Bush Defends War, Attacks ‘Fairness Doctrine’ Before Religious Broadcasters

Perhaps eager for a friendly audience, President George W. Bush addressed the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) in March, where he pledged to keep the airwaves open for religious programming and vowed to press on with the war in Iraq.

Bush attacked efforts to reintroduce the “Fairness Doctrine,” a policy once part of federal law that required holders of broadcast licenses to offer balanced coverage of controversial issues. There are occasional calls to bring the Fairness Doctrine back, which the NRB strenuously opposes.

“This organization has had many important missions, but none more important than ensuring our airwaves – American airwaves – stay open to those who preach the Good News,” Bush said. “The very first amendment to our Constitution includes the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. Founders believed these unalienable rights were endowed to us by our Creator. They are vital to a healthy democracy, and we must never let anyone take those freedoms away.”

Continued Bush, “Some members of Congress want to reinstate a regulation that was repealed 20 years ago. It has the Orwellian name called the Fairness Doctrine.”

Bush, speaking to the NRB at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, insisted that the policy is intended to weaken shows hosted by people like Rush Limbaugh and James Dobson of Focus on the Family. He asserted that backers of the Fairness Doctrine “know they cannot prevail in the public debate of ideas. They don’t acknowledge that you are the balance, that you give voice.”

Bush vowed to veto any bill that reinstates the doctrine.

The NRB is an influential umbrella group representing evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who run non-profit and for-profit radio and television stations, networks and ministries. Many are deeply involved in far-right politics, and most have been ardent supporters of Bush.

The president spent the bulk of his March 11 remarks defending the war in Iraq. He insisted that progress is being made and called on all Americans to rally against “instruments of evil.” Although most religious leaders in America and around the world opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bush drew applause from his NRB listeners when he insisted that his decision to remove Saddam Hussein “will forever be the right decision.”

The NRB has an active lobbying operation in Washington, D.C. In addition to seeking to preserve its financial and political power, the NRB lobbied in 2007 against hate-crimes legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a measure that would ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In the NRB Magazine’s convention issue, Bob Powers, NRB’s Director of Government Relations, observed, “Everywhere I turn there are attempts to normalize evil and to make it look good and pleasant to men’s souls. There are also constant attempts to make righteousness and holiness look intolerant and evil. More than ever is broadcasting the Gospel of such great importance.”