Lawmakers Attempt to Violate First Amendment to Censor Conservative Outlets
By Movieguide® Staff
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA)—who addressed the letters to AT&T, Comcast and Amazon, and nine other cable, satellite, and streaming companies—accused right-leaning outlets such as Fox News, One America News Network, and Newsmax of being “misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm.”
“Misinformation on TV has led to our current polluted information environment that radicalizes individuals to commit seditious acts and rejects public health best practices, among other issues in our public discourse,” they wrote.
The two lawmakers added: “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.
“What moral or ethical principles (including those related to journalistic integrity, violence, medical information, and public health) do you apply in deciding which channels to carry or when to take adverse actions against a channel?”
Eshoo and McNerney are members of the House Energy & Commerce’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee.
Republicans called out the Democrats’ letters, arguing that they were attempting to silence all voices but their own.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the lead Republican on the committee, said that it was a “dangerous escalation.”
“Combating disinformation is a shared goal, but we do not want to follow the lead of an authoritarian country,” Rodgers said.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor who accused the letters of a direct attack on free speech and a witness at the hearing, said that the letters equated to governmental pressure.
“Making a statement and putting a question mark at the end of it doesn’t change the import of the statement,” Turley said, adding that the letters singled out right-leaning outlets.
Soledad O’Brien, appearing at a House subcommittee on disinformation, offered another solution to return to honest reporting.
“Cover the facts that lies and propaganda are being disseminated, but do not book people to lie on your show because it elevates and presents a lie as another side,” O’Brien said.
“Media, disguised as journalism, has been spreading lies for years, elevating liars and using the ensuing slugfest to chase ratings, hits, subscriptions, advertisers,” she added.
O’Brien also noted that she believes the standard should be upheld by everyone, including MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News.
“Something you get the sense that truth is unknowable. That is incorrect,” O’Brien said.
She added that “the elevation of liars has accelerated, with radio, broadcast and cable TV in particular, repeating and reenergizing lies that harm all of us. The bombast that accompanies these lies, has also set the stage for an alarmingly xenophobic and racist narrative that has taken hold in this country.”
The congressional discussion highlights the importance of media discernment as viewers and content consumers evaluate the information they receive.
For important tips in understanding how the media portrays government, read this excerpt from Movieguide® Founder and Publisher Dr. Ted Baehr.