Reid Reads Limbaugh the Riot Act

Senate Majority Leader Asks Clear Channel to ‘Publicly Repudiate’ Talk-Radio Host Over ‘Phony Soldiers’ Comment

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is seeking signatures for a letter calling on Clear Channel Communications to "publicly repudiate" talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh and get him to apologize for comments he made about U.S. troops.

Reed, who started drafting the letter Friday after Limbaugh's comments last week, took time on the Senate floor to condemn what he said was Limbaugh's attack on the troops. Limbaugh had used the term "phony soldiers," but it was not entirely clear whether he was referring to all soldiers who criticized the war or a single soldier whose criticism had turned out to be fabricated. Limbaugh later said he was referring to that single soldier.

‘Our troops are fighting and dying to bring to others the freedoms that many take for granted," Reid wrote to Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays. "It is unconscionable that Mr. Limbaugh would criticize them for exercising the fundamentally American right to free speech. Mr. Limbaugh has made outrageous remarks before, but this affront to our soldiers is beyond the pale."

A spokeswoman for Clear Channel was not available for comment, and Reid's office had not returned a call for information on how many senators had signed on, although one talk-radio host talking up the controversy reported that some 40 senators had done so.

In the wake of the failure or an immigration-reform bill opposed by conservative talkers, some top Democrats called for a reimposition of the Federal Communications Commission’s Fairness Doctrine, which used to require broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues. The commission’s dropping of the doctrine in 1987 as unconstitutional helped to spur the rise of conservative talk radio, most prominently Limbaugh.