staff reports Feb. 15, 2009, 11:50am
Jerry Brown (D)
OAKLAND, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - While liberals on the surface may love the latest comments from California Attorney General Jerry Brown about the Fairness Doctrine, conservatives have quickly jumped on the Democratic AG as advocating government control over the media.
The right to a free and independent press is among the most fundamental constitutional principles in American democracy, so the questions posed to Brown by conservative talk show host Michael Savage were designed to evoke intense reactions.
And that they did.
Conservative Web sites with glaring headlines hit the Information Super Highway immediately following Brown's appearance on "Savage Nation," the third-most popular radio show in the nation.
The Fairness Doctrine, popular among liberals, would require radio stations carrying conservative talk show hosts to give equal time to dissenting liberal commentators. Conservatives believe it would drive conservative talk shows, among the most widely listened to in the country, off the air.
Clearing away the rhetoric, what exactly did Brown say?
Brown started by saying simply, "I think we need a robust range of opinions on the air."
But, Savage said the doctrine is aimed directly at shows like his, Rush Limbaugh and others, saying their strong ratings show that people are interested in their viewpoints.
"I think you are getting some pretty good ratings, some of those guys," Brown said.
But Savage said "But I don't know exactly where you on this, you are starting to sound like you want a little state control over the media."
"Well, a little state control wouldn't hurt anybody," Brown said, before clarifying that he would take another look at this Fairness Doctrine, which hadn't had much traction in 20 years.
"Stockton used to say, 'If you have no views of one side, like in certain campaigns if somebody is attacking you, there's got to be some room for the other side,'" Brown said. "It's an attempt to balance, not to censor."
Savage jumped on the comment saying "somebody must have handed you that, because it's not true."
If it were true, he said, National Public Radio would have to allow him and other conservatives equal times as well.
During the interview Brown said Savage's description of the Fairness Doctrine as an attempt by President Barack Obama's supporters to stifle conservative opposition bordered on "paranoia."
The reaction to Brown's comments was swift.
"Not this again," wrote Jeff Poor, on the Web site NewsBusters.com.
Another site, called Associated Press Check, called Brown, "The corruption ridden Jerry Brown," over his legal stances on the controversial same-sex marriage ban in California now before the state Supreme Court.
Brown also squared off with Savage on the issue of illegal immigration.
"What are you going to do, round up several million people and take them down to the border and dump them?" Brown asked.
Brown's direct and rapid style of taking interviews make him a popular guests, especially as he doesn't shy away from conservative shows. Brown is expected to run for governor of California some time this year, though earlier in the week he said he wouldn't make a decision for several months.