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Will Media Matters Force Media Outlets to Correct Air America False Mugging Story?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 17, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Last weekend, Airhead America talk show host Randi Rhodes was reportedly mugged and beaten in New York City. Another liberal host, John Eliot, immediately blamed the supposedly brutal beating on a possible right-wing hate machine. Other left-wing media outlets followed suit.

As it turns out, Rhodes wasn't beaten at all. It's believed that she fell while taking her dog for a walk.

So will liberal groups like Media Matters go after irresponsible media outlets that repeated this unfounded story?

Joining us now, nationally syndicated radio talk show host out of WSP in Atlanta, Neal Boortz, and FOX News contributor Susan Estrich.

Welcome back, both of you.

Neal, immediately, without knowing the facts, this guy goes on the air and says, "Is this an attempt by the right-wing hate machine to silence one of their own?" He asked on the air, "Are we threatening them?"

First of all, I would bet any amount of money, especially based on ratings, nobody knows who this woman is. And I hope she's well. I hope she — you know, everything's OK.

NEAL BOORTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Oh, I know who she is.

HANNITY: You do know who she is?

BOORTZ: Oh, I mean...she's gone on the air and just told unbelievable blatant lies about me. But why should she be any different?

Look, there's a reason why this guy is on the air at midnight, Sean. OK? Oh, gee, Alan, I'm sorry. But there's — there's a — can we talk about the dog adoption Nazis again?

But I'm like — I'm with you. I hope that Randi Rhodes is back on the air soon. Sean, I think you agree with me. We need liberal, left-wing talk radio out there. Now, not everybody can do it as well as Alan does. But we need it. And I want her back on the air as soon as possible.

HANNITY: Listen, I'm with you. Let them have their stations. They already have the rest of the media. But there's a more sinister point here, Neal.

There is — Hillary Clinton has bragged that she found this group, Media Matters.

BOORTZ: Right.

HANNITY: She bragged that she founded the group that John Podesta runs, the Center for American Progress. They came out with this report, the structural imbalance of talk radio.

They had different solutions that would intimidate station groups and station owners if they don't put, quote, the left-wing programming on here.

And the more sinister, they monitor every word, every phrase, every sentence, and every paragraph that Neal Boortz, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity say every day. Not a peep, not a word here.

BOORTZ: But here's the difference between it, Sean. I love it when they mention me. But they're not going to say anything about this, because exposing this doesn't help Hillary Clinton.

They have a filter. The filter: if we expose this story, if we talk about this talk show host, does it help Hillary Clinton? In this case, no, not at all. So it's not on their radar screen.

HANNITY: You know, Susan, from a lot of different vantage points, there's a lot of talk about bringing back the Fairness Doctrine.

You know, I'll give you the latest example. If Rush Limbaugh put together, repeated the words of Charlie Gibson of ABC. Phony soldiers, about people that were acting as soldiers when, in fact, they weren't. A man that ardently supported the military for 20 years. These groups are ready to pounce.

SUSAN ESTRICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Sean, I agree with you that Congress ought to have better things to do than worry about what Rush Limbaugh says. And you can't legislate a market inequality.

But I think the really sad thing here — and I think it goes to both sides — is there's so much paranoia. Some of it was recent, about the level of ugliness and hatred out there, on both sides.

You and I have talked about what we get in our e-mail at night and — and just how ugly it is. But God forbid if anything should happen to you. I think a lot of people would say, "My God. What has the left-wing done to silence Sean Hannity?"

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Some — by the way, I get e-mail in crayon.

ESTRICH: And you know, that — that's the problem out there. I mean, Randi Rhodes gets ugly mail. Sean gets ugly mail. I'm afraid to read my own e-mail. I'm sure it happens to Neal, as well.

You can't just disagree and be ful civil about it in this environment.

COLMES: Let me — let me get back to the issue of Air America, Neal, and the other side of the story, in terms of John Eliot, who also said he should not have speculated. He came out with a written apology. He apologized for jumping to conclusions.

And you've got to give someone a break and say, you know, "We all sometimes say things on the radio that, if given a second thought, we'd wish we might have not have said."

And John Eliot formally apologized for the things he said.

BOORTZ: You're right. You're absolutely right, Alan. He did. And it might have been one of these just tongue-in-cheek "I'm going to go out on the edge" things here. And he did apologize.

But there are others. I looked on the left-wing blogs today.

COLMES: I'm glad you're doing some reading of good things.

BOORTZ: Well, yes, listen. What is yours? Anyway, they are running polls: do you think Randi Rhodes was attacked by a hate-filled-right-winger? The — the percentages here are going 60 and 70 percent "yes."

COLMES: Don't act like the left-wing blogs are unique. There's some crazy stuff on some of the right-wing blogs that I don't want to dignify them by mentioning their names. You know, there are wing nuts out there on the right that write horrible things about me and about liberals, just as much.

ESTRICH: Right.

COLMES: So don't act like you're the aggrieved party.

ESTRICH: It's ugly, Neal.

BOORTZ: No. We're talking statistically about this case with Randi Rhodes.

ESTRICH: But Neal, it's ugly.

BOORTZ: There are still people that are pushing this "she was attacked by a conservative." Excuse me.

COLMES: Nobody really believes that necessarily. Look, we hope she's well, Susan.

BOORTZ: Yes.

COLMES: I think the key thing here is let's hope that Randi, whether you agree with her or not agree with her, whether you like Air America or not, let's hope that she is healed and better and back at work as soon as possible.

BOORTZ: And she needs a smaller dog. A small one. She can get one from Ellen.

ESTRICH: No, she needs a bigger dog.

COLMES: Let's get Susan to respond — Susan.

ESTRICH: No, I mean, she may need a bigger dog like my Judy Estrich (ph).

But the problem is, Neal, and I think you have to agree with me, it is so ugly out there right now that all of us are a little bit worried when we open our e-mail or when we answer the phone that it's a crazy on the other side. And we've got to take down the temperature here and learn to disagree without being so damn disagreeable.

HANNITY: All right.

BOORTZ: I absolutely agree, Susan.

HANNITY: Blessed art the peacemakers. We're all getting along.

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