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DEBRA J. SAUNDERS: House Democrats against free speech


Democratic House members are using the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot and the coronavirus pandemic in a scary effort to censor conservatives — and get Big Media to do their dirty work for them.

Remember when the left believed in more speech as the solution to bad speech? Those days are gone.

On Monday, Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, both California Democrats, sent letters to CEOs for cable providers, satellite providers and other platforms to voice their issues with conservative news outlets Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network.

The letters asked executives of such giants as AT&T, Comcast, Amazon and Verizon what they are doing to “reduce the spread of disinformation, including encouragement or incitement of violence by channels your company disseminates to millions of Americans.”

And the letters asked the CEOs if they plan on carrying the three conservative networks beyond “any contract renewal date.” Hint. Hint.

“The letter is not just chilling, it’s positively glacial,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley warned during Wednesday testimony before a House subcommittee on communications and technology.

No surprise, in their crusade to combat “misinformation,” the letter’s authors swam in murky waters.

To make their point, Eshoo and McNerney wrote, “One popular television show aired a segment about OANN last April that included a dire warning: “The kind of misinformation (OANN) is spewing right now could end up getting people killed.” The popular show? “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” a comedian.

The letter also cited Media Matters — a left-wing propaganda group — as an authoritative source, accusing Fox of broadcasting what it called “misinformation” 253 times over a five-day period. An example: “Fox pushed for school reopenings 34 times despite public health concerns.”

It’s not good when those who pose as enemies of misinformation cannot distinguish between fact twisting and unwelcome opinion. Weak thinkers with lazy arguments are not the people you want determining who gets on cable TV or the internet.

The Democrats’ focus on conservative media only overlooks the fact that every news organization makes mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes involve simple error. Others involve honest mistakes facilitated by bias. Others are the result of bad judgment. After all the bogus stories on Trump campaign collusion with Russia in 2016, Democrats should know that discretion is the better part of valor.

At the hearing, Eshoo took issue with critics who said that the letters violated the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment, my friends, starts with four words, ‘Congress shall make no laws,’” Eshoo said. And how dare anyone question the probity of House members “asking questions.”

Actually, that’s five words, congresswoman. And if the letters merely asked questions, no one would raise an eyebrow.

“Making a statement and putting a question mark at the end of it, doesn’t change the import of the statements,” Turley testified. The House Democrats’ questions sent “a rather audible statement.”

“What if you succeed?” Turley asked. Voters would lose access to Fox News, the most watched news network last year because House Democrats decided they could determine what other people read or watch.

They’re book burners, and they don’t even know it. Or they just don’t care.

Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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