Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays has written to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), agreeing that it would be offensive to call any US troops serving overseas "phony soldiers" but diplomatically questioning Reid’s interpretation of the comments that Rush Limbaugh made on the air last week. Mays, however, staunchly defended the syndicated host and said that he and every other American "has the right to voice his or her opinion, no matter how unpopular."
Reid had written to Mays, along with 40 other Democrats in Congress, calling on Clear Channel to "publicly repudiate" Limbaugh’s comments. But Mays was having none of it. He said he had carefully read the transcript. "I hope you will appreciate that I cannot speak with authority as to whom exactly Mr. Limbaugh’s comments were directed, or what was his intent," Mays wrote, then going on to note the talk host’s history of support for American soldiers.
"While I do not agree with everything Mr. Limbaugh says on every topic, I do believe that he, along with every American, has the right to voice his or her opinion in the manner they choose. The First Amendment gives every American the right to voice his or her opinion, no matter how unpopular. That right is one that I am sure you agree must be cherished and protected. As the Chief Executive Officer of Clear Channel, I support each of our on-air talent’s right to express his or herself freely, as long as they do it within the confines of the laws set forth by Congress. For this reason, I have not and will not impose my own views upon any of our on-air talent. Doing so would, quite frankly, undermine the integrity of the broadcast, undercut the trust with our listeners that they are receiving the true and honest opinions of the radio host, and more importantly fly directly in the face [of] the right to free speech that we hold so dear," Mays said in his reply to the Senate leader.
RBR observation: We salute Mark Mays for standing up for the First Amendment and freedom of expression for his broadcast employees – and we would note that Clear Channel airs quite a number of left-wingers as well as right-wingers. Regardless of what you think of Limbaugh’s politics, he is target number one for the folks who want to bring back the misnamed Fairness Doctrine – a prospect that should strike fear in the heart of every broadcaster of every political persuasion.