This past week, conservative radio talk show host Laura Schlessinger announced she would be quitting her syndicated radio program at the end of the year. She told CNN's Larry King this was a result of her "first amendment rights" being usurped by groups who were angered at her repeated use of a racial epithet with a caller on the air a few days earlier...
Not one to miss out on a chance to jump on to some free publicity, Sarah Palin, the failed former half-term Governor of Alaska tweeted her sisterly support almost immediately.
What I find interesting, is the reaction in the conservative media-sphere to all of this.
Both "Dr" Laura, and Sarah Palin are framing this as a case of the Schlessinger's rights to free expression having been violated.
I remember back in the Spring of 1990, there was a trial involving the Cincinnati Museum of Art . The museum was hosting an exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe . Dennis Barrie, the director of the museum was charged with violations of the city's obscenity code. A Jury acquitted Barrie and museum but the resulting public relations fallout cost the museum a number of major donors, who pulled their support.
At time time, there were a number of voices on the political Left, who decried the efforts by conservative groups to boycott support for the museum as a form a censorship.
I was the editorial editor of my college newspaper, and remember writing that the First Amendment has to go BOTH ways. It is just as much a form of free speech if someone chooses not to donate to a museum because of something on display there. I remember taking heat from some of my more progressive friends who felt I was condoning censorship by mob rule.
Now it is interesting to see this issue coming back to haunt conservatives. The same people who in 1990 championed the rights of "pro-family" groups to boycott the Cincinnati Art Museum, now claim that progressives who boycotted the sponsors of the "Dr. Laura" show are guilty of violating the first amendment.
Sorry, but no. The first amendment is clear. It prohibits the government from preventing the exercise of free speech. The same First Amendment that gives the American 'Family' Association the right to boycott McDonald's restaurants for not banning gays eating there, also gives Gays and Lesbians the right to boycott Dr. Laura for calling millions of Americans a "biological error".
It was during the height of the constroversy around Schlessinger's "error" comments that the brilliant writers of NBC's "The West Wing", had art imitate life, with an exchange between the fictional President Bartlett and a fictional talk-radio host "Dr. Jenna Jacobs".
In an interview with USA Today, Schlessinger said she was pleased to see "other doors opening" for her, as she leaves her radio show. I am actually glad to hear that. I would miss "Dr. Laura", if for no other reason, she and others like her are a vivid reminder of how freedom of speech goes both ways.
This past week has shown once again, how often the Dr. Laura's and Sarah Palin's of the world, claim to love the Bill of Rights, but feel it should only apply to them.