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Hannity

Targeting Talk Radio

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 20, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Our next guest tried to kill talk of the reintroduction of the Fairness Doctrine on the Senate floor, but his efforts were, well, once again, no surprise to me, blocked by the Democrats. Joining us, Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman is with us.

Senator, I don't want to thank you on behalf of myself. This is my industry. This is how I make my living, freedom of speech. This is about fundamental fairness and the fact that you even have to fight this is surprising in America. Tell us what you were trying to do.

SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, I was trying to make sure that government doesn't get back in the business of monitoring and then regulating ideas. We live in America. There's something called the First Amendment. There's a lot of opportunities to get whatever kind of — you know, whatever point of view you have, you can find it on the airwaves. We've got satellite, we've got Internet, we've got broadband, we've got blogs, we've got talk radio, a ton of opportunities for getting different points of view.

Government should not be in the business of monitoring and regulating ideas. The Fairness Doctrine was discarded about 20 years ago. It should remain in the ash heap of where it is and shouldn't bring it back. Unfortunately, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, including Senator Dick Durbin, has said it's time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. That would be very, very, very bad idea.

HANNITY: Think about the absurd way that this would be implemented, Senator, here. We'd have some government agency hired to listen to talk radio. For example, I was against the Republicans and the support of the president on what I thought was the amnesty bill or government spending by Republicans, when I criticized them. Are they like going to stand there and listen to every second and monitor, "Well, this is a conservative thought, a liberal thought"? How could you possibly even do this?

COLEMAN: But that's, in fact, what we did, what we did a number of years ago, starting from '49, finally, by '87, cast aside. And if you listen to the folks who are involved in the process, that's exactly what they did. I mean, literally sitting there with a stopwatch listening to tapes and transcripts trying to decide what's fair and balanced.

Dick Durbin on the floor of the Senate said to me three things. He said, one, it's the people's airwaves. I didn't argue. Second, the government has the right to regulate the people's airwaves. I didn't argue. But, third, he said government has a responsibility to ensure that Americans get fair and balanced information. No! — That's not government's responsibility.

HANNITY: But you know something? They're not talking about our nation's newspapers in any way. They're not talking about the three major broadcast networks that slant solidly to the left. I think it's more sinister here. And I think John Podesta was working on Hillary's behalf, when he came out with the structural imbalance of talk radio, this phony report...

COLEMAN: The gap between liberal and conservative talk radio is that there's a structural imbalance. Goodness gracious, no, the gap is because people choose to listen to conservative talk radio and they turn off Air America. It's called the market.

HANNITY: Isn't it to intimidate? Isn't this really to intimidate station owners and send the message — it even says so — that they'll challenge the number of stations that groups can have in particular markets? It seems like an intimidation issue here.

COLEMAN: If, in fact, it were allowed to come back, if, in fact — and, by the way, we're only one FCC commissioner away from reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine. But if that were to happen, that's exactly what would happen. And you know, by the way, the history of this. When you had a Fairness Doctrine in place before, radio hosts and others simply chose not to talk about it.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: That's true. Senator, I agree with you on this.

COLEMAN: It's interesting, because the purpose of the Fairness Doctrine, the Supreme Court first looked at it, they said its purpose is to ensure diverse opinion, but the reality after that decision was that you less opinion because folks didn't want to risk their license, they didn't want to risk having government regulators shut them down or fine them. Even you had Dan Rather at one point in time talk about the chilling impact of government officials looking over your shoulder. Goodness gracious, this...

COLMES: It's a terrible thing. It's Alan Colmes. Look, I agree with you on this issue. And, by the way, Dick Durbin's office, his spokesperson said he has no intention to introduce legislation to reintroduce the Fairness Doctrine. So that's what his office is saying. They're claiming they're not going to be doing that. They shouldn't be.

COLEMAN: Well, you've got Dianne Feinstein who said that it's time to look at it. You've got John Kerry stepping forward. I think Dennis Kucinich on the House side has talked about hearings.

But I've got to tell you, Durbin came on the floor of the Senate and what I — and I have great respect for Dick Durbin — but the idea that one could believe that it's government that has an obligation, in this day and age, to ensure that the American citizen gets fair and balanced information, that's not the government's responsibility.

COLMES: No, I agree with you, but he says he's not going to do it. By the way, you know, Democrats, as I understand it, would not allow your bill to move forward to a full debate — and that's wrong. But also Republicans used a filibuster to block Democrats from voting on an amendment to get the troops out of Iraq, so it kind of cuts both ways in the Senate. All of these things should go for full debate, shouldn't they?

COLEMAN: Listen, I don't argue, by the way, about the 60-vote rule. On issues of importance, you've got to get 60 votes. What happened here on the floor of the Senate two nights ago, in the same night where they shot down the opportunity to provide protection for citizens who simply do what they should do, which is report behavior that they're concerned about, the vote was 49-48 to make sure we don't have a Fairness Doctrine. Evan Bayh was the only Democrat who voted with me.

So Democrats had a chance to express themselves on this issue. I don't argue with getting to 60; that's the way the Senate works. But, clearly, for some reason, Democrats wouldn't step forth and say, "Hey, we should put an end even worrying about whether there's a Fairness Doctrine."

COLMES: They should have put the Iraq thing for an up-or-down vote, as well. But, look, this is all going to be...

COLEMAN: Alan, I don't argue it was a 60 vote. I didn't win, even though I had more votes than the other side. That's the way you do things in the Senate.

HANNITY: Hey, Senator, if your probable opponent in this race, Al Franken, had actually been successful on radio — but nobody listened — maybe he wouldn't be running against you in this campaign.

COLEMAN: Listen, again, Air America, it got shut down, not because government thought they had to regulate the other side, but because people chose not to listen to them.

HANNITY: It's absolutely...

COLMES: It's still on. There's still an Air America.

HANNITY: And people choose not to listen. Thank you, Senator.

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