No, Jeffrey Lord, CNN Did Not ‘Cave on the First Amendment’

Jeffrey Lord, a shifty provocateur hired by CNN to shill for Donald Trump on all matters foreign and domestic, was fired recently for tweeting a well-known Nazi greeting in the course of an ideological dust-up involving Media Matters. CNN’s brass, finding Lord’s behavior “indefensible” (though any destruction he wrought by normalizing our very own authoritarian boob was seemingly fine by them), kicked their resident Trump apologist to the curb.

Lord professed his affection for his former colleagues still employed by CNN, but lobbed some piffle on his way out, per the Associate Press:

He called himself a “First Amendment fundamentalist” and called CNN’s decision disappointing. “From my perspective CNN caved on the First Amendment of all things. I disagree. I respectfully disagree.”

389754727_61515f4254_bFor a “First Amendment fundamentalist,” Lord sure has mangled some of the fundamentals of the First Amendment. To wit, it is part of the United States Constitution, which addresses itself not to private parties, but to state (governmental) actors. In point of fact, here is what the First Amendment says (pay close attention to the first five words):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment has this state-actor thing in common with almost all the rest of the Constitution. Article I tells Congress what it’s allowed to do; Article II tells the president what he or she is allowed to do; Article III tells federal courts what they’re allowed to do; Articles IV through VII instruct the federal and state governments on matters like federalism, interstate relations, amending the Constitution, and ratification; the Bill of Rights expressly restrains or prescribes certain conduct by the federal government (although courts have applied most of it to state governments, too); the Fourteenth Amendment expressly restrains or prescribes certain conduct by state governments (although courts have applied much if it to the federal government, too); and on and on. You get the idea.

constitutionThe only part of the Constitution that governs private rather than strictly governmental activity is the Thirteenth Amendment, which says that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude “shall exist in the United States.” There’s no Congress shall not or No state shall language there, so any person or entity, public or private, could theoretically violate this amendment.

As to CNN, there seems no allegation by Lord of anything relating to involuntary servitude, so this “First Amendment fundamentalist” should probably have known that CNN, a decidedly private entity, is not capable of caving on the First Amendment, because the First Amendment does not apply to CNN.

IN fact, CNN has an obligation to control the speech on its air or by its employees because it is largely responsible for, let alone associated with, that speech — both as to its legality and as to standards of decent journalism. So CNN should have rid itself of the scourge of Jeffrey Lord many months ago, and doing so would have offended the Fist Amendment not one little bit; quite the contrary.

-bb