Boehner Voices Concern Over Eshoo's Fairness Doctrine Comments

Eshoo says she will push for its reimposition

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), said Tuesday he is concerned about Rep. Anne Eshoo's statements to the Palo Alto Daily Post that she will push for reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine.

Boehner called on President-elect Barack Obama to speak out against any congressional effort to "limit free speech."

Obama has twice told B&C through an aide that he is opposed to the return of the doctrine

, which required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues.

“The so-called ‘Fairness Doctrine’ would restrict free speech on the public airwaves, stifling dissent at a time when an open national dialogue about our country’s future is essential," said Boehner in an e-mailed statement Tuesday a copy of which was supplied to B&C. "The American people do not believe the federal government should be in the business of dictating or restricting the content of political speech. I’m troubled by Rep. Eshoo’s comments, and my hope is that President-elect Obama will speak out against efforts by members of his party to use their majority power to limit free speech and dissent.”

Boehner was responding to an interview Monday in which Eshoo, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee whose chair will be fellow Californian Herny Waxman, told the paper: "I’ll work on bringing it back. I still believe in it,” and adding that she would want it to apply to cable and satellite rather than just radio and TV.

The doctrine, which only applied to broadcasting, was scrapped by the FCC as unconstitutional in 1987. Congress tried to revive it, but President and former broadcaster Ronald Reagan vetoed it once and pledged to a broadcaster in a letter at the time that he would block it again if congress tried to reimpose it.

The doctrine's demise is credited--or blamed, depending on who is citing it--for the rise in conservative talk radio. Hosts including Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin have expressed concerns that the new Democratic regime in Congress will try to reinstate the doctrine as a way to silence their critics.

Contributing to that concern were

recent comments by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York to Fox News last month.

The office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, yet another California Democrat, has raised the specter of its return.

More recently, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said in an interview on talk station KKOB-AM Albuquerque that he hoped there would be a push for the doctrine

, saying that “all stations should have to represent a balanced perspective…instead of always hammering away at one side of the political [spectrum].”