Following the raucous protests that broke out Friday night in Chicago, Donald Trump, who was forced to cancel his rally, has now apparently become a huge advocate of the First Amendment “It’s a little bit sad when you can’t have a rally in a major city in this country.. whatever happened to freedom of speech? Whatever happened to the right to get together?” Trump said to MSNBC in a phone interview.
Trump repeated his concerns to anchor Don Lemon on CNN Friday evening: “Even though our freedom of speech is violated, I didn’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
Trump’s rationale is the following: since the protests broke out, he was forced to cancel his speech, his supporters couldn’t gather therefore his (and his supporter’s) rights were violated. That maybe true. Sure, the protesters prevented Trump from giving his speech and, certainly, violence is never a good way to advocate your message. However, for Trump to complain– his free speech rights are now being violated — is a bit ironic to say the least. Over the last several weeks, it has been Mr. Trump dealing blow after blow to the First Amendment. Here are some prime examples:
- On February 17, Trump sent a cease and desist letter threatening legal action against his opponent Ted Cruz over his television ads. Trump wanted them pulled for being false. Only thing is that Cruz was actually just replaying old television clips of something Donald Trump himself actually said. “Mr. Trump’s threatened lawsuit against Senator Cruz is ridiculous, absurd, laughable. Senator Cruz’s speech is First Amendment protected as his opinion based upon the very tape contained in the advertisement,” well-known First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams told LawNewz.com at the time. (Abrams is also the father of LawNewz.com’s founder)
- Then there is this… On February 26, Trump told a crowd of excited supporters at a Texas rally that he is going to “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” In other words, he wants to amend laws (which he actually can’t do as president) to make it harder for journalists (or really any bloggers) to publish anything negative about him. He apparently forgot about the landmark Supreme Court case, New York Times v. Sullivan, which based its ruling on the premise that our country has a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”
- Oh, and let’s not forget February 29 when things turned violent against a Time Magazine photographer who was manhandled by secret service agents at a Trump rally at Radford University in Virginia. The incident occurred, according to The Guardian, just as Trump wrapped up a speech once again taking aim at the press and free speech. “We want honesty so we’re going to get the laws changed so that the press has to be honest and if they’re not honest, if they say things that are wrong, they can be sued and they’re going to have to correct it and maybe pay penalties and maybe face something. Do you like that idea?” he told to an excited crowd. Penalties and ‘face something’ more?
So there you have it, Donald Trump appears to have a love/hate relationship with the First Amendment. This weekend, the two appear to be on speaking terms (so to speak).
[screengrab via CNN]