On Monday, the American Spectator posted a story on its website claiming that House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) “has asked his investigative staff” to compile “reports” on right-wing radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. The Spectator, quoting anonymous sources, said the move was part of an effort to bring back the “Fairness Doctrine”:
Others on the Democrat side are pushing ahead with other plans. Rep. Henry Waxman has asked his investigative staff to begin compiling reports on Limbaugh, and fellow radio hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin based on transcripts from their shows, and to call in Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin to discuss the so-called “Fairness Doctrine.”
The Spectator’s article was quickly picked up by the rest of the conservative media. On his radio show on Monday, Rush Limbaugh called Waxman “un-American,” comparing him to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Most conservative blogs went into hysterics over the report, though some were skeptical of the source. The Family Research Council also sent an e-mail blast to supporters warning of censorship.
Fox News’s Hannity and Colmes unsurprisingly picked up the story as well. Watch it:
Waxman’s staff responded today, calling the Spectator’s report a “fictitious story“:
On October 8, 2007, the American Spectator printed a fictitious story alleging that Congressman Waxman and the House Oversight Committee were investigating conservative and Republican talk show radio programs.
The American Spectator report is completely false and was written without any documentation or attribution. There is not now nor has there ever been any investigation of this subject. [...]
The American Spectator should immediately retract its report and apologize for the confusion its fictitious report has caused.
On his radio show today, Limbaugh read Waxman’s statement. But Limbaugh refused to believe it, choosing instead to side with the Spectator who “stand[s] by their source”:
I think we need to investigate this. There’s obviously differing opinions here. The American Spectator claims, and they stand by their source, and Waxman is denying it. We need an investigation of this. We need to investigate this investigation, or this alleged investigation. [...]
Maybe some of Waxman’s staff said they’re going to investigate and Waxman didn’t know it for plausible deniability. Who knows. We need to get to the bottom of this. … That’s a pretty serious charge that somebody has made. And the seriousness of the charge here needs to be what is looked at. Anybody can deny anything and demand a retraction.