The House Democrats have launched one of the most direct assaults on political speech in modern American history.
On Monday, Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, both Democratic Representatives, demanded television providers answer to them about what media outlets they chose to carry on their platforms. These cable television and big tech giants included: AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Apple, and Amazon.
Specifically, the Democrats wanted to know whether they intended to continue carrying Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News.
“SCOOP: Congressional Dems sent a letter to Comcast, Amazon, Google, ATT & others, demanding to know what they plan to do about the ‘the spread of dangerous misinformation’ from Fox News, OAN and Newsmax – including whether they will continue to carry them,” the Times’ Rachel Abrams reported.
“Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News, OANN and Newsmax on your platform both now and beyond the renewal date?” the letter asked. “If so, why?”
Fox News responded to the House Democrats’ outrageous pressure on cable distributors to explain their channel packages.
“For individual members of Congress to highlight political speech they do not like and demand cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination sets a terrible precedent,” the network said in a statement. Newsmax also slammed the letter as an “attack on free speech.”
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has blasted the House Democrats’ attempt to strong-arm these companies into shutting down dissent and only carrying the political content that the House Democrats approve of.
“Today, two senior Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee selectively targeted a handful of news media outlets for their coverage of political events,” Carr’s letter states. “By writing letters to the cable providers and other regulated entities that carry these news media outlets, the Democrats are sending a message that is as clear as it is trouble — these regulated entitites will pay a price if the targeted newsrooms do not conform to Democrats’ preferred political narratives.”
“This is a chilling transgression of the free speech rights that every media outlet in this country enjoys,” the statement adds.
“Debate on matters of public interest should be robust, uninhibited and wide open,” Carr continues. “More speech is better than less. Yet the concerted effort by Democrats to drive political dissent from the public square represents a marked departure from these First Amendment norms. A newsroom’s decision about what stories to cover and how to frame them should be beyond the reach of any government official, not targeted by them.”
“To the House Democrats that used their official letterhead to launch this inquiry, I would say this: Your demand to know the ‘moral principles’ that guide a private entity’s decision about what news to carry cannot be reconciled with bedrock principles of free speech and journalistic freedom,” he went on.
“I call on my FCC colleagues to join me in publicly denouncing this attempt to stifle political speech and independent news judgment.”
Brendan Carr, appointed under the Trump administration, was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It will be interesting to see if any Biden appointees take such a bold position against government-led restrictions on free speech, especially given the administration’s unprecedented purge of non-ideologically confirming public officials.
It is clear that Democrats want to use regulatory strong-arming of media corporations and big tech providers to effectively accomplish a government policy of suppressing free speech. This is clearly a threat to the Constitutional protections afforded to all Americans, and should be treated as such.