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Silencing of Limbaugh Arouses Roar of Protest

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rush Limbaugh fans, including a number of Republican lawmakers, were driven into a frenzy this week when the Capitol’s internal broadcast system temporarily stopped carrying the right-wing commentator’s broadcast.

On Tuesday, Republican legislators were quick to find a culprit--Assemblyman John Burton, the liberal Democratic lawmaker from San Francisco whose Rules Committee controls what is available on the ubiquitous squawk boxes that sit atop the desks throughout the Capitol and environs.

“It’s a perfect example of Lord Acton’s principle that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely,” complained Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach). “It’s not enough that Democrats outnumber us almost 2-to-1 and take away money from our staffs; now they want to censor what can be heard in the Capitol.”

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Burton, clearly irked, said: “This is like one of Rush’s programs--a lot of brouhaha over N-O-T-H-I-N-G. It’s wonderful to see conservatives in the Legislature finally supporting free speech after all these years.”

There never were any orders to pull Limbaugh off the air, Burton said. Instead, his edict was simply for music to replace talk-show programs like Limbaugh’s in “common areas” such as Capitol elevators and hallways. Limbaugh and other talk radio programs were supposed to remain available for private enjoyment on squawk boxes in legislators’ offices.

“If he was completely off, that wasn’t anyone’s intention,” Burton said. “The intention was he should be off in the common area that floods everyone’s eardrums.”

Limbaugh, who began his radio career in Sacramento, got wind of his banishment from California’s seat of government and complained long and loud during his Tuesday morning broadcast, which is heard daily by more than 10 million people across America. Soon, phone calls began pouring into the Capitol from Limbaugh fans stirred to action by their idol.

Amid the uproar, the Limbaugh show was quickly returned to the system before noon Tuesday.

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