A Little Touch of Tripoli? Indiana Deputy Attorney General Calls For Use of Live Fire Against Protesters In Wisconsin

Indiana Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Cox has reportedly been fired after Mother Jones Magazine identified him as the source of a tweet denouncing liberals and calling for the use of live ammunition against teacher protesters in Wisconsin.

The case again raises the question of when personal statements of public employees can be used against them. {UPDATE: Cox responds to our posting]

In this case, Cox reportedly stated that riot police should sweep demonstrators out of the Wisconsin Capitol building where they were protesting labor legislation. One of its reporters investigated the comment and discovered it was Cox. When confronted, however, Cox went further and called the protesters
“political enemies” and “thugs” who were “physically threatening legally-elected officials.” He then reportedly added “You’re damned right I advocate deadly force” on the protesters. He later called the reporter a “typical leftist” and when asked for “context” of his remarks, he replied “For ‘context?’ Or to silence me? All my comments on twitter and my blog are my own and no one else’s. And I can defend them all.”

Mother Jones reports that he also made such bizarre remarks as asking “Planned Parenthood could help themselves if the only abortions they performed were retroactive”?

The Indiana Attorney General’s office promptly announced that Cox is “no longer employed by the state.” The question is whether Cox has any free speech arguments in this incident. Assuming that he was commenting in his private time, he was discussing matters in a different state and did not associate his office with his remarks. Indeed, it appears that his initial comments were anonymous. The Attorney General stated that he was enforcing a policy of “civility and courtesy toward all members of the public.” The free speech implications had clearly been discussed by his office. The statement emphasized that “[w]e respect individuals’ First Amendment right to express their personal views on private online forums, but as public servants we are held by the public to a higher standard, and we should strive for civility.”

We have been discussing the line between public and private conduct in a myriad of cases (here is the latest). This case, in my view, raises some legitimate free speech issues, even though I find Cox’s remarks to be vile and unhinged. He made his comments in tweets and on a blog (that has now been shutdown) called Pro Cynic. His past comments included such advice on a “sensible policy” on Afghanistan as “KILL! KILL! ANNIHILATE!” According to the Mother Jones reporter, Cox corresponded on Tweets under the anonymous name JCCentCom — without using his real name or title.

Where Cox may have crossed the line is when he identified himself and then continued to make inflammatory comments. At that point, he may have associated his position with his remarks. He seemed fully aware of the implications of both his remarks and his association with those remarks, noting “you will probably try to demonize me, but that comes with the territory.”

What do you think?

Source: Daily Mail

Jonathan Turley

43 thoughts on “A Little Touch of Tripoli? Indiana Deputy Attorney General Calls For Use of Live Fire Against Protesters In Wisconsin”

  1. “trivialty” is a trivial mispeling of “triviality”?

    Missed Takes sometimes happen during the making of movies?

  2. RE: Buddha Is Laughing, February 24, 2011 at 10:04 am

    What mespo said.

    One cannot demonize a demon.


    The movie, “Dogma,” taught me otherwise…

    As I observe, it is of trivialty to demonize demons demonically.

  3. I think we need to make a distinction between consequences (not limiting) speech for employees of the government vs. the general public.

    The public is and should be highly protected.

    Employees? They have a different relationship with the government than the general public since they’re both citizens and employees. You can terminate one relationship (employee) without affecting the other (citizen). I think there does need to be a high level of protection for government employees but I don’t think it has to be absolute.

    On the broader question of whether employers can look at what employees do on their own time, with their own resources, etc., I agree that there’s been some disturbing events. Employers simply shouldn’t care about most activities.

    This isn’t absolute though – as other people pointed out there’s also the question of overall judgment, maturity, etc. As an extreme case that I think we can all agree with I think an employer would definitely have an interest if an employee is convicted with a felony or serious misdemeanor. On the other extreme I can few reasons why an employer would care about an employee’s support of a political candidate or cause unless it’s something so extreme that it would give most people pause, e.g., supporting someone for office who’s very vocal about his membership in the KKK.

    In other words, as always, it’s a balancing act.

  4. I agree with many of the opinions here – While Mr. Cox is certainly free to voice his utter disdain for those whose political leanings differ from his, his position as an ADA for the State of Indiana requires a sense of decorum, fairness and impartiality, none of which he appears to possess.

  5. Anybody seen Joe Biden lately? He was suppose to be some kind of expert on foreign policy. During the campaign it was said that ol Joe was “a choice that strengthens the Democratic ticket’s credentials on foreign policy… best known for his expertise on foreign affairs” – NY Times

    We have Americans being killed by pirates and the mid-east in turmoil. If Obama’a schedule was so tight and couldn’t comment on Tripoli for days why didn’t the guy with all the expertise on foreign affairs take the lead.

  6. RE: rcampbell, February 24, 2011 at 8:44 am

    News just in: The Wisconin Dems are folding!!! I’m so disgusted and discouraged. I think it’s time to find a new country—perhaps Argentina. I will not live in the teabaggers’ version of America.


    I understand that the Wisconsin Assembly Democrats have decided to allow the legislation to go forward in the Assembly, the better to use amendments to draw public attention to the underlying salient concerns.

    I also understand that the Wisconsin Senate Democrats are not “folding,” though my information regarding that is yet scanty at best.

    Wisconsin Assembly [NOT EQUALS} Wisconsin Senate?

    Right now, I am awefully glad that Wisconsin has a bicameral legislature! And I hope my aweful gladness will persist long enough for decency to come fully awake.

    I is joining the Cook County Retiree’s AFSCME chapter as fast as I am so able.

    Union Solidarity Forever!
    My life is speaking for itself.

  7. Problem Solved

    Canada, U.S. agree to use each other’s troops in civil emergencies.

    The U.S. military’s Northern Command, however, publicized the agreement with a statement outlining how its top officer, Gen. Gene Renuart, and Canadian Lt.-Gen. Marc Dumais, head of Canada Command, signed the plan, which allows the military from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a civil emergency.


    The Northern command have highly trained units in the use of latest non-lethal weaponry. Irag was used as the proving ground.
    Obviously seeing the turmoil in the middle east, tear gas and batons are useless which is why Gahdaffi ordered live fire.

    Ya’ll get goin now, Get out before they find you.
    Boy’s, AVENGE ME, AVENGE ME !!!!!!!

  8. One site I read said that a lot of statements that he had on his own blog were similar in nature to the Nazi’s….. Coincidence….I am sure….. An Apt result for an Apt Pupil…

    Oh yeah….I heard that before…..sicking …

    Apt Pupil (film)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to: navigation, search
    Apt Pupil
    An old man in a Nazi uniform stands behind a teenage boy wearing a graduation cap.
    Theatrical release poster
    Directed by Bryan Singer
    Produced by Bryan Singer
    Don Murphy
    Jane Hamsher
    Screenplay by Brandon Boyce
    Based on Apt Pupil by Stephen King
    Starring Ian McKellen
    Brad Renfro
    Music by John Ottman
    Cinematography Newton Thomas Sigel
    Editing by John Ottman
    Studio Phoenix Pictures
    Distributed by TriStar Pictures
    Release date(s) October 23, 1998 (1998-10-23)
    Running time 111 minutes
    Country United States
    Language English
    Budget $14 million
    Gross revenue $8,863,193

    Apt Pupil is a 1998 American psychological thriller film based on the novella of the same name by Stephen King. The film was directed by Bryan Singer and stars Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro. In the 1980s in southern California, high school student Todd Bowden (Renfro) discovers fugitive Nazi war criminal Kurt Dussander (McKellen) living in his neighborhood under the pseudonym Arthur Denker. Bowden, obsessed with Nazism and acts of the Holocaust, persuades Dussander to share his stories, and their relationship stirs malice in each of them.


  9. mespo,

    I agree. I also felt similarly about Natalie Munroe, the teacher who wrote vile and vulgar things about her students. IMO, her actions and her disrespect for her students showed that she was unfit to be a teacher.

  10. I don’t even see this as a first amendment issue. Especially, given his position he should never have incited the use of deadly force, whether on his own dime or not. Unfit for office.

  11. News just in: The Wisconin Dems are folding!!! I’m so disgusted and discouraged. I think it’s time to find a new country—perhaps Argentina. I will not live in the teabaggers’ version of America.

  12. To me, the relevant inquiry is whether or not Mr. Cox has the requisite judgment to represent the interests of his client. Given his “vile” statements and the abundant proof of the conscious deliberation of their import both before and after their publication, I am reasonably certain that he does not. In saner times, his law license would be in question as we once believed that the profession charged with representing the causes of the public and honoring the highest ideals of reason and civility while doing so required persons of sterling character. Like so much in the modern times, that time-honored notion seems on the decline.

  13. “What do you think?”

    “Not only do I not know what’s going on, I wouldn’t know what to do about it if I did.
    George Carlin”

  14. I think you have it about right. He was tasteless, crude and stupid on his own dime but the first amendment does seem to allow that. As soon as he associated his stupid vulgarity with his office, particularly since his office involves legal work, prosecution and State law he moved into unprotected speech. It could easily have been interpreted as sanctioning killing by the State.

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