RUSH: Teddy in Brooklyn. Hello, sir. Welcome to the program.
CALLER: Hey, Rush, how you doing?
CALLER: Reagan National dittos.
RUSH: Thank you, sir.
CALLER: Hey, I wanted to talk a little bit about the situation with Howard and with you and how I think there is somewhat of a similarity there. I hope you bear with me for a second. The fact of the matter is that what’s happening is the bigger picture is the government is sticking its nose into something they shouldn’t be sticking its nose into. With Howard they’re saying hey, he’s indecent, you know, we don’t want indecency on the air, let’s get rid of him or let’s fine him. With you it’s fairness, you see the little buzz terms they use with that? They use that to get people on their side, “He’s got to be more fair. If he’s not more fair, then, you know, we should sanction him.” And while, you know, with this administration it’s not that bad for you, but God forbid Kerry gets elected. God forbid we lose control of the Congress or Senate. I could just see senators getting up there and saying, “Rush Limbaugh has to be more fair. If he’s not more fair, then we’re going to have to sanction him. He’s got to have a liberal cohost.” You know? And I think the similarity there is somewhat relative, because of the situation —
RUSH: Maybe. Look, I understand the way you’re thinking about this because you think government is involved in this thing to get Stern, and I want to try to explain the difference to you. You’re going to think it’s a technicality, but I want to try to explain the difference to you.
The difference is in the First Amendment and what you’re going to define as censorship versus decency. I think the first thing I want to try to explain to you is the purpose of indecency. I want to draw for you an analogy. Everybody talks about the public airwaves and the public airwaves is said to mean that, [doing liberal impression] “Well, the reason why we’re concerned of what’s on the public airwaves, as opposed to cable, or satellite, is that the public owns them.” Well, that’s poppycock. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never gotten paid for my investment in the public airwaves. I don’t know what the hell I own. I don’t know how you own something you can’t see and touch.
That’s not what it means. Let’s take the public airwaves of the public broadcast spectrum, radio and television, over-the-air broadcasts and let’s pretend for a moment that it’s, say, a shopping mall, and let’s say, Teddy, that you have your two little kids, five and six years old, walking through a shopping mall. And all of a sudden over the loudspeakers of the shopping mall as they try to urge you to go into one store or another, some guy starts talking about some things that you don’t want your kids to here, sexual things that you don’t want them to hear. You would have the right, and you would be found and upheld, your complaint would be upheld to whatever action you took to get that stopped, because this is a public place, and you do not have to hear that in a public place.
Or if some individual went walking through with a megaphone or just with his voice and started shouting at people offensive things, it’s not in the mall’s best interests to let this happen because it’s going to drive people out but you don’t have to listen to it. That’s the analogy to draw to what the purpose, the original purpose of the decency standards on over-the-air public spectrum broadcasting were about. Because at the time that’s all there was. And I know there’s an on-off switch and I know that there’s a tuning dial, but back then there wasn’t all that much choice. I mean you get the radio stations in your hometown and at night you get distant programs and signals but that was about it. There wasn’t any cable or satellite. And so maybe they need to be updated, and maybe they need to be revised. But the point still exists, and the rules are there, and what’s happened is you’ve got an FCC now that simply is deciding they’re going to enforce them. They’ve not written new ones they’re just going to enforce them. And they’re acting on public complaints, they are acting on public complaints just as you would be complaining if what I described happened to you in the mall. And, now, you may say to the people complaining, well, hey, grow up and stop being fuddy-duddies, don’t have the radio on to that station when your kids are in the car.
There’s enough foreknowledge now about what goes on in various radio programs, and if you don’t want your kids to hear it, don’t listen to it yourself when they’re with you. But until such maturity hits or whatever, those standards are there, and they are there for that reason, and if there are complaints about this from enough people then the commission is going to act on it. The commission was not unanimous in this. Clear Channel only carried Stern on six markets and they decided we didn’t want this anymore, and so they broomed him. And they still got fined! It’s not as though they’ve preempted the fine. They got fined near $2 million.
They made the move to get rid of Howard before that but they still got fined because that’s the law, and three fines and you lose your license. You get fined three times and you lose your license, three times in a single period. The license lasts ten or 15 years. You get fined three times in that period of time, you are subject to having the FCC take your license to operate away from you. Stern’s syndicates don’t have licenses. They own stations that carry a show that do, but the syndicate doesn’t have a license. There’s nothing they can do to take, you know, the ability of Stern to operate away. All they can do is fine the people that choose to carry the programming that the syndicate or Stern offered. Same thing with me.
Now, in my case, you talk about fairness. There is such thing as a Fairness Doctrine and that’s really, I think, in part what is in a back door way being attempted — they’re attempting to revive with this idiocy here with Tom Harkin amending a defense bill to get me off of Armed Forces Radio. But the difference here, the difference here is that nobody is saying to Howard Stern, “You can’t say that and we’re going to take you off the air.” What they’re saying is, “If you’re going to carry that we’re going to fine you because you’re violating decency standards.” In my case we’re not violating any decency standards, and I am exhibiting what this country was founded on, enumerated in the First Amendment, freedom of speech, and it was particularly about political speech. And Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech.
Now, what’s free speech? Well, you open up another door there. Then you have to go profanity, free speech, is that what was meant? We’ve had Supreme Court decisions and arguments about this all over the place. You go back to the mall analogy and find out what’s free speech or not. The problem is in many cases that a lot of people have created a business now of being offended, and being offended gives them power to stop people saying things that offends them. And I’ve told you my theory about being offended. If you’re offended, it’s your problem, do something about it.
You don’t have the right to shut up whoever is offending you, just because they’re offending you, unless it violates these decency standards and so forth. But political speech was specifically protected for the health and survival of the country because it was politics and political ideas that formed the foundation and maintained the foundation with which we manage our affairs in this country. And to compare controversial political speech or ideas with indecency doesn’t wash. The two are in no way similar, never will be, and won’t be.
Now, the idea that a United States senator can amend a piece of legislation as large as the defense appropriations bill aimed at effectively seeing to it that people cannot hear this radio program is censorship, as defined by the word. It is pure censorship because only the government can do it. Now, whether I’m in the same boat with other people, you can judge that as you will. But the difference is, let’s just mention Stern. If Stern wanted to deal with his problem, he could. He could clean up his act. There’s nothing I can do. I am who I am. I talk about political issues here, and I have my commitments and my principles and my core beliefs. And it is those commitments and principles and core beliefs that are being challenged because people fear them. Because people disagree with then. Not because they’re in indecent, not because they’re offensive and not because they violate any public code of moral conduct. The same can’t be said of those who are violating the decency standards.
So I overall reject this comparison and I don’t think that there’s any similarity whatsoever. There’s nothing I can do to fix this other than to fight for my First Amendment right, and I’m going to as I’m doing now, and I’m going to alert people to what is happening. And, again, I want to stress that the reason it’s happening is because not only do they have to take out Bush, for some reason they think they have to take me out, and it means that they don’t think they can beat me in the arena of ideas. It means that they can’t compete with what I say. It means they can’t compete with the opinions I have and the way I express them and the way I persuade people. So since they can’t beat me in the arena of ideas, it’s time to try to silence me. It’s not the first time this has happened by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the first time that the United States government has gotten involved in it, and that violates the First Amendment.