Coronavirus / Coronavirus Commentary

A Progressive Media Group Demanded Censorship of Trump’s Coronavirus Press Briefings. The FCC Said No.

trumpThe progressive media organization Free Press thinks President Donald Trump is spreading dangerous misinformation during his televised press briefings on the government’s coronavirus response. So it petitioned federal regulators to make broadcasters either stop airing them or “put those lies in context with disclaimers noting that they may be untrue and are unverified.”

It was an odd demand. If Free Press think the president is abusing his authority, the group probably shouldn’t be asking his administration to police how people cover the president’s pronouncements. Seems like the sort of request that could backfire.

Thankfully, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rejected the petition on Monday, sending a stern rebuke to anyone who thinks censorship is a valid response to problematic speech.

“The federal government will not—and never should—investigate broadcasters for their editorial judgments simply because a special interest group is angry at the views being expressed on the air as well as those expressing them,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. “In short, we will not censor the news.”

Free Press based its argument for FCC intervention on public health, reasoning that Trump—as well as certain right-wing media personalities, like Rush Limbaugh—had given false information that could lead people to make unsound medical decisions. The petition specifically cited the president’s praise for the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which is unproven as a remedy for COVID-19.

It’s true that the FCC has some power to prevent the dissemination of false information. But federal law wisely places important limits on the agency, and for obvious reasons. No one should want regulators to have broad discretionary power to suppress speech that they subjectively believe is contrary to the public interest. This would inevitably lead to politically motivated censorship of speech that criticizes government actors.

In rejecting the petition, FCC General Counsel Thomas Johnson Jr. cogently explained that the FCC can take action against broadcasters only if they knew the information being broadcast was false, if they knew it would cause substantial harm, and if the information actually did cause substantial harm. Johnson pointed out that Free Press’s demand for censorship fails on all three counts:

At this moment, broadcasters face the challenge of covering a rapidly-evolving, national, and international health crisis, in which new information—much of it medical or technical in nature and therefore difficult to corroborate or refute in real time—is continually revealed, vetted, and verified or dismissed. In addition, we note that the President and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, including public-health professionals, have held daily press conferences in which they exhaustively answer critical questions from the press. Under such circumstances, it is implausible, if not absurd, to suggest that broadcasters knowingly deceived the public by airing these press conferences or other statements by the President about COVID-19. Moreover, there is a strong argument that broadcasters are serving the public interest when they air live coverage of important news events, such as briefings by the President, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and state governors, during this national emergency.

The impulse to punish broadcasters for letting people hear what their government officials have to say for themselves is bizarre, and it’s a relief to see the FCC take the obvious position that the First Amendment prohibits such censorship. Media outlets can choose whether they want to air Trump’s remarks on COVID-19—or anyone else’s. The government doesn’t get to make this decision for them.

Reprinted with Permission from - Reason.com by - Robby Soave

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Bob T

Casey Russel COmments I’m not posting this for debate. I don’t need any comments. Just please consider this…when the President is a jerk… The bottom line has been that Trump is a jerk. He’s crude, he bloviates, he gets his feelings hurt and he’s a hot head. Let me tell you what else he is. He is a guy that demands performance. He is a guy that asks lots of questions. The questions he asks aren’t cloaked in fancy phrases, they are “why the hell….” questions. For decades the health industry has thrown away billions of face masks after one use. Trump asks, “Why the hell are we throwing them away? Why not sterilize them and use them numerous times?” He’s the guy that gets hospital ships readied in one week, when it would have taken a bureaucrat weeks or months to get it done. He’s the guy that gets… Read more »

Maxine O

So, freedom of speech is reserved for the democrats, the leftists, and the fake media? Everything they say is considered truthful and is not to be questioned no matter how wrong they are proved to be? Amazing. Just another example of the double standard that exists in this country.

Joe McHugh

And there you have a window into how the liberals think. The liberal elite would limit what the people see and hear about what the liberals don’t want them to know about. This is exactly how a tyranny would operate if the Democrats ever regain political power. Worse, the Democrats would strive to make their positions of power immutable.

northstarjoel

Funny this never happened when the left spewed all their lies during the previous administration.

Walter

Maybe the Free Press should ask for an investigation of the Fake News that CNN has spread over the years.

JerryH

Kudos to the FCC for upholding the Constitution. How ironic that a group billing itself as “Free Press” advocates censorship of the President.

David Spade

Like the Pelosi Democrat Play Book: Lie about something, feed the story to the press, and then sell it as “well its in the press”. The thing with the malaria drug is that there are MD’s standing right their beside the President and not ruling out the effectiveness. As serious as this virus is, why not try anything that might work? If there is a close correlation to the drug and recovery, there is nothing wrong with people talking about it. If the press doesn’t like the message, ask them where they got the medical degrees.

Paul W

How ironic, that the “media” opposes the First Amendment. Ironic, and hypocritical…which describes leftists and their propaganda machine to a tee.

Veteran

The mask is off forever now, the “Democrats” are so in name only, ideologically they are a Marxist communist party embracing the same ideas and agenda that have failed globally and resulted in well over a hundred million dead. They embrace death in the form of abortion, euthanasia, and some of Bernie Sanders campaign staffers have made it known that they favor public executions in the street, and gulag death camps. Their propaganda arm known as the mainstream media operates under the principle of “Gleichschaltung”, a Nazi term describing the rigid and total coordination and uniformity of thinking and actions through coercion and force as well as censorship. If this COVID 19 outbreak has shown us anything it has shone a light on their authoritarian, and dictatorial tendencies following the same pattern of their ideology as the Soviets and communist China by overreaching and arresting parents in parks, closing businesses… Read more »

steve harmon

Thank GOD, “Elections have consequences”!!!

Thomas HashemJr

Odd but not unexpected title for this group. “Free press” met its demise with journalism schools admitting thousands to train for jobs they knew were nonexistent. So classes were filled with wandering people open to leftist instructors who fell off the Woodward/Bernstein career ladder. No jobs in journalism? Go for political pressure groups spreading swamp fever. Follow the dollars.

Mary

He’s the president of the United States. We should be able to get daily updates from in during this critical time. Or any time for that matter. What I do object to is the misleading ads from Priorities USA Action. At a time like this their ads are very insensitive to people. It’s undermining the President’s leadership at a critical time.

James

Progressive? “Progressive” must be the alternative word for communist! Censorship is what I’d expect from the communist media! Oh well, since the news media is not honest to begin with, it’s not a giant leap to go to complete censorship.

USA Defender

The Liberals have turned so far left they are running in circles. President Trump and his Corona Task Force Committee have answered all of the questions asked by the liberal media clowns but the criticism continues. Thank GOD for our President and his staff for putting the facts out there for the citizens to see and hear. The only televised news media that I trust is Fox News. If you follow CNN, MSNBC, etc. you are not getting all of the facts, but twisted information with Liberal prejudice thrown at you in an attempt to sway your opinion. Stand up for what’s best for the USA and don’t be persuaded by the left wing Liberal media outlets. We are slowly winning this fight against this deadly invisible virus by practicing social distancing and following the suggested guidelines established by our medical professionals, so let’s keep heading in this direction and… Read more »

Rick J.

Eradicating what is left of the “free press”, is needed by the left to facilitate their takeover of America.

Eileen

Don’t you just love it. The Free Press wants to limit what is said on TV at the press conferences. So true of the Dems, whatever they say is just the opposite of the reality.

KJHanover

We need to censor the censors. We need to censor all these liberal lunatics so they can no longer create mayhem everywhere.

Chipper

Free press my aching azz. Think about this CNN MSNBC etc etc lie our right on a nightly basis. OANN Fox an conservative leaning stations get shook down for telling the truth. These people worry the b-jesus out of me!

steve harmon

Thank GOD, “Elecetions have consequences”!!!! #2Or3Or4TermTrump

Stephen Russell

See Leftist media blocking important knowledge & info we need on CV19 etc to date.
U Lose & media wins.
Dump the WHCA organz totally do so by Remote 2 way Video feed.
Select few to cover briefings live