The Washington Times-Herald

Columns

December 21, 2013

Two stories put focus on First Amendment

(Continued)

The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of the press but with that freedom comes the immense responsibility of protecting the public interest and being the tellers for an informed democracy. The show 60 Minutes is one of those cornerstones of protecting the responsibility. The NSA piece, along with correspondent Lara Logan’s immense mistake while trying to find what really happened in Benghazi, Libya, has shown cracks.

But I believe in 60 Minutes. The show took a big hit in the 1990s when it made mistakes in the reporting of Jeff Wigand, the key witness in the case against big tobacco. The case and the errors were depicted in the film “The Insider.” Sixty Minutes bounced back from that lapse and I believe they will bounce back again.

The other First Amendment story worth noting came Wednesday with cable channel A&E suspended Phil Robertson, the patriarch of Duck Commander and the show “Duck Dynasty,” following comments he made about people who are gay and black to GQ Magazine.

Robertson backtracked on the comments later, but the network suspended him indefinitely. The suspension created a firestorm on social media, supporting his views and claiming violations of his First Amendment rights.

As Robertson himself likes to say on the show, “Nope.” The amendment is for government not to limit speech, not a private entity that Robertson does business with, like A&E. In fact, his rights were clearly used in the GQ piece as he espoused his view.

Robertson’s views are not the issue here with me. I watch the show and his views on some aspects of society, including gay rights, are pretty well known. As a reader of my columns will know, I don’t agree with his views, but the man has every right to say how he feels and he did exercise his First Amendment rights.

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