GOP Senate Streisands Elizabeth Warren And Coretta King In Attempt To Silence Her

from the oops dept

We've covered all kinds of stories about the Streisand Effect here at Techdirt, for the obvious reason that our overlord originally coined the term. From individuals to professional sports leagues to celebrities, there is something of a pantheon in these pages of those that attempt to silence speech or coverage they don't like which instead results in much wider coverage of that speech or coverage. But I can't seem to find an instance where we've had the opportunity to ding an entire wing of a congressional body for failing to understand how all of this works before.

And so it is with great pride that I am able to bring you the story of how the Senate silenced Elizabeth Warren as she read a letter authored by Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow during the debate over confirming fellow Senator Jeff Sessions as Trump's Attorney General.

The rebuke of Warren came after the Massachusetts Democrat read a letter written 30 years ago by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship. Warren cited the letter during a debate on the nomination of Sessions -- now an Alabama senator -- as Donald Trump's attorney general. Reading from King's letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986, Warren said: "Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge."

Republicans cried foul -- charging that Warren violated Senate rules against impugning another senator. A vote along party lines upheld that decision, turning what could have been an ordinary late-night partisan floor speech for political devotees into a national story.

We'll get to that last bit in just a moment, but let's not fail to point out how silly the application of this rule is and what it means for the prospect of sitting Senators filling cabinet positions. If Senate rules prohibit another Senator form impugning a cabinet appointee during the debate over that appointee's cabinet nomination, what would be the point of the debate? And keep in mind that Warren was not going on some self-authored tirade. She was reading a letter from the widow of the single most recognized civil rights leader, which was sent to Congress in the past -- though Senator Strom Thurmond refused to put it into the Congressional record. That letter still had a hand in defeating a previous nomination of Sessions to judgeship. In February, which is Black History Month. This is banal as it gets.

Separately, Senators complained about Warren quoting former Senator Ted Kennedy on his opposition to Sessions back in 1986. So, apparently the rule is that even if you're quoting former Senators and people closely associated with the civil rights movement, you can't say anything that might upset a sitting Senator, even if it was discussed previously in the Senate and now as part of the debate over his own nomination to be Attorney General.

Of course, by invoking this rarely used Senate rule, one which has previously been ignored, Senator Warren and King's letter is splashing headlines all over the place. On top of that, Warren and others rushed to social media circles to make sure the letter was heard by everyone who would listen. Which, given the way all of this is trending on social media, was a great many people.

Warren went straight from the Senate floor to a call-in appearance on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show, a favorite of progressives. "I've been red-carded on Sen. Sessions. I'm out of the game of the Senate floor," she told Maddow.

She also read King's letter outside the Senate floor in a Facebook live video.

That Facebook live video now has over 7.5 million views. That seems like approximately 7.5 million more people than would have watched Warren's hour-long speech on C-SPAN.

We can leave politics aside completely and still shake our heads at how badly this attempt to silence Warren and the reading of the letter has gone for those that attempted the silencing. This is pure Streisand Effect at work, and it's being supercharged by those that raised the objection to the letter's reading, who don't seem to understand how easily this situation and their own words will be used against them.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended evoking Rule 19, a rarely evoked chamber regulation that prohibits senators from impugning each other.

"She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted," the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor, delivering an instantly classic line -- the kind liberals imagine being replayed ad nauseum in TV ads in a future presidential campaign.

Again, this isn't about political teams. If you're in favor of Sessions, if you're a Republican, if you're a Trump voter, you should still be able to understand how bungled this whole thing was. Had there been no attempt to silence Warren, coverage of the letter being read likely would have registered as a curiosity at most. Instead, this thing is everywhere. Including below.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 10:41am

    It's sad neither side seems to value free speech these days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 10:48am

      Re:

      Don't be silly; they value it plenty... for themselves at least!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:35am

        Re: Re:

        When McConnell's line is played and re-played next election season, Republicans will scream how unfair it is to use their own words against them.

        Assuming there is a next election.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:50am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Republicans are completely blind and deaf to irony or hypocrisy within their party. Democrats aren't doing anything that Republicans haven't been doing the last 8 years, and yet they're pointing fingers at the Democrats.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 12:05pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            For a politicians, everything they and their allies do or propose is good, and everything that their opponents and their allies do or propose is bad, even when the actions and proposals are the same.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Thad, 8 Feb 2017 @ 3:27pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            No, both sides understand perfectly, and are relishing a chance for payback. They know what game they're playing, and they understand the rules, because they wrote them.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 1:33pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Their likely answer? "Meh". So many politicians (especially Republicans) are gerrymandered into districts where they are guaranteed to win and very likely will do so completely unopposed.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 10:57am

      Re:

      It's sort of endlessly amusing how far the current Republican elites go on about being silenced....when they are the ones who have consistently and openly silenced others for the past nine years.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris ODonnell (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 10:47am

    "She Persisted"

    And thus turtle faced KY Senator Mitch McConnell did hand Elizabeth Warren the greatest campaign slogan for her 2020 run for President.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:51am

      Re:

      I really hope she does run in 2020.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 3:38pm

      Re:

      This wack job doesn't have a chance running for President.

      In one of the most bizarre, dragged-out lies of any politician, Warren checked the “Native American” box on her applications to University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, seemingly to receive a leg up. (She received both jobs, by the way.) There has been no proof to substantiate Warren’s claim that she is “part Delaware” and “part Cherokee.”

      But it gets better: The woman, clearly reveling in delusion, contributed to a cookbook called “Pow Wow Chow” and signed it “Elizabeth Warren—Cherokee”

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        FamilyManFirst (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 4:15pm

        Re: Re:

        Nice try. However, next time go digging for the truth before spouting out right-wing lies (pardon me, "alternative facts").

        The facts are that she didn't check any "Native American" box on any application to a University or for a job. See the Boston Globe and The Atlantic. She did indentify herself as "Native American" in a commonly-used legal directory, but that's it. She neither sought nor received a "leg up" for that.

        As far as the cookbook she did, indeed, contribute to that, and identify herself as Cherokee.

        Based on her public statements she does, in fact, believe that she has Cherokee heritage, based on family anecdotes. Whether those anecdotes are 100% accurate is debatable. What's not debatable is that there's no harm in her belief, since she has never made any attempt to trade on any such heritage.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 8 Feb 2017 @ 4:55pm

        Re: Re:

        This wack job doesn't have a chance running for President.

        You do realize that's what people said about Trump, right?

        In one of the most bizarre, dragged-out lies of any politician, Warren checked the “Native American” box on her applications to University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, seemingly to receive a leg up. (She received both jobs, by the way.) There has been no proof to substantiate Warren’s claim that she is “part Delaware” and “part Cherokee.”

        Yeah, you're right. That's way worse than anything Trump has ever done.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 7:27pm

        Re: Re:

        You should seek immediate treatment for that huge Indian burn you just received.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Cowardly Lion, 9 Feb 2017 @ 8:42am

        Fake

        I'm calling bullshit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SpaceLifeForm, 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:12am

    US Senate - the new SNL

    Available at anytime.
    Zero rating.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lars626 (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:15am

    She was warned and she persisted

    "She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,"

    Petty, vindictive, and foolish.
    McConnell has been around long enough to have some political savvy. This is a rookie's mistake. Or is the senile dementia setting?

    She was warned and she persisted. How could he think she would do Anything else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:18am

      Re: She was warned and she persisted

      Yeah - how dare anyone protest the silly assed bullshit.
      Must a traitor or something as disobedience is sooo un american.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 12:40pm

      Re: She was warned and she persisted

      "She was warned and she persisted. How could he think she would do Anything else."

      Maybe it just didn't occur to him that a woman might not obey him simply because he's a man?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nerd bert (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 8:38am

      Re: She was warned and she persisted

      > McConnell has been around long enough to have some political savvy. This is a rookie's mistake.

      Maybe, maybe not. Wikileaks showed that the DNC did all it could to get Trump the GOP nomination figuring that nobody would vote for such a buffoon as part of their "deep strategy." McConnell is viewed by both sides as very politically savvy, so he may well be trying to make someone who is under 50% reelection preference in MA the national face of the Democrats in a similar strategy. As HRC found out, choosing what you think is your weakest opponent isn't always a winning strategy.

      But it should be noted that quoting King was not her downfall as others have done that in Sessions' hearings. Her reason for this rebuke was that she said she shared the same views about Sessions, which was what crossed the line. The whole rule is there after fistfights broke out in previous sessions over these kinds of insults.

      You get a bunch of power hungry narcissists together and what do think is going to happen? Expecting politicians to behave themselves is worse than herding cats.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:27am

    1994 - The first piece of spam appears in USENET newsgroups. After much uproar, it is quickly removed and an apology is issued. "Well, that should be the last of THAT", say users.

    2017 - The GOP use their new Senate majority to silence Elizabeth Warren on civil rights. "Well, that should be the last of THAT", say Republicans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sorrykb (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:45am

      Re:

      MAKE MONEY FAST

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 2:02am

      Re:

      She was not silenced , she was told to take her bs elsewhere.
      This is what happens when you don't follow the rules.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 10 Feb 2017 @ 5:37am

        Re: Re:

        When only one forum (or set of forums) matters, preventing you from speaking there is effectively the same as preventing you from speaking at all. Thus, the term "silenced" is entirely appropriate.

        In most cases, you have the option to seek or create alternative forums, and make those other forums matter - so "silenced" would not be an appropriate term in those cases. In this case, however, the only forum that matters is the Senate itself, because of its exclusive role in the decision at hand; there is only one forum where the decision will be made, and there is no realistic possibility of transferring that decision elsewhere.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:30am

    Now we just need them to try to suppress the Torture Report, so that everyone can finally know what's in it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:58am

    TehcDirt needs to get away from politics. FFS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dave Cortright (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 12:10pm

    What was McConnell thinking?

    "McConnell has a well-earned reputation as one of the savviest political operators of the post-war era, so it’s hard to imagine he didn’t know how his move would play."

    I agree with this. But then again he is human, maybe he whiffed on this one completely. But seriously, now Warren is being compared with every single civil rights heroine out there. If he has some ulterior plan, it is certainly very subtle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 1:30pm

    Sons of the Soil

    "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended evoking Rule 19..."

    Hillbilly inbreeding seems to be taking over in later life, 'twould seem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 2:09am

    Of course it doesn't matter that Warren's video is trending on social media if everybody who views it was already anti-Trump...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 3:45am

    The thing is, I fully support the Elizabeth Warren ban that happened in the U.S. Senate. I find it hilarious that everyone is whining that Elizabeth Warren was banned for reading the letter but that isn't what happened. Warren was banned for repeating comments in the letter that impugned the character of the now sitting Senator Sessions.

    Elizabeth Warren knew the senate rules and she knew what she was doing was a violation of the rules. She was repeatedly warned to stop with the impugned comments as they were written in the letter.

    Democrats still can;t get over the fact that their party was effectively destroyed by President Obama and Hillary Clinton and I find it hilarious that they are now being subjected to the same partisan bullshit that they inflicted on the Republicans from 2009 through 2010.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 4:30am

      Re:

      Blah blah blah ....
      more meaningless drivel in a meager attempt at rationalizing a reprehensible act by someone who swore to not do that sort of shit.

      Also, your right/left bullshit does not carry the weight it used to, more and more people are waking up the fact that they have been had by most all politicians - sold up the river they were by those entrusted to protect them for that very shit. There is no one else to blame and the politicians are getting nervous about all the pitchforks.

      Funny how huffy some get when their candidate is told to STFU ... and then cheer like a drunk football fan when the opponent is told to STFU. Apparently it does not matter if someone is attempting to make a point or they are simply trying to stop a point from being made. Our team won, you're a bunch of lozzzerz is the refrain regardless of the fact that we all lose when this happens. Get a brain morans!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 5:24am

      Re:

      I find it hilarious that everyone is whining that Elizabeth Warren was banned for reading the letter but that isn't what happened. Warren was banned for repeating comments in the letter that impugned the character of the now sitting Senator Sessions.

      Ah, of course, silly us, she wasn't banned for reading the letter, she was banned for reading what was in the letter.

      Huge difference, no idea how everyone missed it.

      As the article notes, if you're not allowed to say anything 'mean' about a senator, up to and including when debating their nomination for a position, why have the debate in the first place? If someone's history indicates that they aren't fit for a position that is absolutely relevant info, and shouldn't be allowed to be buried just because of a stupid rule.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 5:35am

        Re: Re:

        Is this a Congressional Right To Be Forgotten?

        They did not serve their time for their crime and yet we are all supposed to forget their transgressions? I say nfw.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 11:16am

      Re:

      *Warren was banned for repeating comments in the letter that impugned the character of the now sitting Senator Sessions.*
      If you're in favor of this result, will you also be in favor of banning Republicans (such as McDonell and Ryan) when they "impugn" the character of a Senator?
      Why were they not banned when they impugned the character of Obama, who as president, would have a higher status than a Senator?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 13 Feb 2017 @ 1:52pm

      Re:

      Warren was banned for repeating comments in the letter that impugned the character of the now sitting Senator Sessions.

      Yes, during his cabinet confirmation hearing.

      Are you seriously arguing that people should not be allowed to criticize the character of cabinet nominees in their confirmation hearings?

      Democrats still can;t get over the fact that their party was effectively destroyed by President Obama and Hillary Clinton and I find it hilarious that they are now being subjected to the same partisan bullshit that they inflicted on the Republicans from 2009 through 2010.

      As if there weren't partisan bullshit from the Republicans during those years too?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 5:12am

    What the hell are you talking about? I'm a Democrat. I'm just not a supporter of Warren because she has a big mouth and doesn't agree with anyone who doesn't follow her line of thinking.

    Elizabeth Warren violated the senate rules and she was, rightfully so, slapped down like a mad rabid dog.

    She knew better and she was treated like the upstart entitled bitch that she is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 5:42am

      Re:

      "she has a big mouth and doesn't agree with anyone who doesn't follow her line of thinking."

      I assume you have heard at least some of the things she talks about .... idk, based upon your comment - maybe not.
      Anyways, if you have - apparently you were not listening.

      Senate rules - lol. What a joke.
      Is it ok to throw a snowball at a member of congress .... on the Congressional floor ... during official congressional business?
      Is it ok to call the President a liar during the president's speech to a joint session of Congress?

      The bias is strong with this one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 9 Feb 2017 @ 6:05am

      Re:

      Bullshit. You're a fascist, not a democrat.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Lord_Unseen (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 7:12am

      Re:

      "and doesn't agree with anyone who doesn't follow her line of thinking"

      You are correct. As it turns out, that's pretty much how everyone operates. If you agree with something, it probably follows your line of thinking, yah?

      Just another troll. Nothing to see here, move along.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Cowardly Lion, 9 Feb 2017 @ 9:32am

        Re: Re:

        Ta, you've saved me the effort of posting exactly this...

        Not too much critical thought taking place with the AC above. And his "I'm a democrat but Warren is a big-mouthed mad rabid dog and an upstart entitled bitch" had me spewing coffee...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 13 Feb 2017 @ 1:53pm

      Re:

      doesn't agree with anyone who doesn't follow her line of thinking

      In other words, she doesn't agree with people she doesn't agree with?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AC, 9 Feb 2017 @ 9:28am

    Who knew?

    "Maybe it just didn't occur to him that a woman might not obey him simply because he's a man?"

    Wow, McConnell is Muslim?!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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