Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Local anchors at Oregon television station refuse to read Sinclair Broadcast script – April 4, 2018

Eugene, OR

Local anchors at KVAL-TV in Eugene, Oregon, refused to read from a script complaining about “biased and false news” on social media, circulated by telecommunications conglomerate and KVAL owner Sinclair Broadcast Group. Their protest came four days after Deadspin distributed a video showing anchors at multiple news stations reciting the same script on the air, with only the name of the local station changed.

Key Players

Lauren Lapka and Cameron Walker are the morning news co-anchors at KVAL-TV in Eugene, home of the University of Oregon. Lapka was relatively new to the station at the time of the incident, having previously worked as a local news anchor in Missouri. She issued a statement regarding the incident, but Walker declined to comment. Two other anchors read the script after Lapka and Walker declined to do so..

Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) is an American telecommunications company that owns or operates the largest number of local television stations in the country. The group came under national scrutiny in April 2018 when a video of dozens of local news anchors, all reciting the same script, was circulated online. It was revealed that these anchors all worked for stations owned by SBG, and that SBG had written and circulated the script.

Further Details

SBG disseminated its script to local stations across the United States in early March 2018, directing them to use it to record promotional videos. Controversy broke out on March 31, 2018, when website Deadspin released a video of dozens of local news anchors in various cities reciting an identical script — the one provided by SBG. CNN had previously reported on March 7 that many local news anchors said they were uncomfortable reading the content of the script, but that many were unwilling to speak up publicly for fear of losing their jobs. The staffers who gave the script to CNN said it amounted to “yet another corporate infringement on local journalism.”

When asked for comment, an SBG spokesperson said that “promo messages…are very common in [the] industry.” The spokesperson went on to say that the “promo addresses the troubling trend of false stories on social media” and is meant to promote SBG-owned stations as news outlets that do not entertain “fake news” stories.

The full script, in the version used at SBG-owned KOMO in Seattle, first obtained by CNN and later published in full by Seattle PI, reads:

“Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…

(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.

(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.

(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

(B) At KOMO it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to KOMOnews.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.

(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.

(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback”

Along with the script, SBG sent instructions explaining that local stations would not directly receive the comments the script solicited. “Corporate will monitor the comments and send replies to your audience on your behalf,” the instructions read. They also gave directions on how anchors should dress when they record the promotional segments, reported CNN. “Talent should dress in jewel tones — however they should not look political in their dress or attire. Avoid total red, blue and purple dresses and suits. Avoid totally red, blue and purple ties, the goal is to look apolitical, neutral, nonpartisan yet professional. Black or charcoal suits for men…females should wear yellow, gold, magenta, cyan, but avoid red, blue or purple.”

Like many of the local news anchors affected, according to CNN, Lapka and Walker were uncomfortable with SBG’s script. Lapka said the two anchors had been told in early March — before the Deadspin video and subsequent controversy broke — that they would be recording a promotional video for KVAL-TV, but they were not shown the script until after CNN released it on March 7, 2018.

Lapka publicly commented that she had refused to read the script in part because she does not “believe in harming other journalists.” “If we are talking about trusting journalists,” she said, “my advice would be to get to know your local journalists as best as you can and make the decision for yourself.” On her professional Facebook account, Lapka affirmed her commitment to following “all aspects of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.” Walker declined to comment on his decision.

After Lapka and Walker refused to participate in the video, KVAL-TV filmed two other employees reading the script for the video instead.

Outcome

Anchors face no repercussions, SBG plans to expand

Neither Lapka nor Walker faced threats to their job security. Lapka said her superiors never told her she could be fired for refusing to read Sinclair’s script. “They never threatened my job,” she said.

The Register-Guard in Eugene reported that at least one Sinclair-owned TV station chose not to air the promotional segment at all. In a statement on Twitter, the Wisconsin station WMSN/FOX47 Madison said that rather than air the segment, “we stayed true to our commitment to provide our Madison area viewers local news, weather and sports of interest to them.”

SBG remains the largest owner of local television stations in the US, with plans to acquire additional stations by purchasing Tribune Media, another media conglomerate.

External References

Sinclair Broadcast Group 2016 Annual Report

Sinclair’s new media-bashing promos rankle local anchors, CNN

KOMO attacks ‘biased and false news’ in Sinclair-written promos, SeattlePI

2 KVAL anchors reject script, The Register Guard

Video Reveals Power Of Sinclair, As Local News Anchors Recite Script In Unison, NPR

How America’s Largest Local TV Owner Turned Its News Anchors Into Soldiers in Trump’s War On The Media, Deadspin

Two anchors at Sinclair-owned station in Oregon refused to record news promos, The Hill

Sinclair Made Dozens of Local News Anchors Recite the Same Script, The New York Times

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded June 4, 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Dallas mayor and City Council sued for prohibiting removal of Confederate leaders’ names from city streets – April 24 2018

Dallas, TX

The Dallas City Council passed a resolution in April 2018 asserting that streets honoring Confederate generals and other leaders may not be renamed. Anticipating the Council’s action, the Commemoration Committee to Honor Marvin Crenshaw and Roy Williams — two well-known local civil rights activists — sued the city government for violating its members’ First Amendment rights to free political speech.

Key Players

The Dallas City Council passed, on April 25, 2018, a resolution that said Dallas streets “with names linked to the Confederacy shall not be renamed.” Months earlier, in September 2017, the city’s Task Force on Confederate Monuments, commissioned by Mayor Michael S. Rawlings to determine whether the city should remove, replace, or relocate the Confederate monuments throughout Dallas, had recommended that street names recognizing “a Confederate leader and/or general, who made a significant contribution to the Confederacy” should be changed within 90 days of its report. It specifically cited streets named after Richard M. Gano, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, P.G.T. Beauregard, and William L. Cabell. As of May 31, 2018 — 244 days after the task force released its recommendation — streets named for those Confederate figures still existed in Dallas.

The Commemoration Committee to Honor Marvin Crenshaw and Roy Williams is a group of Dallas citizens who sued the city government for violating their First Amendment rights, and who advocated for changing the name of Marilla Street in Dallas to M.E. Crenshaw Boulevard.

Further Details

On April 24, 2018, the Commemoration Committee filed a lawsuit against the members of the Dallas City Council and the mayor in US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The request claimed that Article 34(2) of the City Council’s agenda for its April 25 meeting, if passed, would violate the committee members’ First Amendment rights to political speech by preventing them from participating in the established process to rename a street. Article 34(2) mandated that “streets with names linked to the Confederacy shall not be renamed.”

The Committee had been engaged since February 2018 in an effort to have Marilla Street, on which Dallas City Hall is currently located, renamed. While Marilla is not one of the names listed by the Task Force on Confederate Monuments, the Committee explained in an online petition dated February 17, 2018, that the name refers to the mother of Reverend William Ceiton Young, who was a chaplain for the Confederate army. Young served under Brigadier General W.L. Cabell for the Arkansas Cavalry and the 29th Texas Cavalry Regiment. Cabell led these cavalries during the Battle of Poison Springs, after which Confederate forces massacred wounded African American soldiers and desecrated many of their corpses.

The petition urges Dallas citizens to refuse to honor anyone, including Young, who participated in these “war crimes.” The Committee’s research also revealed that Young was engaged in anti-Reconstruction efforts in Dallas after the conclusion of the Civil War. Members of the Committee had presented their research about the history of Marilla Street to the mayor and the City Council at a council meeting on April 11, 2018.

In the lawsuit, the Committee argued that its work to rename the street was organized political activity, and that the Council’s vote would create a protected class of streets named after Confederate figures that abridges certain citizens’ right to Free Speech. The suit claimed that the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights, and those of all African Americans, would be violated if they were forced to use streets with names that are offensive and oppressive to them. It said the City Council resolution was equal to “content based unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech.”

According to D Magazine, the committee commented ahead of the City Council meeting, “The resolution, which is widely expected to pass, chills the Plaintiff’s political speech by disallowing any meaningful participation in the established process to rename a street. The omission of such rights is tantamount to official oppression.”

Outcome

Dallas City Council approves resolution prohibiting the renaming of Confederate street names

The Dallas City Council approved the resolution by a 10-5 vote on April 25, 2018. However, as councilmember Philip Kingston told D Magazine, the decision may only be a temporary one. “[I]t is legally meaningless,” he said. “We can’t bind future councils.”

External References

Federal Complaint and Request for Injunction

Dallas City Council April 25, 2018 Meeting Agenda

Dallas City Council Voting Record

Lawsuit Alleges that City Council Violated Free Speech with Confederate Street Vote, D Magazine

Petition to Change the Name of Marilla St. to M.E. Crenshaw Blvd, Change.org

Recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Confederate Monuments

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Uploaded June 1, 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Inauguration Day protesters, including some rioters, swept up in police dragnet – January 20, 2017

Washington, D.C.

On January 20, 2017, the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, hundreds of protesters participated in an “anti-capitalist, anti-fascist” demonstration organized by the group Disrupt J20. The rally turned violent after Trump’s swearing-in, resulting in the arrest of more than 200 individuals. The people charged say they were subject to cruel treatment while under arrest. As of April 20, 2018, 59 of them were still awaiting trial.

Key Players

Sam Menefee-Libey is a member of the Dead City Legal Posse, an organization that provides legal support and funds for those arrested on January 20. He has become a de facto spokesperson for the J20 protesters.

Alexei Wood, Britt Lawson, Jennifer Armento, Oliver Harris, Michelle Macchio, and Christina Simmons were the first six arrestees to stand trial, on December 21, 2017, 11 months after the events. Wood is a freelance photojournalist, and Lawson is a nurse who said she was acting as a medical volunteer at the protests.

Jennifer Kerkhoff is an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. She served as lead prosecutor in the first J20 trial.

Scott Michelman is a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) for arresting innocent protesters, detaining people for more than 16 hours without water or food, and allegedly sexually assaulting detainees.

Further Details

The morning of January 20, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered at different locations around Washington, D.C., to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump. One of the groups, Disrupt J20, began congregating in the Logan Circle area around 10:20 a.m. The protesters engaged in a practice known as “black bloc” — meaning they were clad in black and covered their faces — to ensure mass anonymity and shield themselves from potential “doxxing,” or having one’s identity shared on the internet without consent, usually with malicious intent. Within a half-hour, some protesters began breaking the glass of several storefronts, including an Au Bon Pain cafe and a Bank of America branch office. According to Kerkhoff, one police officer suffered a broken wrist after being pelted with bricks, hammers, and crowbars.

The group had announced its intentions on its website well before the inauguration, saying that it was planning “a series of massive direct actions that will shut down the Inauguration ceremonies and any related celebrations,” including inaugural balls. Using a variety of tactics, it said, it would “paralyze the city itself, using blockades and marches to stop traffic and even public transit.”

As soon as small numbers of people began rioting, police deployed a tactic known as “kettling.” Officers surrounded the mass of protesters and closed in to prevent any of them from leaving without being arrested. Two hundred and thirty-four protesters were kettled and charged with felony riot. However, according to The Independent, a superseding indictment filed later in D.C. Superior Court charged 212 protesters with inciting to riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot, destruction of property, and assault on a police officer. Together, these charges carry sentences of at least 50 years in prison for each individual.

On June 21, 2017, the ACLU filed a lawsuit after learning that detainees had been held for as long as 16 hours without water, food, or access to bathrooms. The complaint also denounced MPD for alleged sexual harassment and assault, after at least four detainees said they were ordered to remove their clothing by police, who then grabbed their genitals and subjected them to manual rectal probing. The complaint was later amended to include as plaintiffs a woman and her 10-year-old son, who said they were peacefully protesting when they were knocked down and pepper-sprayed. During a press conference announcing the lawsuit, Michelman said, “No one should have to fear arrest or prosecution for coming to the nation’s capital to express opinions peacefully, no matter what those opinions may be.”

In the following months, the government reduced or dropped some of the charges, according to The Intercept. The remaining 194 defendants in the government’s case were subsequently divided into groups of fewer than 10 people each to stand trial, with the first trial of six defendants beginning on November 15, 2017. The government’s position, argued by Kerkhoff, was that by dressing in black, moving through the streets with the group, and chanting slogans, the defendants had willfully associated with a riot. The prosecution admitted on the first day of trial that it would not present any evidence that the defendants had committed any acts of violence or vandalism.

Outcome

First six defendants acquitted of all charges

Wood, Lawson, Armento, Harris, Macchio, and Simmons were found not guilty of all charges in a jury held on December 21, 2017. Menefee-Libey told The Intercept that the protesters saw the verdict as a rebuke of prosecutors for the government’s effort to effect collective punishment. One of the jurors in the case later anonymously said the verdict was not a close call, reported The Intercept.

Government drops charges against majority of defendants, but 59 pending cases remain

The prosecution dismissed the charges it had brought against 129 other protesters in a January 18, 2018, court filing. “In light of the legal rulings by the court and the jury’s verdicts in the first trial of these cases, the government has decided to proceed with all of the pending charges set forth in the superseding indictment,” Kerkhoff wrote in the filing. That meant 59 other defendants remained, who the government said were directly involved in the rioting. According to a representative from Dead City Legal Posse, the next round of trials is set to begin on May 14, 2018.

External References

“The J20 Arrests and Trials, Explained,” Teen Vogue

“J20 protests: All you need to know about the nearly 200 people facing 60 years in jail for protesting Trump,” The Independent

“J20 protests: What it’s like to face 60 years in prison for protesting Trump,” The Independent

“The J20 Case: What You Need to Know,” It’s Going Down

“Inauguration protesters were ‘playing a role in the violence and destruction,’ prosecutor says,” The Washington Post

“D.C. cops used ‘rape as punishment’ after Inauguration Day mass arrests, lawsuit says,” ThinkProgress

“ACLU-DC Names 27 D.C. Police Officers and Adds 10-Year-Old Boy As Plaintiff in Inauguration Day Lawsuit,” ACLU-DC

“Why My Son and I Are Suing D.C. Police,” Medium

“Were Inauguration Day protesters rioting or lawfully demonstrating? That’s the question for jurors,” The Washington Post

“Jurors to Decide What Constitutes Journalism in Trial of J20 Inauguration Protests,” The Intercept

“Not-guilty verdicts for first six people on trial in violent Inauguration Day protests,” The Washington Post

“Jury Acquits First Six J20 Defendants, Rebuking Government’s Push for Collective Punishment,” The Intercept

“Government says it is dropping most remaining Inaugural Day rioting cases,” The Washington Post

Dead City Legal Posse

About #DisruptJ20

Prepared by Jesus Rodriguez ‘19

Uploaded April 30, 2018

 

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

New York Times hires, then fires, editorial writer who befriended neo-Nazis – February 13, 2018

New York, NY

On February 13, 2018, The New York Times announced it had hired journalist Quinn Norton to be the paper’s lead editorial writer on technology. Later that day, however, the Times said she would not be joining its editorial team after all. This announcement came after a flurry of activity on Twitter revealed that Norton had previously referred to a writer for a neo-Nazi website as a friend and had tweeted gay and racist slurs.

Key Players

Quinn Norton is a freelance journalist who has been active since 2006, when she began writing about the Internet, hacking, the organization Anonymous, the Occupy movement, and issues surrounding intellectual property. She wrote for the magazine Maximum PC for five years, and has contributed to publications such as WIRED, Gizmodo, and The Atlantic.

James Bennet is editorial page editor of The New York Times. He supervises a staff that has experts covering issues ranging from business, international affairs, and criminal justice to education and legal affairs. Norton would have covered technology for the editorial board.

Further Details

On the morning of February 13, 2018, the Times announced via Twitter that Norton would be joining its editorial team, tweeting that she would be covering “the power, culture, and consequences of technology.” After the announcement, reported the Chicago Tribune, Twitter users began circulating old tweets in which Norton used gay and racial slurs. According to the Tribune, she tweeted and retweeted the n-word on more than one occasion. Norton’s connection to neo-Nazi Andrew Auernheimer resurfaced as well. Famous for his identity as an internet troll, Auernheimer, who is known on the internet by the name “weev,” now works for The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website which, according to the Tribune, is “known for attacking Jews, women, immigrants and people of color.” Norton had tweeted in October 2017 that “weev is a terrible person, & an old friend of mine.”

Only six hours after the Times’ initial announcement, Norton responded to it, tweeting, “As I said so many times to the @nytimes, no harm no foul. I’m sorry I can’t do the work I wanted to do with them. I wish there had been a way, but ultimately, they need to feel safe with how the net will react to their opinion writers.” In a separate series of tweets, she attempted to explain and justify many of her controversial tweets that had resurfaced throughout the day.

Bennet responded to the situation with his own statement, writing, “Despite our review of Quinn Norton’s work and our conversations with her previous employers, this was new information to us. Based on it, we’ve decided to go our separate ways.”

Outcome

Norton no longer involved with The New York Times

After a firestorm on Twitter, Norton and the Times dissolved their agreement, and she did not join the editorial team. The editorial board announced on April 11 that it had hired writer Jeneen Interlandi to cover health, science, and education, but as of April 27 no one had been hired to fill the position Norton would have held.

External References

New York Times hired, then quickly unhired, writer who tweeted about befriending neo-Nazis, Chicago Tribune

The NY Times Fires Tech Writer Quinn Norton, and it’s Complicated, WIRED

After Storm Over Tweets, The Times anda New Hire Part Ways, The New York Times

Tweet by @NYTimesPR, February 13 2018

Tweet by @quinnnorton, February 13 2018

Quinn Norton Wikipedia entry

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded April 30, 2018

YouTuber Logan Paul faces backlash after posting video of suicide victim – December 31, 2017

Sea of Trees Forest, Fujikawaguchiko, Japan

Vlogger Logan Paul came under fire after posting a video on YouTube on December 31, 2017, that showed his encounter with the corpse of a suicide victim in a Japanese forest. The video was removed just two days later, but its initial publication ignited weeks of outcry on social media. YouTube issued an official condemnation of the incident and later distanced itself from Paul.

Key Players

Logan Paul is a 22-year-old internet personality who regularly uploads comedic videos to YouTube, a practice known as vlogging. Paul has monetized his videos, meaning that he profits from the advertisements placed on his channel, which currently has more than 16 million subscribers. Although he chose not to monetize the video in question, Paul earned $12.5 million from his other videos in 2017.

YouTube is the Google-owned, video-sharing social network that hosts Paul’s content. Through its advertising program, Google Preferred, companies place ads on channels that the website identifies as highly influential.

Further Details

On December 31, 2017, Paul posted a 15-minute YouTube video in which he wades into the Sea of Trees Forest in Japan, a place notorious for its high incidence of suicides. Early in the video, he happens upon the body of a suicide victim. He laughs and remarks, “Bro, did we just find a dead person in the suicide forest?” and “Are you fucking with us?” Later, when someone in his crew says he is uncomfortable, Paul jokes, “What, you’ve never stood next to a dead body before?” and laughs. In the video, he also urges people who are experiencing mental illness to seek help.

Two days after posting the video, and after it had received six million views, Paul removed it from his channel. By then, however, people on social media were decrying the vlogger for trivializing suicide, and a petition calling on YouTube to delete his channel had amassed 671,000 signatures. He issued a written apology on Twitter, saying he had “never made a mistake like this before” and that he did not “do it for views.” The following day, Paul issued another apology, this time in a video, in which he expressed regret for publishing the Sea of Trees Forest video and asked his fans not to defend him. He ended by promising to “be better.” That same day, a YouTube spokesperson confirmed to CNN that the video violated the website’s standards by portraying gory content in a “shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner.”

On January 9, 2018, YouTube posted an open letter to Twitter that condemned the incident, adding that suicide should never be “a driving force for views.” The next day, YouTube announced a series of sanctions against the social media star.

Outcome

YouTube removes Paul as a preferred ad partner and cancels future projects with him

YouTube announced on January 10, 2018, that it would no longer include Paul in the Google Preferred program, meaning that his videos would not be flagged as highly influential for advertisers. The company said it would cut Paul from the fourth season of its original comedy series “Foursome” and would suspend any future projects with the vlogger.

Paul’s channel remains active

After YouTube’s sanctions, Paul continued to post videos weekly. He recently renewed his social media notoriety by posting a video in which he is shown tasing rats. As of March 7, 2018, his channel’s subscriber base had grown to nearly 17 million.

External References

Logan Paul’s original video

Logan Paul Apology: Read It in Full, The Independent

YouTube’s open letter

YouTube says Logan Paul video violated its policies, CNN

The Social-Media Star and the Suicide, The Atlantic

Logan Paul, YouTube Star, Apologizes As Critics Slam Video Showing Dead Body, NPR

Logan Paul: Following the YouTube controversy, should social media have the same regulations as journalism? The Independent

YouTube distances itself from Logan Paul as it drops him from comedy series in the wake of suicide video scandal, Daily Mail

Delete Logan Paul’s YouTube Channel, Change.org

The World’s Highest-Paid YouTube Stars, Forbes

Prepared by Jesus Rodriguez ‘19

Uploaded March 20, 2018

 

ESPN’s Jemele Hill sparks White House controversy with anti-Trump tweets – September 2017

Washington, DC

ESPN SportsCenter host Jemele Hill posted two tweets on September 11, 2017, expressing her dislike of President Donald Trump. They elicited a strong backlash on Twitter and in the media, leading a reporter to ask White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to comment on them. She called Hill’s tweets a “fireable offense.”

Key Players

Jemele Hill is a black sports journalist from Detroit. She joined ESPN in 2006 as a national columnist on ESPN.com, before beginning a podcast with fellow sports journalist Michael Smith called His & Hers. In February 2017, Smith and Hill became evening co-anchors of SportsCenter. Their show was called SC6 with Michael and Jemele. In September 2017, she posted a series of tweets criticizing President Trump. Two of them read:

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”

“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the only daughter of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. After managing her father’s presidential campaign in 2016, she became the Trump campaign’s senior advisor handling communications for coalitions. When Trump won the election, Huckabee Sanders was named deputy White House press secretary. Following Sean Spicer’s resignation, she assumed the role of press secretary in July 2017. She is the third woman ever to hold the position.

Further Details

The day after Hill’s tweets incited an immediate backlash, ESPN tweeted out a statement, which read, “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.” In a White House press briefing the following day, a reporter read Hill’s tweets out loud to Huckabee Sanders and asked her to comment. The press secretary called them some of “the more outrageous comments that anybody could make and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”

That same day, the National Association of Black Journalists released a statement supporting Hill’s right to speak freely “on all matters of discussion, within and outside the world of sports, as they do not impinge on her duties as a host and commentator,” reported NBC News.

A few days after Hill’s tweets were posted, Trump weighed in from his Twitter account. He tweeted, “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”

Ratings for SportsCenter in the 6 pm time slot did drop 20 percent year-over-year after Hill and Smith became hosts, compared to when Lindsay Czarniak headlined the show, reported Forbes. However, ESPN’s overall ratings are decreasing regularly. Pardon the Interruption, for example, saw a similar drop.

Outcome

Jemele Hill suspended from ESPN following a second social media violation

Despite Huckabee Sanders’ claims that Hill’s tweets were a “fireable offense,” ESPN did not dismiss the sports anchor. However, the company did take action when in October 2017 Hill reportedly violated its social media guidelines a second time. When Cowboys Head Coach Jerry Jones threatened to bench any of his players who “disrespect the [American] flag” and kneel during the national anthem, Hill responded on Twitter by suggesting people who disagreed with Jones ought to boycott his team’s advertisers. As a result, ESPN suspended her for two weeks. Her tweets on the topic, posted on October 8 and 9, read:

Jerry Jones also has created a problem for his players, specifically the black ones. If they don’t kneel, some will see them as sellouts.”

“If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don’t place the burden squarely on the players. […]”

“Just so we’re clear: I’m not advocating a NFL boycott. But an unfair burden has been put on players in Dallas & Miami w/ anthem directives.”

“If fans really are that upset about what JJ & Stephen Ross have done, don’t call the players sellouts, but you’re watching every Sunday.”

Following the announcement of Hill’s suspension, Trump took to Twitter once more. On October 9, 2017, he tweeted, “With Jemele Hill at the mike [sic], it is no wonder ESPN ratings have “tanked,” in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”

Jemele Hill leaves ESPN’s SportsCenter

In January 2018, it was announced that Hill would move from SC6 to The Undefeated, an ESPN digital news outlet that analyzes sports, race, and culture, reported Variety. Despite rumors that she was demoted or removed from the show, according to Forbes, Hill took to Twitter to claim that the move was her own decision. “I asked to leave the show,” she wrote. She also thanked her co-host, Smith, the SC6 staff, and her SportsCenter colleagues.

External References

Did Jemele Hill Get Demoted From SportsCenter Or Request The Move To ‘The Undefeated’?, Forbes

Donald Trump’s Tweet

Jemele Hill, known for anti-Trump tweets, is leaving ESPN’s SportsCenter, Vox.com

Jemele Hill Will Leave ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’, Variety

White House Says ESPN Should Fire Anchor Who Called Trump White Supremacist, NBCNews

Jemele Jones Suspended by ESPN over Jerry Jones Tweets, The Cut

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says anthem protests are damaging the NFL, The Guardian

Jemele Hill Suspended by ESPN After Response to Jerry Jones, The New York Times

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

Uploaded March 19, 2018

Protests outside Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington turn violent – May 16, 2017

Washington, D.C.

On May 16, 2017, a group of protesters who had gathered across from the home of the Turkish ambassador to the United States were assaulted by embassy security guards, bodyguards for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other non-affiliated individuals. Local police intervened to stop the attacks, but not before eleven people were injured, nine of whom were taken to the hospital. In the aftermath, two U.S. citizens pled guilty to their involvement in the assault, and 15 Turkish security officials and four other individuals were indicted for their role in the altercation.

Key Players

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is president of Turkey. He served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and was elected president in Turkey’s first-ever direct elections in 2014. His time in power has seen many controversial incidents:

In late May 2013, anti-government demonstrations broke out in Istanbul. The protests began when a small group of demonstrators gathered in Gezi Park, located in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, to protest Erdogan’s plan to bulldoze the park and build a mall in its place. They were angry about the negative impact razing the park would have on the environment. Turkish police tried to clear the park using tear gas and water cannons, injuring more than 100 people, The Guardian reported. The protesters were eventually cleared, but demonstrations spread across the country in response to what many perceived as excessive force on the part of police in Istanbul.

In December 2013, a corruption probe was launched to investigate more than 50 government officials, including members of Erdogan’s inner circle. The government dismissed some350 police officers before the prosecutor eventually ceased the inquiry.

In July 2016, Erdogan faced an attempted coup by a portion of the Turkish military. Addressing the nation via Facetime, he urged his supporters to go into the streets and demonstrate against the military. The coup was eventually put down.

In April 2017, a constitutional amendment passed via referendum, with 51 percent of the vote. It disbanded the Turkish parliament, gave more power to the executive, and made it possible for Erdogan to remain in power until 2029. International election monitors questioned the legitimacy of the referendum result, in light of last-minute changes to the voting process and state media coverage that was biased in favor of its passage.

Further Details

On May 16, 2017, Erdogan met with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. During a joint press conference, he pledged to help the U.S. fight terrorism and praised Trump for his election. Trump commented that the U.S. and Turkey have a “great relationship” and that “[they] will make it even better.”

Meanwhile, approximately 24 demonstrators gathered outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence, waiting for Erdogan’s return from the White House. The group included Americans, Kurds, and Armenians who opposed the Turkish president’s policies. They gathered in Sheridan Circle, across from a group of Erdogan’s supporters, including government security forces and other armed individuals. A line of D.C. police officers initially separated the protesters from the pro-Erdogan forces, but the latter group soon rushed across the street through the police lines and attacked the protesters. The police attempted to break up the fighting.

A video posted to Voice of America’s Turkish language service showed the attacks on the protesters. Another video also showed Erdogan watching as he exited his car and entered the residence.

Flint Arthur, of Baltimore, Maryland, one of the anti-Erdogan demonstrators involved in the clash, told CNN, “We are protesting (Erdogan’s) policies in Turkey, in Syria, and in Iraq. . . . They think they can engage in the same sort of suppression of protest and free speech that they engage in in Turkey. They stopped us for a few minutes . . . But we still stayed and continued to protest Erdogan’s tyrannical regime.”

The following day, the U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the violence. It read, “We are concerned by the violent incidents involving protesters and Turkish security personnel . . . . Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest,” reported Politico. The State Department also reportedly reprimanded the Turkish ambassador for the incident. In response, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry lodged a complaint with the U.S. ambassador to Turkey about the police’s role in halting the incident. It blamed U.S. authorities for their “inability . . . to take sufficient precautions” to prevent violence. The complaint also alleged that U.S. “security personnel” had taken “aggressive and unprofessional actions.”

The Turkish embassy claimed that the protesters were affiliated with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), a terrorist organization that has been in conflict with the Turkish government for 30 years. Embassy officials insisted that the protesters were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President” and who “responded in self-defense,” reported CNN and Politico. In contrast to these allegations, DC Police Chief Peter Newsham announced in June 2017 that there was no evidence the protesters were associated with any terrorist group.

On September 19, 2017, Erdogan told PBS Newshour that Trump had apologized for the incident. Erdogan said he was sorry as well, but he maintained that the protesters had instigated the violence and that local law enforcement was slow in stepping in to stop the fighting, reported Business Insider.

A group of Republican lawmakers called the incident an “affront to the United States.” Senator John McCain of Arizona tweeted, “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this type of thuggish behavior.”

Outcome

Turkish government blamed U.S. law enforcement, protesters for violence

The Turkish government alleged that the protesters were responsible for inciting the violence, and claimed they were affiliated with the PKK, a terrorist group in Turkey. President Erdogan also claimed that U.S. law enforcement was slow in responding to the violence.

19 people indicted, two American citizens pleaded guilty

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, two people were arrested: Ayten Necmi, of Woodside, New York, was charged with aggravated assault, and Jalal Kheirabaoi, of Fairfax, Virginia, was charged with assault on a police officer, reported The New York Times. The two were allegedly among the protesters.

In August 2017, U.S. officials indicted 19 other individuals for their role in the incident. Fifteen were Turkish security officials, and four were individuals not associated with the Turkish government. Several of them faced charges of assault with a deadly weapon, reported CNN. All 19 faced felony charges of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, reported CBS News.

In December 2017, two U.S. citizens, Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim, pleaded guilty to charges of assault with significant bodily injury. Video footage showed the two kicking protesters in the head while they were on the ground, reported The Washington Post. They are not known to be associated with the Turkish government.

External References

Turkish forces clear Istanbul park, CNN

Failed coup in Turkey: What you need to know, CNN

Turkey tests Trump’s patience after protesters roughed up, Politico

In video, Erdogan watches as his guards clash with protesters, The New York Times

International monitors deliver scathing verdict on Turkish referendum, CNN

Turkey referendum: Erdogan declares victory, CNN

State Department condemns violence by Erdogan security guards at D.C. protest, Politico

Recep Tayyip Erdogan Fast Facts, CNN

Turkish president: Trump told me he was ‘sorry’ for bloody protest in DC, Business Insider

Turkish security officials indicted following Erdogan’s May DC visit, CNN

Protesters injured outside Turkish embassy in DC after Trump-Erdogan meeting, CNN

Erdogan security forces launch ‘brutal attack’ on Washington protesters, officials say, The New York Times

More arrests in attack on protesters at Turkish embassy, CBS News

Two U.S. citizens offer guilty pleas for attack outside Turkish embassy, The Washington Post

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded March 5, 2018

Subpoena of Jamie Kalven – December 2017

Judge protects reporter from revealing his sources

Chicago, IL

A Chicago police officer accused of killing an African American teenager attempted to force Jamie Kalven, the independent journalist who uncovered evidence of the shooting, to reveal his sources, for the purposes of the defense in the officer’s murder trial. Though Kalven was reportedly prepared to face jail time rather than comply, a Cook County, Illinois, judge rejected the officer’s subpoena.

Key Players

Officer Jason Van Dyke is accused of killing Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African American man, on October 20, 2014. A police dashboard camera video, released by court order on November 25, 2017, allegedly shows that Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, according to the Chicago Tribune. The video’s publication inspired weeks of protests, the firing of the police superintendent, and a critical examination of the Chicago Police Department by the U.S. Department of Justice. Van Dyke is charged with 16 counts of aggravated battery, six counts of first-degree murder, and one count of official misconduct. His indictment marks “the first time a Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty fatality in nearly 35 years,” reported the Tribune.

Jamie Kalven is an independent journalist who investigated McDonald’s death. It was Kalven who revealed the existence of the video that documents the incident, reported The New York Times. His story about the killing, titled “Sixteen Shots,” was published by Slate in February 2015. Kalven is the founder of the Invisible Institute, an independent news organization based in Chicago. His father, Harry Kalven Jr., was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and a First Amendment scholar. After his father’s death, Jamie Kalven completed his unfinished book about the First Amendment.

Further Details

Jamie Kalven brought the death of Laquan McDonald into the national spotlight by questioning the actions of Officer Jason Van Dyke and revealing the existence of dashboard-camera footage that documented the incident. With the help of two anonymous sources, Kalven discovered that McDonald had been shot 16 times. An autopsy report, as well as the dashboard-camera video, sharply contrasted with the police department’s report that McDonald had “lunged at police” before being shot. Shortly after Kalven’s story was published, protests against the police erupted in Chicago.

Van Dyke, whose trial is pending, filed a subpoena to discover Kalven’s sources of information relating to the shooting. The officer’s attorney suggested that the journalist had “obtained leaked documents and may have passed along that information to witnesses of the shooting, influencing their accounts to investigators,” reported the Times. Specifically, he posited that Kalven may have received statements made by Van Dyke to the Independent Police Review Authority, an agency conducting an internal investigation of the incident. Public employees have a right not to incriminate themselves during investigatory interviews by their employers. This right, often referred to as a “Garrity Right,” is rooted in the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision, Garrity v. New Jersey. Van Dyke’s legal team alleged that Kalven had obtained and reported on the police officer’s Garrity-protected statements.

Kalven resisted the subpoena, and 18 news organizations, joined by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, filed an amicus curiae brief in support of him. “The public interest in protecting confidential sources is particularly compelling in this case,” the brief asserted. “Kalven’s reporting exposed misconduct by the Chicago Police Department and an official cover-up that led to a public accounting and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.”

On December 13, 2017, the subpoena was rejected by Judge Vincent Gaughan. However, his decision rested primarily on the “inadequacies of the subpoena itself rather than Kalven’s legally protected status as a reporter,” according to the Tribune. The judge determined that Kalven may have received information from multiple legitimate sources, and there existed no evidence that he ever was leaked protected material.

Kalven, who had expressed a willingness to face imprisonment rather than reveal his sources, attended the court hearing concerning his subpoena wearing his press identification around his neck. “I think it’s part of the job description to uphold a covenant with sources,” he told the Tribune. “The real hero in this case is a source within law enforcement who provided information … that enabled me and others to report on it. We have kind of a sacred trust with sources.”

Outcome

Kalven will not be compelled to reveal his sources

Judge Gaughan ruled that Van Dyke had failed to demonstrate that Kalven’s testimony would be relevant to the case. “To uphold the subpoena of Jamie Kalven would be nothing more than a fishing expedition in search of information that the timeline of events, discovery documents and testimony suggest simply does not exist,” he wrote.

External References

Journalist Who Told Laquan McDonald’s Story Faces Fight Over Sources, New York Times

Sixteen Shots, Slate

Laquan McDonald reporter won’t be forced to testify at Chicago cop’s hearing, Chicago Tribune

Amicus Curiae Brief by News Coalition and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Van Dyke indicted on 16 added counts for each shot to Laquan McDonald, Chicago Tribune

Van Dyke lawyers want activist-journalist Jamie Kalven on the stand, Chicago Sun Times

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

Uploaded on January 25, 2018

 

Public displays of disrespect for Trump cause firing, arrest – October – November 2017

Herndon, VA

Two women were penalized for public acts of protest against President Donald Trump late in 2017. Juli Briskman, a former employee at Akima LLC, a federal government contractor, was fired in October after a photo of her giving the middle finger to Trump’s motorcade went viral. In November, a Texas woman, Karen Fonseca, was arrested near Houston on an outstanding felony warrant for fraud after she had displayed a profanity-laden sticker criticizing Trump on the rear window of her pickup truck.

Key Players

Juli Briskman was photographed “flipping off” President Trump’s motorcade while riding a bicycle next to it. She had been employed for six months at Akima LLC, a government contractor that works with public and commercial service providers, before being dismissed.

Karen Fonseca was arrested in Rosenberg, Texas, after she had displayed a sticker in the rear window of her pickup truck that read, “FUCK TRUMP AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” She was released on bail, and the district attorney’s office is not pressing charges against her.

Further Details

Briskman posted the photo to her Facebook profile and Twitter account, and initially did not identify herself as the biker. However, she confirmed her identity to friends, and word spread online. A yoga studio where Briskman also worked asked her to remove any mention of it from her Facebook page, due to threatening emails the studio had received and negative comments on the studio’s own Facebook page. She complied. After she received the request from the yoga studio, she informed the human resources department at Akima about the incident. A day later, she was fired, reports The Huffington Post.

Akima said Briskman was dismissed for allegedly violating the firm’s social media policy, which states that “Covered Social Media Activity that contains discriminatory, obscene malicious or threatening content, is knowingly false, create [sic] a hostile work environment, or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated and will be subject to discipline up to an [sic] including termination of employment,” reports The Washington Post. According to The Huffington Post, Briskman was told that her gesture toward the presidential motorcade was considered obscene.

During her six months at Akima, Briskman was in charge of the company’s Facebook page. She told The Guardian that she had found an obscene comment from a senior director at the company who was engaged in an online debate concerning the Black Lives Matter movement. He deleted the comment, and apparently was not fired.

Briskman wasn’t the only person to face consequences in 2017 for protesting Trump. Karen Fonseca was arrested by the sheriff’s department in Rosenberg, Texas, after locals called in to complain about the profane, anti-Trump sticker on her truck. She was allegedly taken into custody on an outstanding warrant for fraud, but Fonseca asserts that the timing of the arrest was directly related to her having exercised her right to free speech in a manner critical of the president and his supporters. She was soon released on bail, and then added another sticker to her rear window that read, “FUCK TROY NEHLS AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” Troy Nehls is the sheriff who had arrested her, and had threatened her with a charge of disorderly conduct. She, in turn, has threatened to take legal action against the sheriff’s department.

Outcome

Briskman considering legal action against company, receives financial support

Briskman said in interviews that she had consulted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about the situation, but that she had not decided whether to take action against the company. In the meantime, a GoFundMe page started to support her while she looks for new employment had received $133,805, as of January 4, 2018.

External References

Woman fired for flipping off Donald Trump’s Motorcade, The Huffington Post

Cyclist who gave Trump the middle finger: ‘He wasn’t going to hear me through the glass, The Guardian

The biker who flipped off President Trump is now out of a job, The Washington Post

Fundraiser for Juli Briskman by Rob Mello

She put an obscene anti-Trump message on her truck and was arrested. Now she might sue. The Washington Post

‘F**k Trump’ decal woman adds a profane slam of Texas sheriff to her truck, Salon

Woman with crude anti-Trump decal arrested for fraud, CBS News

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

January 10, 2018

Public radio station cancels event with prominent biologist over anti-Islam comments – August 2017

Berkeley, CA

KPFA, a public radio station in Berkeley, California, cancelled a planned public event featuring scientist Richard Dawkins, due to protests over past comments he had made regarding Islam.

Key Players

Richard Dawkins is a prominent evolutionary biologist and author. He is particularly well-known for his outspoken atheist views. Dawkins was scheduled to participate in a live discussion and book signing, organized as a fundraiser for the radio station, part of the Pacifica network. He would have been promoting his new book, “Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist,” a compilation of 42 of his essays concerning scientific thought and inquiry.

Further Details

In 2013, Dawkins tweeted, “Haven’t read Koran so couldn’t quote chapter & verse like I can for the Bible. But often say that Islam greatest force for evil today.” In an article published in The Telegraph on June 11, 2017, Dawkins expanded on this sentiment, saying, “If you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world it’s quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam.” He added that he does not believe all Muslims are evil; rather, they “suffer more from Islam than anybody else.”

The New York Times reported that KPFA received messages criticizing Dawkins’ planned appearance. A former KPFA board member complained that Dawkins is an Islamophobe. Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, wrote to the station that Dawkins’ comments “give legitimacy to extremist views.”

In an email to ticket-holders, KPFA wrote that it had booked the event so Dawkins could discuss his new book; station representatives said they “didn’t know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam – so many people.” While the station supports free speech, the email said, it does not support “abusive speech.” It apologized for not having known of Dawkins’ comments before inviting him. Bob Baldock, the events coordinator for KPFA, told the Times he supported the decision to cancel, but described it as a “fraught decision.” He also said he could not think of another station event that was cancelled because of content in the thirty years he had worked there.

In an interview with the Times, Dawkins said of the cancellation, “Many people are saying this is a freedom of speech issue, and of course it is. But it’s actually more a freedom of listening issue. People bought tickets because they wanted to hear me.”

Outcome

Richard Dawkins writes open letter in response to cancellation, requests apology

In an open letter, Dawkins criticized KPFA’s decision and asserted that if the station had done “rudimentary fact-checking,” it would have “concluded that [he has] never used abusive speech against Islam.” He said he had criticized the “pseudoscientific claims” of “Islamic apologists” and the “appalling misogyny and homophobia of Islam,” and that he thinks “Muslims themselves are the prime victims of the oppressive cruelties of Islamism.” Dawkins also pointed out that he has criticized Christianity, too, but has never been “de-platformed” for that. He concluded the letter with his expectation of a public apology from the radio station.

External References

Cancellation of Richard Dawkins Berkeley Event Baseless and Unconscionable

Radio station cancels Richard Dawkins appearance over Islam tweets, The Independent

Richard Dawkins: religious education is crucial for British schoolchildren, The Telegraph

Richard Dawkins event canceled over past comments about Islam, The New York Times

Richard Dawkins hits back at allegations he is Islamophobic after Berkely event is cancelled, The Independent

Richard Dawkins event cancelled over his ‘abusive speech against Islam, The Guardian

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

January 5, 2018