Glen Beck’s problems with his advertisers started on “Fox & Friends” the morning of July 28th when he said President Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people,” adding, “This guy is, I believe, a racist.” Since then, it has been reported no less than 20 advertisers have asked The Fox News Channel not to place their ads in his show. Colorofchange.org is taking credit for the ad exodus from GB. It’s a group that says it “exists to strengthen Black America’s political voice.” I would not have said what Beck said because I do not believe The President is a racist but that is not really the point. What is important is preserving the right to say what is on your mind no matter who gets angry or disagrees. Shaming, threatening or coercing advertisers not to advertise on a particular TV show because you do not like what the host says about the guy you voted for is nothing more than an end run around the First Amendment.
I remember back in the early 90’s there was a Ku Klux Klan march in Lexington, North Carolina, and I was sent to cover the event as a young reporter. I begged my news director not to send me but he did anyway. It became an opportunity for me to really see the First Amendment in action. The streets were lined with African Americans looking on as a group of 30 or so Klansmen were marching and shouting things like “I hate N…s!” I thought what the Klan yelled out was repugnant but that is the beauty and the ugly of freedom of speech. There was not a single fight and the whole thing ended peacefully. There was no way to punish the Klan for what they said even if most people thought it was wrong. In America, even if someone doesn’t like what you are saying, you can still say it.
After Kanye West made his now famous accusation that, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a Hurricane Katrina telethon, there was not a push to boycott his records.
Many people thought that comment was over the top. After all, there was plenty of blame to go around for the way that disaster was handled. West’s comment implied that President Bush was a racist. I don’t believe that either, but I do defend West’s right to say it without having some group organize a boycott to shut him up.
I’m sure the folks at Colorofchange.org think that they are doing the right thing by trying to shut Beck up by getting his ads pulled. I am equally sure Beck’s comment offended plenty of people, but preserving the right of free speech without physical or economic reprisal takes a higher precedence. If we lose sight of how important freedom of speech is to our Republic then we will weaken all of America’s political voice.
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Greg is the producer and creator of USAWatchdog.com. The site’s slogan is “analyzing the news to give you a clear picture of what’s really going on.” The site will keep an eye on the government, your financial interests and cut through the media spin. USAWatchdog.com is neither Democrat nor Republican, Liberal or Conservative. Before creating and producing the site, Greg spent nearly 9 years as a network and investigative correspondent. He worked for ABC News and Good Morning America for nearly 6 years. Most recently, Greg worked for CNN for shows such as Paula Zahn Now, American Morning and various CNN business shows.