Sen. Dodd: Limbaugh Can Express His Views Under 1st Amendment

By Nicholas Ballasy | February 2, 2009 | 6:38 PM EST

( - Sen. Chris Dodd (D.-Conn.) confirmed last week that the First Amendment allows talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh to express his views, even those critical of the policies of President Barack Obama.

Limbaugh had said on his radio program that he hopes President Obama fails at any effort to increase government control of the banking, mortgage, auto and health-care industries. 
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) mounted a petition campaign protesting Limbaugh’s comments on its Web site, and President Obama himself recently said when meeting with a group of congressional Republicans, “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”
Yet Dodd, who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, told, in reference to Limbaugh, that under the First Amendment, “people have a right to say what they want to say” and “expressing a view is perfectly legitimate in the country.” 
Dodd added that, for critics of Limbaugh's comments, “if you want to make less of it, make less of it.”

Limbaugh had noted on his Jan. 16 radio show that he had been asked by a publication to write 400 words about his “hope” for Obama's presidency.  Commenting on this request, Limbaugh said:

“Look, what he's [Obama's] talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the U.S. government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work. So I'm thinking of replying to the guy [from the publication], ‘Okay, I'll send you a response, but I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.’”

On Jan. 27, the following appeared on the DCCC’s Web site.

“Last week, Rush Limbaugh actually said that he ‘hopes’ President Obama fails to meet America’s challenges: Jobs, health care, our place in the world — the stakes for our nation are high and every American needs President Obama to succeed.

“Stand strong against Rush Limbaugh’s Attacks — sign our petition, telling Rush what you think of his attacks on President Obama. We’ll send Limbaugh your comment.”

When asked by if there is anything wrong with Limbaugh making the comments that elicited the petition drive from the DCCC, Dodd said: “No, in fact you make more of the story by doing it, so certainly, the First Amendment, people have the right to say what they want to say. Obviously there are limits to First Amendment rights, but certainly expressing a view is perfectly legitimate in the country. “My own advice would be, if you want to make less of it, make less of it.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was more critical of Limbaugh--while saying he had not thought about Limbaugh's remarks.

“I don’t pay attention to or care about Rush Limbaugh and what he says, so I haven’t even really thought about it to be truthful with you,” said Kerry. “But to be wishing for failure for efforts to rescue our economy is rather pathetic.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) declined to say if he agrees with Limbaugh’s comments but said he thinks less government intervention in the economic crisis would be better.

“Well, I think that we need capital markets, and I think the less government intervention the better,” he said.