Stokes Assails Fcc Ruling Allowing Racist Political Ads

Rep. Louis Stokes (D. Ohio), one of the 13 Black members of the House, assailed the Federal Communications Commission today for ruling that a radio station and a television station in Atlanta would violate the federal Communications Act if they refused to transmit “white supremacist advertisements” and “anti-Semitic” tripe by J.B. Stoner, who is a candidate for US Senator in a primary election in Georgia.

Television station WSB and radio station WPLO have been broadcasting paid advertisements asking Georgians to vote for “white racist J.B. Stoner” in the primary election. Mayor Sam Massell, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People all protested the paid advertisements on the two stations. The FCC refused on Aug. 3 to allow the two stations to reject the advertisements. The Atlanta branch of the NAACP had asked the FCC to inform the two stations they would not violate Section 315 of the Communications Act of 1934 by refusing to air the advertisements. Stoner is an Atlanta attorney who has a long association with anti-Negro and anti-Jewish causes.

In a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Stokes said that “while I fully agree that the principle of free speech demands the strongest enforcement in a democratic society, I support the Supreme Court dictum that the liberty does not extend to yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” He contended that Stoner, “freely airing his racist and anti-Semitic tripe over the media, was yelling ‘fire’ in the overcrowded arena of prejudice and race hatred. Our violent past has been a witness to the fact that words like Stoner’s are highly inflammatory.”

Stokes said it was “eminently unfair and inequitable that a white fascist can, because he is backed by money, say anything he chooses, while poor and disadvantaged Americans are denied a forum for their views.” He said “Black organizations have been vainly seeking news coverage for years. The media have, collectively, passed a value judgement on their activities by denying them all but the most cursory coverage. It pains me to know that free speech in America is a commodity that goes to the highest bidder.” The FCC had ruled that “however abhorrent some speech might be,” there was in the Stoner case no evidence of a “clear and present danger of imminent violence which might warrant interference with speech which does not contain any direct incitement to violence.”

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