The First Amendment may protect us from prosecution stemming from our speech, but it does not provide a blank check against termination of employment from the statements we make.
If you consider yourself privy to anything in American politics and the networks that cover it, you must be familiar with Glenn Beck’s conservative network The Blaze. More importantly you must be familiar with who was formerly the network’s most popular anchor, Tomi Lahren. In March, Ms. Lahren appeared on the talk show “The View.” The show features a bank of unabashedly liberal hosts.Ms. Lahren bravely appeared on the show in March, and as expected, she pushed back against “The View’s” panel until the subject of abortion was mentioned. Surprising to many conservatives, Ms. Lahren stated she is a pro-choice conservative. Almost immediately, Ms. Lahren was fired from The Blaze in response to these statements. She later filed, and settled a lawsuit against Beck and The Blaze.
On Tuesday May 30th, comedian Kathy Griffin appeared in an ISIS-esque photo grasping a faux severed, bloody head of President Donald Trump. She was deservedly subjected to an unrelenting barrage of flak from both political parties and those subscribing to all political theories and ideologies. Also following the release of this picture CNN announced it was terminating its agreement with Ms. Griffin to appear on the network’s New Year’s Eve program as she had done for over ten years. Ms. Griffin’s advertisement contract with “Squatty Potty” was terminated, making her career situation following her stunt all the more unpleasant.
What is the common denominator between both of these stories? Although the First Amendment may be a barrier from prosecution for hateful speech, it is hardly a protection against termination of employment. National Review published an enlightening piece on the same subject.
What Ms. Griffin did was deplorable, and it highlights where true intolerance lies, on the left. However, her actions are protected by the First Amendment. On Friday, Ms. Griffin claimed in a press conference “…I’m going to be honest: [President Trump] broke me.” The crying continued in an attack against the First Family: “A sitting president of the United States and his grown children and the first lady are personally, I feel, personally trying to ruin my life forever. Forever. You guys know him – he is never going to stop.”
The latter statement is the most infuriating aspect of this entire story. As a rash comedian, whose entire career is justified by the First Amendment, she has no right to attack Melania, Eric, and Donald Jr. for simply expressing their disdain for a picture of their decapitated husband or father. Is the first family exempt from their rights to express themselves freely?
Unfortunately, this is the world the Left desires to create, a world in which freedom of expression applies only to those on the Left and not those who challenge their hateful words, much less a family coming to the defense of one of their own.
As for the President himself, widely known for his often reckless Twitter habits, he has tweeted about this incident a mere one time. Once. I believe this week’s events show a newfound restraint on behalf of the President.
Many have came to the defense of Ms. Griffin and mounted a counter attack against President Trump. They claim that Kathy Griffin’s stunt was no worse than Mr. Trump’s 2005 remarks caught on tape during an episode of Access Hollywood. Of course, Mr. Trump’s words then were vulgar; however, they were neither ISIS-esque nor intended for a public audience. It is not analogous to use Mr. Trump’s comments on this recording as a counter to his just criticism of Ms. Griffin.
The only person responsible for “breaking” Kathy Griffin’s career is Kathy Griffin. Just as the only one responsible for Tomi Lahren’s firing is Tomi Lahren. Although free speech is protected by the Constitution, reckless words or stunts have the power to damage reputations and careers. The First Amendment may save your criminal record, but it cannot save your career.
Mark Hinds is a student at Clemson University.