House Democrats seeking to pressure platforms to stifle conservative media are engaging in a "rank abuse of power," Institute for Free Speech founder Bradley Smith said Wednesday.
"We don't trust the U.S. Government to decide what news we can decide to hear," Smith, the former Federal Election Commission chairman, said during a Zoom call.
"They do not have a right to censor the press."
Smith called out the "retaliatory attempt" to censor conservative views amid the Biden administration's own call for "unity."
"It is repugnant to the First Amendment," Smith said for lawmakers to seek to censor speech that is "incongruent with their political beliefs."
"We don't need to be nice about this; we need to call it what it is: This is a rank abuse of power by members of Congress who want to censor their political opposition," Smith said.
Smith was appointed a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission by President Bill Clinton and served as chairman in 2004 under President George W. Bush.
The Institute for Free Speech, formerly called the Center for Competitive Politics, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit that promotes and defends the First Amendment rights to freely speak, assemble, publish, and petition the government.
Smith did note there is a reasonable pursuit to combat disinformation in the media, but House Democrats' attempts to pressure media services to answer to why they permit conservative outlets like Newsmax, Fox News, and OANN on their platforms is a "cure worse than the disease," Smith said.
"[President Donald] Trump was accused of targeting journalists, but it was the Obama administration that actually wiretapped them," Smith wrote in an opinion piece for RealClearPolitics on Wednesday. "What if a future populist, conservative president followed Obama's path – but went one step further, ordering the FCC to cancel outlets that allowed a commentator's undesirable opinion to be heard?
"If free speech can be tossed aside on a whim, not only the left will use that power."
"Those in the media and on Capitol Hill who misunderstand free speech are making a grave mistake. They should drop their dangerous demands before they cause irreparable damage to our democracy and to our society."
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