Democrats are waging an assault on the First Amendment, with two Democrat House lawmakers demanding answers from cable television providers on the role they play in the "spread of dangerous misinformation."
The letter, signed by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., and released to the press Monday, targets only conservative-leaning outlets, including Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN.
On Wednesday, the House subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the Committee on Energy and Commerce is scheduled to hold a hearing on disinformation and extremism in media.
Cable service companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Spectrum, Dish, Verizon, Cox, and Altice all received the same letter on Monday pressing for answers on policies related to the spread of disinformation, rumors, and conspiracy theories on networks they carry.
The letter directly only assails conservative news networks Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN and accuses them of airing misinformation on various topics – among them, the coronavirus, the 2020 election, and the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Newsmax issued a statement Monday decrying what the company said was an attack on the First Amendment. The Newsmax statement read:
"The House Democrats' attack on free speech and basic First Amendment rights should send chills down the spines of all Americans. Newsmax reported fairly and accurately on allegations and claims made by both sides during the recent election contest. We did not see that same balanced coverage when CNN and MSNBC pushed for years the Russian collusion hoax, airing numerous claims and interviews with Democrat leaders that turned out to be patently false."
Newsmax noted that the Eschoo-McNerney letter makes several false or misleading characterizations of its coverage.
While Newsmax reported on President Trump's contest of the 2020 elections, covering the claims he and his attorneys made, the Democrats said such reporting was "incendiary."
The letter also states, "As a violent mob was breaching the doors of the Capitol, Newsmax's coverage called the scene a ‘sort of a romantic idea.'"
The claim was made on Newsmax by a Touro College law professor and prominent liberal, Thane Rosenbaum, who was describing the rally before any violence or illegal activity had taken place at the Capitol.
In fact, Newsmax hosts began condemning the illegal activity that took place at the Capitol in real time, and did so repeatedly throughout the day.
The Democratic letter also alleges that Newsmax "amplified allegations that members of the Chinese Communist Party helped to develop the COVID-19 vaccine." Newsmax stated it has no idea what House Democrats are alleging here, as Newsmax did not report anything unusual about China and the COVID-19 vaccine.
In their letter the lawmakers also questioned what the cable providers will do, if anything, to combat the spread of such alleged falsehoods.
The Democrats even goes as far to ask whether the outlets will continue to be carried by the providers and questions their "ethical principles." Tellingly, the Democrats are not targeting any leftwing media like CNN and MSNBC.
"It's cancel culture coming to our news media and our sources of information," said David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group. "It's an orchestrated attack, not just by Democrats, but also by other left-wing networks to silence conservative voices completely. It's an attempt at almost outright censorship."
While Democrats aren't trying to "outlaw the networks" they are calling out, Johnson said the letter is a "form of intimidation" to force cable providers to drop these networks in order to do away with conservative voices in media.
"To our knowledge, the cable, satellite and over-the-top companies that disseminate these media outlets to American viewers have done nothing in response to the misinformation aired by these outlets," Eshoo and McNerney wrote.
The letter continues: "Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News, OANN, and Newsmax on your platform both now and beyond the renewal date? "If so, why?"
The Congressmen request companies provide a response to them by March 8.
Eshoo has previously advocated for the return of the Fairness Doctrine for both radio and television. She has gone on the record backing the doctrine to apply to both cable and satellite programming.
Under the Fairness Doctrine, TV and radio stations were required to balance opposing viewpoints on a topic. Many conservatives are opposed to the doctrine, which they say impedes on First Amendment rights.
The doctrine was repealed by the Reagan administration's Federal Communications Commission in 1987.
Eshoo and McNerney, who have districts that represent Silicon Valley, don't mention social media companies like Facebook and Twitter in their letter, nor do they raise questions about the disinformation these platforms may have helped spread.
Marisa Herman, a Newsmax senior reporter, focuses on major and investigative stories. A University of Florida graduate, she has more than a decade of experience as a reporter for newspapers, magazines, and websites.
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