The First Amendment Versus Pat Buchanan?

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

I am the last person that should be defending Pat Buchanan and objecting to his recent termination as a political analyst for MSNBC.  However, after thinking about it for a while, I have come to the conclusion that Uncle Pat’s firing is an attack on Free Speech and a continuation of the Fox News type mentality on our cable news stations.  Let me first make it clear that most of what Buchanan says on the air is offensive and in some cases, outright disgusting.  However, if we cannot say what is on our mind without limits, do any of us really have the freedom to speak our minds? Mr. Buchanan is known for his outrageous statements and a recent Think Progress article outlined his top ten most outrageous comments.

I apologize in advance for the length of the quotes, but I believe it is important that everyone understand what he has said that may have caused his termination.  “Here is a look back at 10 of the most offensive and outrageous statements made by Pat Buchanan:

1. Wanted to close the borders to protect white dominance. As he wrote in his 2006 book State of Emergency: “If we do not get control of our borders, by 2050 Americans of European descent will be a minority in the nation their ancestors created and built.”

2. Blamed lower test scores on minorities. In his most recent book Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?, he blames minorities for dragging down the country’s test scores. “[T]he decline in academic test scores here at home and in international competition is likely to continue, as more and more of the children taking those tests will be African-American and Hispanic.

3. Claimed Jerry Sandusky’s atrocities are because of “Homosexual marriage.” Buchanan appeared on a right-wing radio show on November 15 to make some convoluted comparisons: “Let’s take this Penn State thing…these horrors, there’s an organization that marches in the gay pride parade in New York called—used to—called the North American Man Boy Love Association, which advocated voluntary sex along the lines of exactly what was going on at Penn State. Many of our political icons have marched in that parade right behind that NAMBLA float […] This is now, homosexual marriage is now the civil rights cause of the decade.”

4. Said the Jewish population in the United States dropped in the 90s because Jews aborted all their babies. Buchanan explains that the decline in the American Jewish population during the 1990s (a decline that a Brandeis study says never occurred), “is a result of the collective decision of Jews themselves. From Betty Friedan to Gloria Steinem in the 1970s to Ruth Bader Ginsburg today, Jewish women have led the battle for abortion rights. The community followed.”

5. Asserted Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people including 69 teens in Norway, “may have been right.” Buchanan called Breivik a coward, evil, and cold-blooded, and then proceeded to defend his twisted rationale for the killings: “As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right.”

6. Claimed that all great nations punish the gays. In a Human Events column, Buchanan attacked California’s 9th Circuit Judge Vaughn Walker after his ruling of Proposition 8 as unconstitutional as a “judicial tyrant,” before going on to explain that “through history, all the great religions have condemned homosexuality and all the great nations have proscribed or punished it. None ever placed homosexual liaisons on the same plane as traditional marriage, which is the bedrock institution of any healthy society.

7. Penned “The Affirmative Action Nobel.” That’s the title of Buchanan’s October 13, 2009 column on Townhall.com in which he claims that President Obama’s Nobel Prize was simply the result of affirmative action. And the column only got worse from there: “They have reinforced the impression that Obama is someone who is forever being given prizes — Ivy League scholarships, law review editorships, prime-time speaking slots at national conventions — he did not earn.”

8. Argued that Poland and the United Kingdom had it coming in World War II. Buchanan seems to suggest in a 2009 column that World War II—and all the atrocities that accompanied it—was really the fault of Poland and Britain, for refusing to engage in diplomacy with Germany. “Why did Warsaw not negotiate with Berlin, which was hinting at an offer of compensatory territory in Slovakia? Because the Poles had a war guarantee from Britain that, should Germany attack, Britainand her empire would come to Poland’s rescue.”

9. Dabbled in Holocaust denial. Pat Buchanan danced alarmingly close to denying key facts of the Holocaust. In a 1990 column for the New York Post, he defended convicted Nazi war criminal Ivan Demjanjuk (whom he later compared to Jesus Christ) against charges from Holocaust survivors that he was guilty of murder by accusing the survivors of misremembering all of it: “This so-called ‘Holocaust Survivor Syndrome’ involves ‘group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics.’ Reportedly, half of the 20,000 survivor testimonies in Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem are considered ‘unreliable,’ not to be used in trials[…]The problem is: Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody.”

10. Argued Hitler was an individual of “great courage.” That’s just one of the quotes that the Anti-Defamation League attributes to Buchanan in their compendium of offensive remarks from Buchanan over the years. In 1977, he qualified his labeling of Hitler as racist and anti-semitic by adding that “he was also an individual of great courage, a soldier’s soldier in the Great War, a leader steeped in the history of Europe, who possessed oratorical powers that could awe even those who despised him[…]His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.”  Think Progress

It is obvious to this author that Mr. Buchanan’s statements are indeed outrageous and in most cases, not supported by facts.  However, if MSNBC does not want to become the Fox News of the Left, shouldn’t all voices be heard?  If we do not allow people to speak because we do not like what they say, how will the country ever debate the important issues that confront us?

Let me make it clear that MSNBC has the right to hire and fire whomever they want and Mr. Buchanan has the right to look for work at any news outlet or cable station, subject to whatever contractual obligations the parties have agreed to as well as any applicable state or Federal employee laws.   However, is MSNBC a better cable news station because of the termination of Mr. Buchanan?  I submit that they are less of a true news organization because of the firing.

What should MSNBC have done to serve the public interest and protect the free discussion of all ideas?  Couldn’t they provide their own on-air fact checker whose job is to report on the alleged facts any speaker has just submitted to the viewers?  Wouldn’t that provide the public with the free flow of information and allow the viewer to hear whose ideas they like and support after receiving both sides of an issue and the real facts surrounding those ideas?

Justice William O. Douglas said it best in the Terminiello v. Chicago decision, “Accordingly, a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, supra, pp. 315 U. S. 571-572, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest.”  Justia

What do you think MSNBC should have done about Pat Buchanan’s statements and writings?  How can any news organization protect the free flow of information to the public while at the same time providing factual information on those subjects?  Let’s hear your thoughts.

69 thoughts on “The First Amendment Versus Pat Buchanan?

  1. Rafflaw, I watch ‘morning joe’ on MSNBC which does often have both sides represented. Yes MSNBC is liberal, no question there, but even when you have both sides represented I prefer when both sides are represented by those with legitimate point of views, not ones colored by hate. I am happy to hear a repub and a dem spar, a leftie and a rightie, etc but it needs to be a fair playing ground. When one is playing with a deck that is not factual then the debate is neither one of equals nor educative.

  2. I don’t miss Buchanan, but I am beginning to tire of MSNBC. I really don’t need a constant yammer from the left to reinforce my own liberal politics. I actually like to be challenged by hearing a conservative point of view from a conservative who isn’t nuts (someone like, say, George F. Will). That’s one reason my favorite on MSNBC is Rachel Maddow, who often brings on Republicans or conservatives and manages to spar with them without rancor and yelling. I often wish the Republican Party would go the way of the Whigs, so that an intellectually honest conservative party might rise in its place. As things stand at present, we have one party that’s tepidly liberal and another that’s gone right-wing crazy.

  3. Bruce in Jersey,

    I also stopped watching MSNBC for the same reasons but do continue to view Rachel Maddow. PBS’ NewsHour does a fairly good job of presenting some sane and informative debate.

  4. I thought the First Amendment was written to restrain the Federal Government from infringing free-speech, particularly political speech.

    I don’t see how it prevents a private entity from doing it. I do think it leads to a FOX News type mentality though.

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