Big Brother shouldn't curb Jerry Springer's diet of hair-pulling, name-calling and bizarre confessions, says Phil Donahue.

Donahue, a pioneer in the talk-show wars, told a fundraising dinner in Peoria, Ill., Saturday that preserving America's guarantee of freedom of speech is more important that placing curbs on Springer.He also predicted that the current wave of television sensationalism will fade once the novelty wears off. "Trash TV will fold," he said.

Donahue lamented the fact that Springer's popularity mirrors a society in which crime is rampant in schools and teenagers can identify TV show characters but not Supreme Court justices.

But the 29-year veteran interviewer was reluctant to criticize the style of his controversial colleague. "It is professional wrestling in a way," Donahue said. "I went too far occasionally, myself."