Not to put too fine a point on it, but presidential spokespuppet Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ statement that a ESPN talking head’s tweets about Donald Trump constitute a “fireable offense by ESPN” should send chills down the spine of every liberty lover. And it’s not the first time a Trump hack has hinted contrary speech should be dealt with harshly.
ESPN – once a sports network that dealt in sports but is now an overt promoter of all manner of the most perverse aspects of progressivism and social justice – has a black female anchor named Jemele Hill. Not being a consumer of ESPN’s drivel, I know nothing about her. But on Monday she took on Trump in a series of tweets.
Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 11, 2017
Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 11, 2017
He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 12, 2017
In another tweet, since deleted, Hill claimed:
He has surrounded himself with white supremacists — no they are not “alt right” — and you want me to believe he isn’t a white supremacist?
Hill clearly lives in the leftwing media bubble. There is no evidence Trump is a “white supremacist,” nor that those with whom he’s surrounded himself with are white supremacists. But since it’s being driven non-stop by the state media organizations, the narrative has almost become conventional wisdom.
Following backlash from the Trump crowd, ESPN issued an apology and apparently instructed Hill to do so as well.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 14, 2017
But that was not good enough for Trump who had not yet extracted his pound of flesh. When the press questioned Sanders about Hill’s statement and ESPN’s apology, Sanders said:
I don’t know if he’s aware of it, but I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make, and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.
The Founders included free speech protection in the Bill of Rights expressly to protect speech like Hill’s. While the 1st Amendment specifically addresses Congress and its possible role as the lawmaking body in prohibiting contrarian speech, activists courts have since incorporated the clause to include all of government. Of course, the Founders never envisioned that Congress would so effectively neuter itself and cede almost all its powers to an imperial president as it has done.
The weight of proclamations from the bully pulpit is too powerful to be taken lightly. They hint that the president may take action of one type or another. And the presidential spokespuppet is the official “mouth” of the president.
In January, speaking of the anti-Trump sentiment in the mainstream media, Trump hack Kellyanne Conway told Fox News’ Mike Wallace:
Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump has been let go.
So the idea that anti-Trump media should be “fired” or silenced is becoming an ongoing theme in the Trump universe.
In 1798 the second president, John Adams, signed the Alien and Sedition Act that, among other things, made it a treasonable activity to publish “any false, scandalous and malicious writing.” It was done because the Republican-aligned press was excoriating Adams and his policies. As a result, 25 men, most of them Republican supporters of Thomas Jefferson, were arrested and their newspapers forced to shut down, simply because they were critical of Adams’ presidency.
One of those arrested was Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, editor of the Philadelphia Democrat-Republican Aurora.
Those laws were overturned once Thomas Jefferson – who teamed with James Madison to try and nullify them – made Adams a one-term president.
Whether ESPN or any network – or any employer, for that matter — wants to keep or fire its employees for their conduct and political views is a call the employer should make without pressure from the president, any politician or government entity.
Hill’s assessment of Trump is baseless and ignorant. But she has every right to make baseless and ignorant comments until her heart’s content. The free market will decide whether ESPN should tolerate them or not.
Any assault on free speech is an assault on all of our speech, especially when it’s speech the politicians and government doesn’t like.
Update 1: In yet another assault on free speech, Congress on Wednesday sent a joint resolution to Trump for his signature that calls on Trump to “speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy” and also “use all resources available to the President and the President’s Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”
Sanders has acknowledged that Trump “will absolutely” sign the resolution.
Passing and signing such a resolution signals that speech must be approved by the elites or it is unacceptable and if it’s not, “all resources available to the President and President’s cabinet” will be used to suppress it.
Update 2: The danger in the Congressional resolution on “hate speech” can be found in a bill passed this week in California. That bill, AB785, passed the California legislature without a single no vote. It adds to the list of offenses that can get a person barred from possessing a firearm for life. The provision includes “those who are convicted of misdemeanor interference with another person’s civil rights or damage of property because of their perceived race, religion, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. Violations would be a felony and result in a lifetime gun ban.”
Based on the reaction of the political establishment to so-called “white supremacists” protesting for their rights and against the removal of confederate statues, simply making speeches or carrying signs could easily run them afoul of this law.