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Howard Stern under fire from Colorado assembly

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  1. Prior Restraint
COLORADO--In late April, the Colorado General Assembly passed a resolution 57-4 that radio "shock jock" Howard Stern be censured and…

COLORADO–In late April, the Colorado General Assembly passed a resolution 57-4 that radio “shock jock” Howard Stern be censured and apologize for comments he made regarding the Columbine High School tragedy. The state Senate subsequently voted to approve the anti-Stern measure, 34-1.

The House Joint Resolution stated that Stern should be censured and that he and the general manager of KXPK-FM should send a letter of apology to Columbine High School “as a demonstration of their personal responsibility for their offensive and thoughtless comments.” The resolution also states that Chancellor Media Corporation discontinue airing Stern’s radio program within Colorado and that KCNC-TV discontinue broadcast of the televised “Howard Stern Radio Show.”

KXPK subsequently issued an apology for Stern’s comments, and KCNC said it would preempt broadcast of the television show this week for a special on the shooting.

According to the resolution, “members of the media and broadcasting companies need to be accountable for the tasteless and inappropriate comments made during such a period of grief and devastation.”

On April 21, 1999, one day after the Littleton high school shootings, Stern discussed the tragedy on his nationally syndicated morning radio show. Stern reportedly commented: “A bunch of good looking girls go to that school. There were, like, really good-looking girls running out of there with their hands over their heads. Did those kids try to have sex with any of the good-looking girls? They didn’t even do that. At least if you’re going to kill yourself and kill all the kids, why wouldn’t you have some sex.”

Denver’s Rocky Mountain News editorialized on April 26 that “crude, pointless exploitation of tragedy for humor is — or ought to be — beyond the pale in the commercial media. … Let Howard Stern make his millions in other broadcast markets. He does not belong in Denver.”

The Colorado resolution has no legally binding force.

In a related development, four federal lawmakers in late April asked the White House to hold an emergency summit on the entertainment industry. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) stated that they want the creators of movies, television shows, video games and Internet sites to remove the gratuitous violence and sex they say contributes to violent acts by children. (House Joint Resolution 99-1056)