LAS VEGAS — Industry attorney and First Amendment specialist Marc Randazza defended conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh's right to be heard in a special CNN.com report today.
Limbaugh has been the center of a media firestorm after derogatory comments he made about Sandra Fluke, a young Washington women’s rights activist who lobbied for government paid contraception.
Although Randazza said he “despises” Limbaugh, thinks his views are evil and wishes he was no longer on the air, he maintained that to censor him would be intolerable as far too many Americans call for censorship when offended by certain art, music or expression.
“The First Amendment requires neither tact nor politeness. It requires that we permit all views to set up stalls in the marketplace of ideas, and we let that marketplace decide which ideas prevail,” Randazza said.
“Rush Limbaugh has a right to his views. Just as important, his fans have a right to hear him. Those of us who disagree with him have a right to fight him, but we must do so on our own. Using the government to support our view is constitutionally intolerable. Trying to bully him off the air is wrong,” he continued.
Randazza said that some Limbaugh critics want the FCC to pull his show because it’s not in the public interest, but the attorney pointed out that government censorship would be inaccurate and unconstitutional.
“It is a terrifying prospect that the government might review the political and social positions of a broadcaster when deciding who gets access to the airwaves. Should the government censor books that it finds to be unpopular or offensive?,” Randazza said.
Limbaugh’s audience has a right to hear him, Randazza maintained. He stressed that there is no clearer “public interest” than the dissemination of political speech and Limbaugh’s show provides that forum to millions of listeners.
Although boycotting his show and pressuring advertisers to cancel their ads may be an effective and legal way to get Limbaugh off the air, Randazza maintained it’s morally wrong.
“Drowning out his voice by organized bullying is no way to pay tribute to our most cherished liberty. It may be your right to do so, but it doesn't make it the right thing to do. Should the marketplace of ideas lose a stall because someone in it said some "naughty words?," Randazza wrote.
Free speech requires everyone to tolerate ideas they despise and to challenge them, Randazza said.
“I realize that my work is difficult, and I may not even live to see Limbaugh's ideas repudiated. But my commitment to free expression requires me to engage his ideas, to parry them and to let my beliefs stand on their own — without using the government or other improper means to tip the scales.”
Randazza ended his opinion piece by noting that if someone doesn't stand up for Limbaugh's liberty today, someone may come for everyone's tomorrow. "Discredit him, but don't silence him," the attorney said.