A petition to pull Rush Limbaugh from the lineup of the Armed Forces Network (AFN) received an Obama adminstration response over the weekend, but one that likely disappointed opponents of the conservative radio host.
The petition -- organized amid a debate over birth control coverage during which Limbaugh repeatedly called law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" -- said that Limbaugh's "abusive, divisive, insulting language," should not be aired on the government-run TV and radio network, which provides programming to American troops overseas. "We have a moral objection to our tax dollars being used for such a purpose," the petitioners wrote. "You should move immediately to cancel any further broadcast through government facilities of his venom."
But the White House, which hosted the petition as part of its "We The People" website, seemed to disagree. In a statement that appeared below the appeal, Defense Department official Ryan G. Whitman wrote that "AFN does not censor content, and we believe it is important that service members have access to a variety of viewpoints."
Whitman said that Limbaugh's program, like others AFN broadcasts, was simply chosen on the basis of its popularity at home. "AFN acquires top-rated radio programs, as measured by audience ratings in the United States, and delivers them via satellite to our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen stationed worldwide in 177 countries," he wrote.
The petition, which was submitted by a commenter at liberal blog Daily Kos, had recieved 29,189 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
Read Ryan G. Whitman's full statement below:
Rush Limbaugh and Armed Forces Radio
By Bryan G. Whitman
Thank you for your interest in American Forces Network (AFN) programming for our service members overseas. We appreciate your participation in the "We the People" platform on www.whitehouse.gov and your concerns about the programming available to our troops.
AFN is charged with providing current information and entertainment programming to our Department of Defense audiences overseas, similar to what they could see and hear via the media in the United States. AFN acquires top-rated radio programs, as measured by audience ratings in the United States, and delivers them via satellite to our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen stationed worldwide in 177 countries. AFN does not advertise on, provide any funding for, offer products for sale, or sponsor any of the programs (including the Rush Limbaugh Show) it relays to its audiences.
AFN does not censor content, and we believe it is important that service members have access to a variety of viewpoints.
Again, thank you for your interest in our service members and the programming services AFN extends to them.
Bryan G. Whitman is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs