FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr Not Interested In Baltimore Prosecutor's Request To Have The FCC Investigate Her Critics
from the FCC-isn't-here-to-help-you-curtail-other-people's-rights dept
Earlier this month, Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby decided to do something she definitely shouldn’t have. Mosby may claim to be part of the “progressive prosecutor” movement, but her decision to ask the federal government to investigate a prominent critic of hers is pretty goddamn regressive.
Mosby doesn’t care for the allegedly slanted coverage she’s receiving from WBFF, a local Fox affiliate. Rather than accept the fact that criticism — even when it’s made in bad faith — is part of the public service job, she decided to ask the FCC to open an investigation into the station. She attempted to justify this by quoting the FCC’s own words back at it, noting that FCC rules say “intentionally distorting the news” is forbidden.
Distortion in newscasting has been a thing for years and it takes far more than the pretty innocuous examples provided by Mosby to get the FCC to start trifling with the First Amendment. Most of the anti-Mosby stuff seemed to be the usual anti-whatever stuff that happens when news stations call in commentators to add a bit more opinion to the news. Mosby also complained she was receiving too much coverage, citing WBFF’s 248 stories about her in 2020 — far more than she observed at any competing news outlet.
Mosby claimed she had all the respect in the world for the First Amendment. But apparently WBFF had too much free speech at its disposal and that’s why the FCC needed to step in.
One FCC commissioner has responded [PDF] so far. And it’s Brendan Carr, the FCC’s hackiest partisan. Taking a break from his usual business of assailing social media companies for dumping his favorite people from their platforms while vaguely threatening to do “something” about Section 230 immunity, Carr manages to make some good points despite himself. It probably helps that his target — Marilyn Mosby — is on the other side of the political fence. (h/t Volokh Conspiracy)
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr issued the following statement in response:
“The State’s Attorney’s Office, led by Democrat Marilyn Mosby, has launched a chilling and direct attack on free speech and journalistic freedom. The complaint her office filed with the FCC asks the Commission to censor a newsroom simply because journalists are doing their constitutionally protected jobs and shining a light on the work of the State’s Attorney. Invoking the power of the state to silence journalists for unfavorable coverage strikes at the very heart of the First Amendment.
“It is particularly troubling that a public official would work to silence reporters that are investigating her work at a time when federal prosecutors have already opened a criminal investigation into her activities.
“Indeed, the day after the State’s Attorney’s Office filed its complaint with the FCC, the targeted newsroom was awarded four prestigious Regional Edward R. Murrow awards for journalism excellence, including for one of its stories covering the work of the State’s Attorney’s Office.
Ouch. Carr then flips Mosby’s words around to go after her, saying the only “troubling, abhorrent and downright dangerous” behavior he sees here is Mosby’s attempt to silence her critics by siccing the FCC on them.
Then it goes a bit off the rails, with Carr turning this into a partisan thing rather than a “don’t ask the FCC to fuck with the First Amendment” thing.
This complaint is part of a recent and troubling surge in efforts by Democrat officials to pressure the FCC and its regulated entities into censoring news coverage and political speech that Democrats don’t like. The FCC should make clear that it will not operate as the DNC’s speech police. That is why the FCC must dismiss this complaint with prejudice by the end of today.
That’s pretty rich, considering this statement was released the same day it came to light the Trump/Barr DOJ sent a grand jury subpoena to Twitter demanding personal information about a user currently being sued for hurting GOP Congressman Devin Nunes’ feelings. Abuse of federal powers is pretty bipartisan. But the most recent administration will be remembered forever for its four years of antipathy towards journalists and critics of Donald Trump.
The other commissioners will have to weigh in before this is final, but I don’t like Mosby’s odds. No matter which side of the political spectrum the other commissioners sit on, there’s nothing in Mosby’s complaint that justifies opening an investigation that has the potential to wreak havoc on free speech protections.