Radio host Savage seeks Clinton's help over ban
Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer
Friday, May 15, 2009
In an unexpected twist, sharp-tongued, conservative talk show host Michael Savage, who in the past savaged Hillary Clinton as a "dangerous human being" and "fraudulent huckster," has asked for help after being banned in Britain - from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Attorneys for the controversial San Francisco host of the syndicated "Savage Nation" radio show, say the ban is of a blatant human rights violation and formally asked Clinton on Thursday to demand that British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith "rescind the arbitrary and capricious decision" last week to "name and shame" 16 individuals, including Savage, who have been barred from entry into the country.
Smith made headlines - and raised eyebrows - when she included Savage on a list that also includes Islamic terrorists, Russian skinhead killers and neo-Nazis, saying that the individuals don't represent the United Kingdom's "values."
"It's ironic that the person Michael Savage is appealing to is someone who does not agree with him on 99 percent" of his political views, said attorney Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., which is representing Savage.
"But I think this is a case of the U.S. government protecting a U.S. citizen, regardless of what he said," especially since it involves a violation of international treaties signed by both the United States and Britain, Thompson said.
He said Clinton should act on Savage's behalf because it's the right thing to do - to make a statement about the importance of protecting "the rights of an American citizen," who happens to be the third-most-popular talk show host in the United States "and has done nothing illegal." Savage is guilty of one thing alone, he said, "exercising his right to free speech."
Savage - whose show reaches an estimated 8 million to 10 million listeners on nearly 400 stations nationwide, according to industry sources - told The Chronicle in an exclusive interview Thursday that "I've been very harsh on Hillary and Bill (Clinton) over the years."
"But precisely for this reason, she should take my case. It would show that she can rise above partisan politics," he said, "because Jacqui Smith is in violation of the European Union's laws themselves."
Savage acknowledged that this development is unexpected and said it underscores the oldest of political adages: "Politics makes strange bedfellows."
Thompson's letter to Clinton urges her to immediately "call upon the government of the United Kingdom" to undo the decision to put the outspoken right-wing host on a "least-wanted list."
He argued to Clinton that the banning of Savage is both "arbitrary" and "suspicious" given that his show is not even broadcast in Britain and it has never been explained to Savage, who has had no contact with the British government.
Moreover, Thompson contends, the move by Smith is clearly illegal: Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights clearly protects the right to "freedom of expression." Article 10 states that "this right shall include the freedom to hold opinions ... and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers."
Thompson also said that Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by both the United States and Britain, "protects the right to freedom of expression."
A U.S. State Department official, speaking on background, did not appear to support Thompson's contention.
"We recognize that countries have the right to determine who is eligible to enter," said the official, who declined to speculate on whether Clinton would act on the matter.
And Robin Newmann, spokesman for the British Consulate in San Francisco, responded in an e-mail that "His exclusion from the U.K. is both lawful and justified."
The British Home Office, in making the announcement last week banning the 16 individuals, said Savage's radio show constituted "engaging in unacceptable behavior by seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence."
Newmann said last week that "the U.K. has been able to ban people who promote hatred, terrorist activities and serious violence since 2005. During this time, 101 people have been excluded for unacceptable behavior, including animal rights extremists, right-to-life, homophobe and far-right extremists, as well as those who advocate hatred and violence in support of their religious beliefs."
Newmann added that in 2008, Smith "introduced new measures that favored excluding people who have spread hatred."
In releasing the list of 16, Smith issued a statement: "I refuse to extend that privilege to individuals who abuse our standards and values to undermine our way of life. Therefore, I will not hesitate to name and shame those who foster extremist views as I want them to know that they are not welcome here."
But Savage said he does not intend to let the British home secretary have the last word.
He vowed Thursday that his representatives will appeal to the White House if necessary to seek redress - and said he intends to file a lawsuit against Smith herself later this week, charging her with defamation of character.
E-mail Carla Marinucci at [email protected]
. Radio host Savage seeks Clinton's help over ban