WASHINGTON — Sen. Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., has managed to rile up some of his core supporters — conservative talk radio shows nationwide from Rush Limbaugh to Neil Boortz as well as local Mississippi stations — with remarks last Thursday blaming talk radio for the collapse of the immigration bill.
"Talk radio is running America," Lott said last week. "We have to deal with that problem."
Although the bill has since been revived, it faces stiff opposition during this week's Senate debate and talk radio is in high gear over Lott, his support for the bill and his seeming threat to them.
Flagged by the Drudge Report on the Internet, the two-sentence comment reported by the New York Times has inflamed radio hosts and helped propel a small group of about 30 immigration bill protesters to Lott's Jackson, Miss., office Tuesday, including a few radio hosts, who delivered petitions against the bill. Monday night the Lott comments were debated on Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes."
"What are we going to do about Mississippi Senator Trent Lott?" asked Limbaugh on his show Friday. "What are we going to do about Senator Lott? You remember when he got into trouble with the Strom Thurmond comment? We're out there defending the guy. The White House threw him overboard. All kinds of Republicans were throwing him overboard. Talk radio came to his defense."
Talk radio host Kim Wade of WJNT in Jackson went to Lott's office Tuesday. "Being a radio show host, I took offense," said Wade.
"We came to Lott's defense when he made idiotic remarks like what he said about Strom Thurmond." Wade is against the bill, which Lott is supporting, and talk radio accuses Lott of turning his back on them because they disagree with him. Many conservatives say the bill gives amnesty to the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants. Lott had to resign as majority leader in 2002 when he seemed to be endorsing Sen. Thurmond's racist past at the South Carolina Republican's 100th birthday celebration.
Lott's office is downplaying the uproar over immigration, saying the minority whip wanted to get the Senate to act, not to get talk radio out of the picture. "Sen. Lott is one of the biggest talk radio participants," said Lott spokesman Lee Youngblood. "He's not going to do anything to pull the plug on talk radio."
"He's frustrated over the fact that the Senate is stepping away from trying to do something. He wants to see the Senate produce legislation."
Caroline Espinosa, spokesperson for Numbers USA, a non-profit group opposed to the bill, said she had done a number of interviews recently on talk radio and Lott's name kept coming up. "He doesn't like what talk radio is saying on this particular issue. I did a show in Colorado and they were offended that Sen. Lott was trying to shut the people up."
Talk radio, which is primarily conservative, feels a return of the fairness doctrine, which is a federal regulation requiring equal time of political views which was abandoned in the 1980s, would destroy them.
On his Web site, Boortz, who has a national following, asked "Excuse me, Senator Lott, but was that a threat?"
"Sounds to me like Lott is royally ticked off," wrote Boortz this week.
"He's upset that the American people got right into the middle of the conversation over the problem with illegal aliens, and it didn't turn out all that well for the pro-amnesty forces."
Meridian, Miss., talk show host Jim Leggette of WMOX said the furor wouldn't die down until the immigration bill was resolved.
"The whole immigration thing is kind of a firestorm and his remarks added fuel to the fire," he said.
http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site — 061507/content/01125106.guest.html
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.