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 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:

    You can still see and hear him on the Sunday morning McLaughlin Report. He is a regular there.

  2. Carol,
    I understand that he may have other venues, but MSNBC’s discussions are more sanitized due to his perspective not being there. I don’t like what he has to say and I think he is a racist, but all news stations need to have both sides represented with challenges on the facts alleged. Otherwise we will have nothing but Fox New on every channel.
    I think having a racist like Buchanan spew his nonsense on TV is good because more people can see what an ass he is and how dangerous and disgusting some of his ideas are.

  3. Rafflaw, but he’s not been silenced. CBS this morning gave him a nice platform this morning, to spew his ideas and his peddle his book. His voice as been far from silenced.

  4. Carol,
    while the employer may have had a valid reason to terminate Pat or to let his contract expire, is our political discourse worsened by silencing the alleged nutjobs?

  5. I agree with all who have said ths is not a 1st amendment issue. If he had been muzzled as he spewed his hate on a street corner that would be clear infringement of his right to free speech.
    As for keeping him and having a fact checker respond there would be no time for anything else but the correction of his ‘facts’.

  6. This has NOTHING to do with the First Amendment.

    Pat Buchanan has a First Amendment right to say whatever he wants to, within the law, but the Constitutional does NOT require anyone to pay him for saying what he wants to say.

  7. quercus454:

    I think Matthews should have ended with this:

    “Loyalty is the heart of Pat`s being. He is loyal to country, to church, to neighborhood to heritage. To Pat, the world can never be better than the one he grew up in as a young boy — Blessed Sacrament Church and Grade School, Gonzaga High School, Georgetown University. No country will ever be better than the United States of America of the early 1950s.

    It`s his deep loyalty to preserving that reality and all its cultural and ethnic aspects that has been his primal purpose and is what has gotten him into trouble. Not just now but over the years.”

  8. Who does the headlines?

    Without a government actor, there is no violation of the 1st amendment.

    As for suppression of “free” speech by private actors — nobody kept Pat from saying all that dim-witted stuff. But actions have consequences.

  9. eniobob

    Exactly! PB has been saying the exact same stuff for years. The suppression of free speech by any group or political ideology is wrong and should never be condoned. It seems the left for all their talk about first amendment rights are the first to stomp on those of dissenting opinion. Both sides, perhaps the left more so use this tactic. If they can’t address the opinions or view points in a rational discussion, they go after the messenger. We have now seen both PB and Beck let go for nothing more then not having PC viewpoints.

    If PB and Beck’s viewpoints are so fringe and distorted wouldn’t it have been wiser to let the public make that determination on their own? I see this as a move to consolidate the media’s oped message into a pasty one color effort. The thought being that the ideas presented to the dumbed down public must be politically correct, not offend anyone and certainly must not make people think for themselves.

  10. In a nutshell IMHO:

    “MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican National Convention and he`s never changed. It`s Pat Buchanan yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

  11. I have never seen how this is a first amendment issue. No where in the first amendment do I see anything taking about an enterprise outside of the congress ( and governments as has been decided in further court cases) since when has MSNBC become our congress or an arm of any branch of government.

  12. I have always hated Pat B. for his ignorant comments that make the right look idiotic at best. Also Lotta, while it is true that the majority of talk radio is right leaning, as well as some TV, virtually all print media and the major news channels are unrepentant leftists who have no balance whatsoever. Does that make them better or worse than their right wing counterparts? Shouldn’t the self-proclaimed defenders of free speech practice what they preach?

  13. “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.”

    Is not every minute not wasted on the hateful and crazy another minute to devote to actual news? How could that not be better?

    And why should MSNBC be chastised for not providing balance? The majority of radio and several television channels provide a conservative platform exclusively, why should a TV network that is left leaning in its commentary in prime-time be expected to provide any more balance than FOX does? MSNBC does have Scarborough in the morning as I recall, he and the not so swift Mika, spout enough venomous stupidity to fulfill the alleged need for balance for the rest of the day IMO.

  14. Buchanan does not lack for outlets. Firing him for being loudmouthed bigot probably will open more opportunities elsewhere. I suspect that he’ll still show up on MSNBC as a guest on Scarborough and other shows.His views are well represented on cable even outside of Fox (e.g., Erick Erickson on CNN). There’s no real first amendment issue here.

  15. Heather,

    Sorry to hear that you are disheartened because some of us have used the word “reasonable” in this dscussion. Speaking for myself, I believe that people like Buchanan are not always using “sound thinking” when they spew their opinions on air. I believe that some of Buchnan’s opinions are not based on reason–but on his own personal prejudices.

  16. Not to pile on but as I remember the good ole 1950’s they were GREAT “if” you happened to be White, Straight, and Christian for many of the rest of us NOT SO MUCH.

  17. It is disheartening to see several responses here positing REASONABLE as having to do with free and useful debate. I don’t want to listen to Pat Buchanan anytime and not because he is unreasonable. Aristotle invented the use of logic to extend facts when arguing. Start with facts? Too much to ask? We are letting corporate media brainwash us and “reasonable” becomes mostly whatever we hear said without furious backlash. It is often the backlash that exposes how narrow our ability to listen to a different view is.

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