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Social media wrap: Sarah Palin backs Dr. Laura on 1st Amendment -- but is it a constitutional issue?

August 19, 2010 |  4:40 am

Sarah_palin_laura_schlessin

Another day, another 1st Amendment flap involving socially conservative broadcasters.

Onetime vice presidential candidate and former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin on Wednesday tweeted her support for Dr. Laura Schlessinger after the advice guru said she was leaving radio broadcasting over 1st Amendment issues following racially charged comments she made last week.

Schlessinger repeatedly used the “N word” on her show Aug. 10 while discussing with a caller black comedians’ use of the word. She has since apologized twice and made the decision to quit her radio show (but to continue broadcasting on her website and on YouTube, among others).

Palin, who faced her own freedom-of-speech dilemma recently after Facebook inadvertently removed one of her posts criticizing the decision to  build a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, used a pet phrase of hers to advise Schlessinger: “Don’t retreat … reload.” 

Palin tweeted:

Dr.Laura: don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")

And also:

Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!

Palin famously used the phrase “Don’t retreat … reload” to urge Americans to continue their protests ...

 

... over President Obama’s  healthcare plan, and it fits her image as a huntin’ and shootin’ Alaskan grizzly-mama-type of politician. Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin has also voiced her support for Schlessinger, while a cavalcade of liberal organizations have demanded a boycott of her broadcasts (GM and Motel 6 obliged in dropping their sponsorship).

Schlessinger, whose show attracts some 9 million listeners each week, announced her departure from the airwaves at year’s end on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Tuesday with the words: "I want my 1st Amendment rights back, which I can't have on radio without the threat of attack on my advertisers and stations."

She later told the L.A. Times: "I was just sitting here, looking over the ocean [at her Santa Barbara home]. It was sort of a peaceful wave of awareness — an inner voice just said, 'We're done with this.' The second it came over me, I felt very energized."

A Facebook fan page for Schlessinger, which describes her as an American talk radio host and socially conservative commentator, has more than 2,000 fans.  

But amid the 1st Amendment outcry from both Palin and Schlessinger, there’s really not much of a constitutional issue here (as there wasn’t for Palin when her Facebook post was removed after an orchestrated campaign in the liberal blogosphere to have it taken down).

Both Schlessinger and Palin were broadcasting their views via commercial organizations that have their own guidelines on what is permissible –- and their remarks did not enter the arena of hate speech that can attract the government’s attention. (Schlessinger’s talk radio station KFWB-AM is subject to a government-granted license  but the "N word" does not fall into any category of offensive words that could result in said license being pulled.)

Schlessinger had previously intimated her desire to quit talk radio, possibly as a result of a long-term trend of falling ratings –- which may be closer to the truth about her decision to halt her show. Palin, meanwhile, continues to broadcast on Fox News and to more than 2 million followers on her Facebook page.

The 1st Amendment, it seems, is not so much an issue for these two as a handy diversion amid criticism of their choice of words. Which, of course, they are freely at liberty to express.

-- Craig Howie

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Photos: European Press Agency (left); The Associated Press

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