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On the June 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-anchor Steve Doocy discussed Sen. James Inhofe's (R-OK) disputed claim that he overheard Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) discussing a "legislative fix" for right-wing talk radio. However, Doocy did not note that Inhofe had altered a crucial element of the story since his allegations were first made public, or that the Democratic senators' offices have both denied that the conversation took place. Fox News reported both of these developments on June 22. Doocy also incorrectly asserted that "not so many people listen to NPR [National Public Radio]," which has a weekly audience of 26.5 million.
Discussing reports that Democrats want to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, which was repealed by the Federal Communications Commission in 1987 and "require[d] that discussion of public issues be presented on broadcast stations, and that each side of those issues must be given fair coverage," according to a 1969 Supreme Court decision upholding the doctrine, Doocy said: "[R]eportedly, a U.S. senator overheard Hillary Clinton and another U.S. senator talking about, we got to get back to that because the radio -- the right-wing radio is inflaming America." However, as blogger Greg Sargent observed, Inhofe had first asserted during a June 21 interview on Los Angeles radio station KFI 640 AM's The John Ziegler Show that he had overheard the conversation between Boxer and Clinton "the other day" but then said on Fox News' Your World that the conversation had occurred "three years ago."
As Media Matters for America has documented, Inhofe asserted during his June 21 appearance on The John Ziegler Show that "I was going out to vote the other day" and "was walking with two very liberal gals," later identified as Clinton and Boxer, who "were outraged by something" a conservative talk radio host said. Inhofe claimed that Clinton and Boxer stated: "We've got to do something about this. These are nothing but far right-wing extremists. We've got to have a balance. We have got to have a legislative fix to this." But during an interview with host Neil Cavuto on the June 22 edition of Fox News' Your World, Inhofe claimed to have "told this story well over 100 times on the radio, on TV, in the last three years." He continued: "[T]his is about three years ago. ... They are yelling and screaming and complaining about right-wing radio. 'They're all right wing, we can't let them keep doing that. There has to be a fix to this.' "
As Media Matters noted, during the June 22 edition of Fox News' Special Report, guest host Bret Baier reported both the senators' denials and that Inhofe had altered the timeline of his story: "[T]he offices of both Senator Clinton and Senator Boxer had the same response to Fox News, saying the conversation never happened, and today Inhofe clarified the timeline on this story, saying he's recounted a three-year-old conversation well over 100 times on radio and TV since then."
In response to Fox News contributor Dick Morris' claim that, "there isn't only right-wing radio. NPR is called left-wing radio, and -- and that's the equivalent," Doocy asserted: "But nobody listens -- but not so many people listen to that." In fact, according to a March 15 press release from NPR based on data compiled by the radio audience research company Arbitron National, NPR's Morning Edition, which the release calls "the most listened to morning program on radio," had a weekly audience of 13.2 million listeners in the fall of 2006, while NPR's All Things Considered had 11.5 million weekly listeners. By comparison, The Rush Limbaugh Show is the most-listened-to talk radio show in the country, with more than 13.5 million listeners per week, according to an analysis of fall 2006 Arbitron reports by Talkers Magazine.
In addition, Morris asserted that "[t]he only difference" between NPR and right-wing radio "is that we pay for it." According to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)'s Public Broadcasting Revenue report for FY 2005, 29 percent of the public radio system's total revenue comes from CPB, federal grants and contracts, local governments, state governments, and state colleges and universities.
From the June 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Welcome back, everyone. Talk radio controversy rocking Congress right now with the Dems wanting to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Now what that does is that mandates that broadcasters provide equal time for contrasting views on public issues. But it was repealed in 1987. Is it a smart move to bring it back?
DOOCY: Joining us right now is political strategist Dick Morris. Good morning to you, Dick.
MORRIS: Good morning. How're you doing?
DOOCY: All right, so yesterday, [Sen.] John Kerry [D-MA] was on the radio saying we've got to go back to this fairness thing, and reportedly, a U.S. senator overheard [Sen.] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] and another U.S. senator talking about, we got to get back to that because the radio -- the right-wing radio is inflaming America.
MORRIS: It's absurd and it's because of the power of radio, talk radio. First of all, there isn't only right-wing radio. NPR [National Public Radio] is called left-wing radio, and -- and that's the equivalent.
DOOCY: But nobody listens -- but not so many people listen to that.
MORRIS: The only difference is that we pay for it.