, as do 30,000 people who have gone online and signed my petition. I am not hanging alone out here.”
Last week, Berkley launched an online petition calling for Clear Channel to cancel Limbaugh’s program after he used demeaning language to attack Sandra Fluke, a law student who wanted to testify on the issue of insurance companies being required to cover contraception.
Her petition opened her up to criticism from both conservative critics who questioned why she didn’t move to silence liberal talk show host Bill Maher for using similar language against Republican Sarah Palin as well as from freedom of speech advocates.
“It is troubling, however, that a member of Congress, whose job includes protecting our most basic rights, among them free speech, is trying to convince radio stations to silence one of the most successful radio talkers of the day,” the Reno Gazette-Journal wrote in a recent editorial.
Berkley shrugged off the criticism, launching into a heated defense of Fluke.
“After three days of just destroying this woman, this law student, who had the temerity of wanting to speak to a congressional hearing, talking about an issue she was very familiar with, probably far more so than the five men sitting at the witness table … he decided to give a back door apology to this woman,” Berkley said.
“We need to stand up for ourselves as women around this country.”
Berkley drew a distinction between Maher and Limbaugh, saying one is an entertainer and the other is tantamount to a Republican operative.
“If you cross Rush Limbaugh and you’re a Republican office holder, then you have to crawl over and kiss his ring,” Berkley said. “There’s a big difference between what is being said by Bill Maher and his humor, although I don’t find that funny, and what Rush Limbaugh does, who pretty much calls the shots in the Republican Party.”