Democratic representatives Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, both from California, actively called for conservative-leaning news networks to be taken off the air this past week.
On Monday, the two House members wrote letters to the CEOs of America’s largest communication providers, including AT&T, Alphabet Inc., Altice USA, Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Cox Communications, Dish Network, and Hulu.
The letters attempted to bully the CEO’s into purging Newsmax, Fox News, and One America News Network from their platforms on the claim that these outlets engage in "misinformation and conspiracy theories."
"Our country’s public discourse is plagued by misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and lies. These phenomena undergird the radicalization of seditious individuals who committed acts of insurrection on January 6 , and it contributes to a growing distrust of public health measures necessary to crush the pandemic," they wrote.
"Misinformation on TV has led to our current polluted information environment that radicalizes individuals to commit seditious acts and rejects public health best practices, among other issues in our public discourse," the letter continued.
As a follow up, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing Wednesday afternoon. Its topic was "Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media."
Four witnesses testified for several hours at the hearing, including:
- Soledad O’Brien, a CNN veteran who now anchors Hearst Television’s “Matter of Fact”
- Emily Bell, a Columbia University journalism professor
- Kristin Danielle Urquiza, co-founder of the organization Marked by COVID
- Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor
Throughout the afternoon Turley reduced the temperature in the room by reminding Democratic lawmakers that they cannot infringe upon the First Amendment freedom of the press. It’s not their job to separate fact from fiction.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington state Republican, said she was troubled by both the purpose of Wednesday’s hearing as well as the letters sent by her Democratic colleagues Monday.
"Today’s hearing, along with the majority letters that target right-wing cable outlets, are really a dangerous escalation in the left’s crusade to silence anyone who does not agree with their ideology," Rep. McMorris said.
Rep. Eshoo defended the letters, and claimed that "we have a problem in this country" that is "a sticky wicket because of our Constitution."
Yeah—"a sticky wicket." What were those wacky Founding Fathers thinking when they guaranteed freedom of speech and the press?
Turley described the lawmakers’ letters as "not just chilling" but "positively glacier."
Soledad O’Brien believed that the answer was simple—don’t book liars.
"Do not book people to lie on your show because it elevates them and presents a lie as another side," she said, adding that "every perspective does not deserve a platform."
Turley reminded everyone that it’s not up to either the government or the networks to be the arbiters of truth.
"I don’t think it is fair to say 'I am in favor of free speech and free press as long as you are not a liar, as long as what you are saying is not untrue,'" the legal academic noted.
Bell, the Columbia University journalism professor, argued that the press should be subject to regulation, and claimed that "an open market, without regulation, will always favor bad actors over good."
Turley countered that any regulation of the press wouldn’t produce a "less objectionable product" but rather an "official product, which is exactly what the free press is designed to avoid."
The First Amendment to the Constitution provides, in pertinent part, that "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … of the press …"
Everyone in the country has the right to complain about the news and act on it—by switching the channel.
The government, however, does not have that right, nor should it. That’s because a free and independent press is the government’s No. 1 watchdog.
When the government has the power to call the shots and tell the press what news they may and may not report, we’re left with Pravda—an "official product, … what the free press is designed to avoid," according to Turley.
It’s chilling that two members of Congress would try to de-platform three national news networks into oblivion.
It’s scary that a Harvard-educated broadcast journalist with three decades of experience would support silencing speech because someone else doesn’t agree with it.
And it’s horrifying that a Columbia journalism professor would even consider allowing the federal government to regulate what can and cannot be reported on the evening news.
They should each consider these words: "Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose."
Those words weren’t uttered by a politician, a Supreme Court justice, or even a journalist. They were written by George Orwell, a novelist.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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