Beyond the Beltway: Politics and the Press

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Feb. 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: It’s an all-out war between a big-city newspaper and a top politician as we go “Beyond the Beltway.”

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought, brought by The Baltimore Sun (search) against Maryland’s Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich (search). The Sun’s grievance, Ehrlich’s decision to bar state employees from speaking to two of the paper’s reporters, reporters Ehrlich doesn’t like.

And The Sun says this effectively allows public officials to pick and choose who they want to cover them. The judge disagreed. Either way, it’s a fight that’s far from over.

Now, Juan, I like Bob Ehrlich. He’s tough. I like tough guys. He’s a conservative Republican, and the truth is, what he said our official, nobody in my administration is going to talk to these reporters, and he had reasons for doing it. It wasn’t just that they were critical, but, you know, they’d written about some meeting in The Sun that one of them didn’t even attend and so on.

He has announced what, in effect, other officials do in other administrations in other states. They just don’t announce it.

JUAN WILLIAMS, GUEST CO-HOST: Oh, other states, you wouldn’t be thinking of the White House or anybody like that, would you? They can freeze people out...

BARNES: You know, The Sun’s a great paper. I worked there for six years, and I loved every moment of it. But they don’t have a leg to stand on in this case. I mean, the First Amendment doesn’t, it guarantees you to print what you want, but it doesn’t guarantee you access to officials, and it doesn’t require them to give access to answer your questions.

So legally they’re out of it.

WILLIAMS: Bob Ehrlich’s going to pay a price, though.

BARNES: Well, I don’t know.

WILLIAMS: You know what? They buy ink by the barrel, as the saying goes and they’re going to beat up on Bob Ehrlich, and he doesn’t need it. And secondly, he’s got other problems because of all of allegations that he’s been spreading rumors about the habits, the sexual behavior of the mayor of Baltimore, Martin O’Malley (search), who’s a likely challenger for Bob Ehrlich next time around.

BARNES: Those rumors were all over Maryland for at least several years. I’d heard them all. He can’t blame that on some guy who worked, who worked.

WILLIAMS: Well, you can, because he was spreading them through the Internet.


WILLIAMS: That’s why Ehrlich had to let him go.


WILLIAMS: But that’s the kind of thing. You know what sex sells and it’s going to stick in the minds of voters that Mr. Ehrlich, for all his conservative claims, is out there spreading dirt.

BARNES: I don’t know he wasn’t. But any case, The Sun, he doesn’t need The Sun. I mean, The Sun opposed him and he was elected anyway.

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