CNN host Don Lemon showed his ignorance about the Constitution on national television this last week. He said it loud and he said it proud. The discussion was about the right to protest, specifically about an angry mob running Ted Cruz and his wife out of a D.C. restaurant. Lemon told his guest to “shut up” so he could pontificate about free speech:
Whenever and wherever you want. Don Lemon is flat-out wrong, as a matter of constitutional law. Free speech is not an absolute right. There are a number of well-established exceptions to the First Amendment right to free speech. You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater (or in a crowded TV studio, for that matter). You can’t tell the enemy when our troop ships are set to leave. You don’t get to utter fighting words with impunity. You don’t have the right to tell falsehoods and ruin someone’s reputation – that’s called slander. You don’t have the right to lie under oath – that’s perjury and it’s a felony. You don’t have the right to incite violence or imminent lawless action. You don’t get to break windows at GOP offices as part of your right to protest – that’s a crime.
And you certainly don’t have the right to protest “whenever and wherever you want.” There are time, place and manner restraints that limit your right to protest. Every Tea Partier knows you have to obtain a permit to have a big demonstration on the National Mall. Every Tea Partier knows there are local ordinances that limit your right to protest. In my area, groups larger than 25 people have to get a permit to demonstrate. Smaller groups can’t block public sidewalks, you have to keep moving. You can’t protest on private property, like shopping malls or grocery store parking lots. Or in a restaurant, if the owner won’t allow it. The D.C. subway has rules, too. You can’t demonstrate inside stations, it’s too dangerous. You can’t block the entrance; you have to stay 15 feet away from it.
But Don Lemon has announced a principle: the absolute right to protest wherever and whenever you want. Let’s have a little fun with that, shall we?
I get to protest anywhere and whenever I want, right? I guess that means Don Lemon’s living room at 2 o’clock in the morning. Or a Democratic Socialists of America chapter meeting, or a Sunday service at an A.M.E church when people are trying to pray. Not just one Sunday, but every Sunday.
Now let’s talk about his own show. Don Lemon has a history of shutting off his guests’ microphones when he doesn’t like what they have to say. He did it to radio host John Fredericks and he did it to former Trump aide Jason Miller. In Miller’s case, Lemon specifically told him that being on CNN is a privilege, not a right. Apparently, consistency is not a requirement for being a CNN host. And they weren’t the only ones Don Lemon has silenced. He should be checked for Nazi tendencies.
But he announced a principle that I have an absolute right to protest wherever and whenever I please. I have half a mind to march into CNN’s studios, storm on to Don Lemon’s set with a few hundred of my closest friends and protest his history of antipathy towards free expression. Cut people off, how dare you.
Shame on Don Lemon for supporting mobs. Shame on him for invoking the Constitution when he clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And shame on him also for thinking people only have a right to speak when it’s something he agrees with.
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