Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Connecticut selectwoman kneels during Pledge of Allegiance to protest Trump – July 16, 2018

Haddam, Connecticut

In a show of protest against President Donald Trump, a Democratic selectwoman on the local governing board of Haddam, Connecticut, highlighted political divisions by kneeling in council chambers during a July 16, 2018, board meeting.

Key Players

Melissa Schlag was elected in 20127 as the lone Democrat on the three-person board of selectmen of Haddam, a town roughly 30 miles south of Hartford whose nearly 7,000 residents voted for Donald Trump by a narrow margin in the 2016 presidential election. She began kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance on July 16, 2018, the day of Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

Art Linares is a Republican state senator in Connecticut who bested Schlag when she ran as a Green Party candidate for the state senate in 2012. He was one of the first to call on Schlag to resign after her symbolic protest.

Tim Herbst is a Republican candidate in the 2018 Connecticut gubernatorial race. Prior to that, he served as first selectman for Trumbull, CT, from 2009 to 2017. He also joined calls for Schlag’s resignation.

Further Details

At the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki, Trump appeared to reject American intelligence community findings that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections; the president seemed to give greater credibility to Putin’s claims that Russia had not meddled in the U.S. democratic system, according to The Washington Post.

The widespread uproar that followed the now-infamous press conference following the summit prompted Schlag to take a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance, which is recited at the beginning of every public meeting of the Haddam board of selectmen. Schlag said she was “inspired” by protests in the National Football League, where since 2016 players have knelt during the national anthem before football games, to register a symbolic protest against American racism and police brutality.

In a letter posted to her Facebook page, Schlag explained the decision as stemming from her opposition to Trump’s performance at the summit. as well as the administration’s so-called zero-tolerance policy that resulted in the separation of more than 2,000 immigrant families in the summer of 2018. “As long as Donald J. Trump is the president of the United States,” she wrote in a letter posted to Facebook, “I will kneel. I will kneel for all the people, regardless of party affiliation, and continue to fight for their rights. This is not the America I grew up in, or the country we should be, but I will work every day to get us back to that place.”

At first, CNN reported, Schlag did not receive any backlash. But at the following week’s meeting, the chamber was packed with military veterans who shouted at her as she protested. The meeting had to be moved to a different room to accommodate the large crowd, reported The Washington Times.

On July 25, in a “Fox & Friends” interview, Herbst called on Schlag to resign immediately. “One of the things the flag stands for — it stands for our freedom, it stands for our democracy. It stands for the fundamental ideal that we can have differences of opinion, but we all stand in respect of our flag because many people, including my 93-year-old grandfather who’s a veteran, fought in defense of the very liberty that the flag resembles [sic],” he said.

Linares, the Connecticut state senator whom Schlag ran against in 2012, also called for her resignation, saying that while Schlag has an individual right to protest, she should not be exercising it during meetings, because she is an elected official “who represents the community.”

Schlag ignited further criticism after a video surfaced online from the July 23 meeting, in which she can be overheard calling her own town “racist and fascist.” Schlag has since apologized for that video and said that she meant only that some in her town fit that characterization, according to The Hartford Courant. She added that she was speaking to a supportive friend at the time and was under a great deal of stress.


Herbst and Linares hold “Stand for the Flag” rally

On July 30, nearly 150 people attended a rally organized by Herbst and Linares on Higganum Green, a park in Haddam three-quarters of a mile away from the firehouse where the board was meeting at the time. According to The Middletown Press, Herbst and Linares said they held the event to support the American flag and the values it represents.

Critics create Facebook page blasting Schlag

Schlag’s critics created a Facebook page titled “Time for Haddam CT Selectman Melissa Schlag to Resign.” Despite only 65 people having “liked” and followed the page, it has become a forum for residents to air grievances about her, with some attacking Schlag as “repulsive,” a “disgrace,” and “a crud.” Others have called on her to leave the country and go live in Mexico. The page’s administrators have also said that Schlag was only elected to her position because the town’s charter prohibits one political party from monopolizing all representation on the board of selectmen, and they argued that the town should repeal that provision.

Schlag continues to protest

Schlag is still protesting the administration’s policies during the Pledge of Allegiance at board meetings, and she has said she will continue to kneel until Trump leaves office. Some Haddam residents support her, saying she is well within her rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Her term on the board of selectmen ends in 2019.

External References

“In a town where 51% voted for Trump, one official takes a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance in protest,” CNN

“‘Do that on your own time’: Official’s decision to kneel during pledge divides her small town,” The Washington Post

“Connecticut official faces calls to resign after kneeling during pledge to protest Trump,” The Washington Times

“Haddam Selectman defends decision to kneel during Pledge of Allegiance,” WFSB

“Kneeling For The Pledge: Connecticut Reacts To A Fight Over The Flag,” The Hartford Courant

“Haddam Selectwoman Who Knelt During Pledge Offers Apology For Comments,” The Hartford Courant

Lawsuit against Tim Herbst, Filed By Estranged Brother-in-law, Cost Trumbull $25k,” The Hartford Courant

After Haddam Selectwoman Takes A Knee During the Pledge, Political Firestorm Rages On,” The Hartford Courant

“Hadam selectman faces harsh criticism, condemnation for taking knee during Pledge of Allegiance,” The Middletown Press.

Melissa Schlag, Ballotpedia

Town of Haddam, Connecticut meetings calendar

Melissa Schlag’s campaign website

“Time for Haddam CT Selectman Melissa Schlag to Resign” Facebook page

Prepared by Jesus Rodriguez ‘19

Uploaded August 20, 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Canadian professor threatens to sue online critic for libel – June 2018

Bloomsburg, PA

Jordan Peterson, a Canadian professor who has stirred controversy with his positions on “political correctness” and feminism, threatened to sue an American professor for her online criticisms, which were factually unverifiable and which Peterson called defamatory. Acceding to Peterson’s demand, the American professor deleted the statements and issued an apology, calming the legal threats.

Key Players

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian academic figure noteworthy for, among other things, his stance on free speech. As a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, he has gained traction online for his critiques of “political correctness,” the concept of white privilege, and feminism.

“The masculine spirit is under assault,” he said in an interview with the New York Times.

These beliefs have often won him favor among conservative audiences, including alt-right circles. In September 2017, for example, white-nationalist leader Richard Spencer retweeted Peterson’s notorious lecture on his belief that women have an unconscious desire to be dominated.

Peterson has also gained relative fame and fortune through his public brand. His January 2018 book, “12 Rules for Life,” had sold more than 1.1 million copies by May 2018, according to the New York Times. And, thanks to his popular Youtube channel, which boasts 1.3 million subscribers as of August 2018, Peterson reportedly receives more than $80,000 monthly in donations from admirers.

He is currently involved in a defamation case against Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, over comments made by three of its staff members. The staff in question reprimanded a teaching assistant (TA) for playing a video of Peterson discussing his controversial views on the use of gender pronouns for transgender individuals. They allegedly told the TA, during a subsequent meeting, that Peterson targeted transgender students and compared the video to showing “a speech by Hitler,” according to the Toronto Globe and Mail. One professor present questioned Peterson’s intellectual credibility, saying he lacked “substantial academic evidence.” After the TA released an audio recording of the discussion to the media, Peterson responded with a lawsuit seeking 1.5 million Canadian dollars in damages. According to the Globe and Mail, Peterson claims the three people at Wilfrid Laurier maliciously defamed him.

Wendy Lynne Lee is a philosophy professor at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Lee, who leans left, is also a staunch free speech advocate who once defended the use of flag-burning as a form of protest in a post on her blog, according to Mic.

Further Details

On May 31, 2018, Lee tweeted sharp criticism of Peterson to her roughly 300 followers.

“Jordan Peterson: incel misogynist. Committed white nationalist,” Lee wrote, referring to “his [descent] into rank bigotry.”

“Incels,” short for “involuntary celibates,” are members of a growing, self-identified online community. Incel ideology revolves around a hatred of women, who incels believe owe them sex but ignore them because of women’s supposed “shallowness.” The online movement gained widespread attention in April 2018, when Alex Minassian killed 10 and injured 15 in a van attack in Toronto, a seemingly motiveless crime until investigators discovered that he had self-identified as an incel. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Minassian has since become, in the wake of these attacks, an incel movement icon.

But Lee’s claims that Peterson is an incel and a white nationalist are dubious. As the married father of two children, Peterson cannot accurately be defined as an incel, as Mic points out. Peterson has also publicly denounced identity politics, according to Mic, meaning that he would theoretically not affiliate with identity-driven movements such as white nationalism.

On June 13, Peterson’s attorney sent an email to Lee, threatening to sue her for libel unless she deleted her “defamatory statements” and tweeted an apology, according to documents provided to Mic.


Lee deletes tweet, apologizes

That same day, in order to avoid legal action, Lee complied with Peterson’s requests by deleting the tweet and issuing an apology on Twitter, which read as follows:


Lee later expressed her dismay at the request, but said she feared legal action. “I find it absurd,” Lee told Mic. “Many have actually said these things about Peterson and at much greater length.”

Peterson’s lawyer said that, had Lee not complied, he would have filed the lawsuit in a Canadian court, where proving libel involves a lower standard than in the United States.

The attorney noted that, while Peterson would not sue all of his online critics, “anyone calling Dr. Peterson [such names] is at risk of being sued for defamation,” according to Mic.

External References

“I laugh at the death of normies”: How incels are celebrating the Toronto mass killing, Southern Poverty Law Center

Inside the online world of ‘incels,’ the dark corner of the Internet linked to the Toronto suspect, Washington Post

Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy, New York Times

Jordan Peterson sues Wilfrid Laurier University for defamation, The Globe and Mail

Free speech champion Jordan Peterson threatens to sue professor over Twitter name calling, Mic

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded August 20, 2018


Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Atlantic’s new opinion columnist, Kevin D. Williamson, fired two weeks after controversial Tweets and podcast interview unearthed – Washington, D.C. – April 2018

Washington, DC

After joining The Atlantic as a columnist on March 22, 2018, conservative writer Kevin D. Williamson was let go two weeks later, when a podcast from 2014, in which he elaborated on his previously expressed hard-line anti-abortion views, was revealed by Media Matters, a nonprofit group that says it monitors “conservative misinformation” in U.S. media.

Key Players

Kevin D. Williamson is a journalist who wrote for National Review, a right-leaning magazine, for 10 years, until he was hired by The Atlantic as an opinion columnist. His critics discovered bigoted tweets and other offensive comments in his prior record.

Jeffrey Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, who made the contested decisions to hire, and subsequently to fire, Williamson. In a March 22 memo sent to Atlantic staff, Goldberg explained his rationale for hiring the polarizing writer. On April 5, Goldberg wrote another memo, saying “The Atlantic is not the best fit for his [Williamson’s] talents.”

Further Details

Having served for a decade as roving correspondent for National Review, Kevin D. Williamson joined The Atlantic in March 2018 to contribute to a new section on “ideas, opinions, and commentary.”

In an internal memo obtained by Slate, Goldberg explained his rationale for hiring Williamson, saying that “I have disagreed with him more than I have agreed with him,” but that he was impressed with Williamson’s thoughtful, witty, and clear writing style — and that Williamson would be an asset to the organization’s ideological diversity. “If we are going to host debates, we have to host people who actually disagree with, and sometimes offend, the other side,” Goldberg said. “Kevin will help this cause.”

Many disagreed, however. Following Williamson’s hire (and the one article he managed to publish on April 2, 2018), liberal critics lambasted Goldberg and The Atlantic through Twitter posts and newspaper editorials. Journalists pointed out Williamson’s track record of publishing racially charged and misogynist essays. Abortion rights group Naral Pro Choice America started a Twitter campaign (#FireKevin) and complained to The Atlantic about his having been hired.

Criticism was also directed at tweets that Williamson had posted on September 28, 2014, in which he asserted that women who had abortions were, in fact, committing murder, and could be charged with homicide. When questioned in online comments whether he thought the appropriate punishment for those who had elective abortions would be life without parole, he clarified that, “I have hanging more in mind.”

The next day, Williamson brought up and defended his position on “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” the podcast he co-hosts with National Review editor Charles C. Cooke. He would later clarify these remarks in a March 26, 2015, speech at Hillsdale College, saying that he is “generally against capital punishment,” “always against ex-post-facto punishment,” and “always against lynching.”

Conservative Williamson supporters, worried that his history of inflammatory comments would put him at odds with The Atlantic and its audience, warned in March 2018 that firing him would be tantamount to silencing him, and thus hamper his Free Speech. But when Media Matters, a progressive nonprofit watchdog group, published transcript evidence of Williamson’s remarks from the 2014 podcast, Goldberg could no longer withstand the uproar.

According to The Huffington Post, Goldberg told Atlantic staff in an email that he was firing Williamson. He said that, although he thought Williamson’s tweets in 2014 had simply been “intemperate,” the podcast discussion proved that they actually represented Williamson’s “carefully considered views.” Goldberg further explained, “the language used in the podcast was callous and violent. This runs contrary to The Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace.”


Kevin D. Williamson fired from columnist position for the Atlantic

Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg fired commentator Kevin D. Williamson only two weeks after he was hired. Williamson responded by publishing numerous opinion pieces, including in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. “…in this case, I obscured the more meaningful questions about abortion and sparked the sort of hysteria I’d meant to point out and mock,” Williamson wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “What matters more is the issue of how the rage-fueled tribalism of social media, especially Twitter, has infected the op-ed pages and, to some extent, the rest of journalism.”

External References

The Atlantic Cuts Ties with Conservative Writer Kevin Williamson. New York Times.

Why Would the Atlantic Hire Kevin Williamson? Slate.

Kevin D. Williamson’s Tweet about Capitall Punishment and Abortions.

The “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” Episode in which Williamson Doubles Down on His Comments.

The End of Rational Public Discourse – Kevin Williamson’s Speech to Hillsdale College.

Kevin Williamson also said on his podcast the people who’ve had abortions should be hanged.

Atlantic Fires Kevin Williamson After Suddenly Realizing He Believes The Things He Says. The Huffington Post.

When the Twitter Mob Came for Me. Wall Street Journal.

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Uploaded August 20, 2018


Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Boston tavern blasted online after serving ‘free speech group’ with possible hate affiliations – June 2018

Boston, MA

In June 2018, a tavern in Boston, Massachusetts, was heavily criticized online after serving patrons who had come from a “free speech” rally hosted by a group with far-right affiliations. Critics claimed the patrons in the restaurant were openly wearing hate symbols and intimidating other customers, but the owners of the restaurant denied that characterization. Eventually, the negative online rhetoric grew so intense that Yelp, an online review forum, removed reviews on the restaurant’s page about the incident, a common practice the company uses for establishments involved in controversy.

Key Players

Noelle and Sean Somers have owned the Green Dragon Tavern, located near Boston’s Freedom Trail, which connects numerous historic sites, for 25 years. It was named after a historical tavern — which some historians have called the “Headquarters of the American Revolution” — where the Sons of Liberty and other rebels against English rule of the American colonies often met. Though the contemporary Green Dragon publicizes itself as “a favorite haunt of Paul Revere…and John Hancock,” and claims to have “a long and rich history, playing an important part in the freedom of Boston during the War of Independence,” according to its website, it is located at a different address from the original and is apparently unrelated to the historical establishment in any official capacity.

The Boston Free Speech Coalition (BFSC) is an activist group that describes itself as non-partisan, saying it stands “for free speech in all forms from all sides of the political spectrum.” However, several of the group’s recent activities, including pro-gun rights events and a “March Against Sharia Law,” indicate that it has a right-leaning agenda.

The group has held several “free speech rallies” over the past year, in conjunction with the conservative group Resist Marxism; these events have also sometimes taken a far-right tack, and have included speakers who accused the advocacy group Black Lives Matter of being a terrorist organization, according to

An August 2017 rally organized by the BFSC — which took place soon after the violent “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia — originally had speakers with white supremacist and other racist ties scheduled to speak, according to The Boston Globe. One of these was Augustus Invictus, an activist involved in the Charlottesville rally who had gained white supremacist support while vying for a Florida Senate seat in 2016; Invictus was disinvited from the Boston rally in 2017, due to his “willingness to support violence, as well as his Holocaust denial,” one member of the BFSC told the Globe.

Further Details

On June 2, 2018, the BFSC and Resist Marxism organized a pro-free speech and pro-gun rights rally outside the Massachusetts statehouse entitled “June 2nd for the Second.” Though neither group’s primary focus is Second Amendment gun rights, the rally was intended to protest proposed “red flag” legislation that would allow for the temporary confiscation of firearms from individuals considered to pose a threat to themselves or others. On July 3, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, signed that “red flag” legislation into law.

Following the June 2 rally, a group of attendees went to the Green Dragon Tavern for lunch. Whether the patrons openly displayed any apparent affiliations with hate groups at the time remains unclear. But in a review of the restaurant on Yelp, one person claimed, “I was there and a group of about 20 idiots openly wearing swastikas and other white supremacist symbols walked in. They were purposely intimidating other patrons even after management was informed several times and they did NOTHING!!”

However, Noelle and Sean Somers both insisted that the rally attendees were not wearing anything to suggest they were affiliated with a hate group, and did not appear to be intimidating other customers. “The group was quiet, non-descript. They weren’t wearing anything to show hate or anything of that nature,” Noelle Somers told Boston 25 News.

A group of people who were not patrons of the tavern arrived outside the restaurant and, declaring to the manager that the Green Dragon was serving neo-Nazis, demanded the rally attendees be kicked out.

“None of these people were patrons. Not once did a patron within our establishment voice concern,” Noelle Somers insisted.

The manager approached the rally attendees inside to ensure they were not promoting hateful ideologies or threatening other restaurant patrons, but the group outside was unsatisfied by this effort, according to footage from a security camera that was shared with media outlets, including CBS Boston.

“They did say they had a large network and they would take us down” if ejected, Somers told Boston 25.

Within a week of the incident, the establishment received more than 125 negative comments on social media platforms such as Facebook and Yelp. as well as calls for boycotts, according to CBS Boston. “This bar knowingly served Neo-Nazis, which put other customers in danger. I don’t know what the management was thinking,” read one Yelp review. The Boston Feminists for Liberation wrote on Facebook that the tavern had been “playing host to members of women hating, gay bashing, white supremacist groups,” reported Boston 25.

The Somers made efforts to clarify their position and clear their restaurant’s name, including calling a press conference on June 8. “We have never and will never tolerate hate, and for it to be portrayed that we do is just disgusting,” Noelle Somers said. “If there is any racist propaganda put out or doing a Nazi salute or someone saying something racially, in any way shape or form to another person, they will not be allowed in,” she told CBS Boston.

The tavern owners said they were dismayed not only by the negative online rhetoric, but also by the subpar monitoring efforts of the platforms their critics used, particularly Facebook and Yelp. In their view, the companies’ complacency allowed critics to launch a misinformation campaign against their restaurant.

“We have been victimized by a coordinated social media smear campaign that has damaged our family business. Protest groups have falsely accused us of catering to Nazis, which is outrageous and disgusting,” the couple wrote Newsweek. “We now demand that media platforms such as Yelp, Twitter and Facebook incorporate stricter editorial policies to prevent false information from spreading in the future.”


Yelp issues an “active cleanup alert”

Yelp soon responded to the onslaught of dozens of negative reviews of the Green Dragon Tavern related to this encounter, according to Boston 25. Yelp’s policies dictate that posts unrelated to an establishment’s quality — such as those about its politics or controversies it is involved in — are irrelevant to the site’s purpose and should be removed. These policies are intended to help protect the reputation of establishments embroiled in conflict or receiving significant media attention by ensuring the posts substantively discuss the establishment’s intended service.

“When local businesses make the news or do something controversial, their Yelp business page can be affected. Many people come to Yelp to share their views about the news. Media-fueled reviews typically violate our Content Guidelines, one of which deals with relevance,” the online review forum told Newsweek.

Such alerts remain active until the page’s traffic returns to normal. As of July 24, 2018, the alert for the Green Dragon Tavern was still active: “This business is being monitored by Yelp’s Support team for content related to media reports,” the warning read.

External References

Who is the Boston Free Speech Coalition behind Saturday’s rally?, The Boston Globe

Boston free speech rally draws supporters, protesters,

Gun activists protest proposed ‘red flag’ legislation, The Boston Herald

Restaurant Accused of Serving Nazis After Free Speech Rally Fights Back, Newsweek

Boston tavern owners say they’ve fallen victim to online bullies, Boston 25 News

Boston Bar Fights Back Over ‘Slander’ For Serving Neo-Nazi Group, CBS Boston

Baker Signs ‘Red Flag’ Gun Bill, CBS Boston

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded July 26, 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Roseanne reboot cancelled after star’s racist tweet – May 2018

Los Angeles, CA

In May 2018, comedienne Roseanne Barr tweeted a racist comment about Valerie Jarrett, a close adviser to former President Barack Obama who is African-American and Iranian-born. Barr was sharply rebuked by her network and her colleagues. Within a few hours, her hit show Roseanne — a reboot of her acclaimed series from the 1980s and 90s — was cancelled by ABC. A month later, the network announced plans to produce of a spin-off program without Barr.

Key Players

Roseanne Barr is a television personality who gained prominence for her popular sitcom Roseanne, which won acclaim for its realistic depiction of working-class white American families. The show ran from 1988 to 1997 and was revived for a nine-episode run in 2018. The reboot’s premiere episode reached approximately 27 million viewers, and the 2018 season overall drew in an estimated $45 million in advertising revenue for its network, ABC, according to The New York Times.

Barr has a history of perpetuating debunked conspiracy theories on her Twitter account, sharing unsubstantiated information about the “Pizzagate” theory that prominent Democrats were involved in child sex trafficking in the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant, for example, and calling billionaire philanthropist George Soros a Nazi. She has also been an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump.

Valerie Jarrett was a senior adviser and influential aide to former President Barack Obama. Jarrett, who is African-American, was born in Iran to American parents, leading to conspiracy theories around her ethnicity and religion.

Further Details

On May 29, 2018, Barr tweeted a racist comment about Jarrett in response to false claims that she had helped Obama plant an informant in Trump’s campaign. “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,” she wrote, in reference to Jarrett.

The tweet elicited outrage online and from Barr’s colleagues and the ABC network. Wanda Sykes, a black comedienne who worked as a producer for Roseanne, quit immediately. Sara Gilbert, the actress who portrayed Barr’s daughter on the show, said she was “disappointed in her actions to say the least.” Barr was also dropped by her agency, ICM Partners, according to USA Today.

Less than an hour after the initial tweet, Barr posted an apology to her Twitter account.

“I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans,” she tweeted. “I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me – my joke was in bad taste.” She subsequently announced that she was leaving Twitter, but returned later that day and posted a since-deleted explanation of her behavior:

“It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting,” she wrote. “It was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible. I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but…don’t defend it please.”

Jarrett, speaking at an MSNBC town hall on racism on May 29, said that “we have to turn it into a teaching moment,” according to the New York Times.

In an interview released June 23, her first since the controversy, Barr lamented the actions that led to her firing and expressed remorse for her comment. “I lost everything and I regretted it before I lost everything,” she said in a podcast interview. “I never would have wittingly called any black person … they are a monkey. […] I just wouldn’t do that. I didn’t do that.”


ABC axes Roseanne reboot

Just hours after Barr’s tweet about Jarrett, ABC announced the cancellation of the Roseanne revival in a statement that rebuked the star and distanced the network from her.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values,” ABC’s entertainment president Channing Dungey wrote. The network decided to remove the show from its own site and from the streaming service Hulu, which is also owned by Disney, ABC’s parent company.

The decision to cancel Roseanne drew both praise and criticism. Supporters lauded ABC for cancelling the show in the wake of Barr’s comment, despite its strong ratings and advertising revenue. However, some, such as the well-known right-wing radio host Alex Jones, himself the promoter of the “Pizzagate” and other conspiracy theories, likened the program’s cancellation to a suppression of conservative voices.

ABC greenlights Roseanne spinoff without Barr

On June 21, ABC announced it would be producing a spin-off of Roseanne without its eponymous star. The show, tentatively titled The Conners, will center on the namesake family of Barr’s character.

“Roseanne Barr will have no financial or creative involvement in the new series,” the company wrote. It said, however, that some of the other stars of Roseanne would be returning and have expressed their enthusiasm for the upcoming new series.

“We have received a tremendous amount of support from fans of our show, and it’s clear that these characters not only have a place in our hearts, but in the hearts and homes of our audience,” several of the cast members wrote in a press release, according to CNN.

“I agreed to the settlement in order that 200 jobs of beloved cast and crew could be saved, and I wish the best for everyone involved,” Barr said in a June 21 statement, CNN reported.

ABC has ordered ten episodes of The Conners, which is slated to air in the fall of 2018.

External References

Defending Trump, Roseanne Wants Her Show to Be ‘Realistic’, The New York Times

After Racist Tweet, Roseanne Barr’s Show Is Canceled by ABC, The New York Times

Twitter Users Respond to Roseanne Barr’s Firing, The New York Times

Inside Roseanne Barr’s history of offensive tweets, USA Today

‘The Conners’ is happening, without Roseanne Barr, CNN

Roseanne breaks down in first interview since being fired from ABC show, The Hill

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded July 20, 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Two Pittsburgh journalists fired over editorial disagreements – June 2018

Pittsburgh, PA

Within a span of three weeks, two Pittsburgh newspapers fired longtime staff members over editorial disagreements. In May 2018, the editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper was fired after ignoring requests to tone down its critical coverage of a local conservative politician. In June 2018, a veteran editorial cartoonist for the more mainstream Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was fired after his work was repeatedly sidelined for months, drawing speculation of censorship over ideological differences.

Key Players

Pittsburgh CIty Paper is a prominent alternative newsweekly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a circulation of about 70,000. The paper has been characterized as leaning in the liberal direction; the Post-Gazette once called City Paper “among the region’s most unabashedly liberal publications.” In 2016, City Paper was purchased by the Eagle Media Corporation, which also owns the Butler Eagle, a daily newspaper in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

Charlie Deitch joined the Pittsburgh City Paper in 2005, and worked as its editor from 2014 until he was fired in May 2018.

Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican, has represented Pennsylvania’s 12th district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 1999. His district, which encompasses part of Butler County in western Pennsylvania, includes a number of small towns as well as the more metropolitan Cranberry Township, where nearly half of the district’s residents live. Ninety-six percent of the district’s population is white.

Metcalfe has been criticized in the pages of City Paper for his stance on issues like LGBTQ rights and for his alleged obstructionism.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is the largest daily newspaper in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, with a daily circulation of nearly 175,000.

The Post-Gazette was born out of a twentieth-century merger of two major Pittsburgh newspapers: The Pittsburgh Gazette began publishing in 1786 and, throughout the nineteenth century, leaned strongly Republican and supported the election of Abraham Lincoln. The Pittsburgh Post began publishing in 1842 and had pro-Democratic leanings, having evolved out of three pro-Democratic weekly papers. In 1927, William Randolph Hearst purchased The Pittsburgh Gazette, by then renamed The Gazette Time, and sold it to Paul Block, who had recently bought out the Pittsburgh Post. Block merged the two newspapers that year.

Though the paper has been historically regarded as liberal, it began to shift to the political right in the spring of 2018.

Rob Rogers worked as the staff cartoonist at the Post-Gazette from 1993 until June 2018, when he was fired. His editorial cartoons have also been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and Newsweek, among other publications. Rogers has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1999.

Keith Burris is vice president and editorial director of Block Newspapers, the media company that owns both the Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, a daily Ohio paper. In March 2018, the editorial boards — and thus the editorial page operations — of the two papers were merged, and Burris was appointed to lead the combined operation, according to the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR).

Further Details

Early in May 2018, under Deitch’s editorial leadership, the City Paper published critical comments about Metcalfe. On May 2, the paper published an editorial by “CP staff” entitled “Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe has proven himself unfit for office.” It called his beliefs “racist, xenophobic, close-minded and full of general numb-skullery” and criticized his alleged obstructionist tendencies. Less than a week later, the paper’s political blog ran a story headlined “State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s pro-gun rally attracted support of group with white-supremacist origins.” Deitch also had a story in the works about a bill to expand protections against discrimination toward the LGBTQ community, which discussed Metcalfe’s obstruction of the legislation, according to the Post-Gazette.

On May 8, Raymond Sielski, then the acting general manager of City Paper, sent an email to Deitch discussing the paper’s political coverage.

“Charlie, Can you redirect your anti Metcalf [sic] efforts toward let’s say maybe Pittsburgh politics,” Sielski wrote. “Are we not running any local races that [City Paper] readership might like to hear about relevant to Pittsburgh?”

Later that day, Deitch alleged, Sielski told him his critical coverage of Metcalfe risked poisoning the relationship between the influential local legislator and the Butler Eagle’s parent company, and asked him to retract articles about Metcalfe, according to the CJR. In addition to the publications it owns, the Eagle Media Corporation owns the Harmony Outdoor billboard company and the Butler Color Press, which produces advertising materials, according to the Pennsylvania News Media Association. Deitch said he refused the request to alter his coverage of Metcalfe, citing journalistic ethics.

In a separate and unrelated incident just weeks later, Rogers, a long-time cartoonist at the Post-Gazette, saw a number of his cartoons — mostly ones that were critical of President Donald Trump — go unpublished.

Rogers said that over his more than three decades working at the newspaper, he has generally seen only two or three cartoons a year rejected by his editors. In contrast, between March and June 2018, the editors rejected nine of his ideas and killed 10 of his finished cartoons. The matter drew attention when the Post-Gazette declined to publish any of Rogers’ cartoons between May 24 and June 5, a particularly long stretch for the well-known cartoonist not to appear in the newspaper that employs him.

Many of Rogers’ rejected cartoons criticized Trump, while others parodied such controversies as the National Football League’s new rules on players kneeling during the National Anthem and actress Roseanne Barr’s recent racist tweetstorm that got her fired from a revived television series. His last cartoon published in the Post-Gazette, which was printed on June 5, mocked recently-imposed steel tariffs. Rogers subsequently took the rest of that week off from work as “things were still unresolved with management,” according to The Washington Post.

“Suffice it to say things are unresolved,” Rogers said in a June 9 interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I am still employed at this point. I’m waiting each day to hear something.”

The left-leaning nature of Rogers’ work drew speculation that his cartoons were rejected over ideological differences with the paper’s leadership, according to CNN. The uptick in the number of cartoons rejected comes after the merger of the editorial pages of the Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade. Rogers noted that, until the last several months, he had worked under John Robinson Block, the publisher of both newspapers, for decades without problems.

In 2016, Block and Burris were reported to have spent time with Trump on his plane following a campaign rally. Block was separately photographed with the president another time that year, according to CNN.

In January 2018, two months before Burris’s appointment to run the combined editorial page operation, an unsigned editorial was published in both the Post-Gazette and the Blade targeting critics who call Trump a racist. “Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism,” read the editorial, which drew sharp criticism from the local community and from staff members. Weeks later, Burris was identified as the author, according to CJR.


Deitch is fired from Pittsburgh City Paper

On May 15, Deitch was fired from the City Paper. When he arrived at his office that morning, he said, he was informed by Sielski and Vernon Wise, the president of Eagle Media Corporation, that he “had to go.” Two hours later, a statement attributed to Wise announced that longtime sportswriter Rob Rossi had been hired to replace Deitch as editor of City Paper.

“Today we had to make the very difficult decision to part ways with our editor, Charlie Deitch,” the release read. “Change is always difficult, and this was a difficult day. We are committed to the employees of CP, who work hard every day to put together a publication that we can all be proud of.”

Wise told the Post-Gazette that Deitch’s political coverage of Metcalfe was not a factor in his termination, but declined to discuss the matter further.

Rogers is fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On June 14, Rogers was fired by the Post-Gazette at an off-site meeting with two human resources representatives, who asked him to turn in his identification badge and any equipment owned by the newspaper. He was reportedly offered the opportunity to work as an independent contractor not on the staff, but he declined, according to the Post-Gazette.

“Things really changed for me in March, when management decided that my cartoons about the president were ‘too angry’ and said I was ‘obsessed with Trump.’ This about a president who has declared the free press one of the greatest threats to our country,” Rogers wrote in a June 15 op-ed in The New York Times. “After so many years of punch lines and caricatures, skewering mayors and mullahs, the new regime at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette decided that The Donald trumped satire when it came to its editorial pages.”

“The editors of the Post-Gazette are keenly aware of Mr. Rogers’ talents, history with this newspaper and standing in this community,” the editorial board of the Post-Gazette wrote on June 15. “There has never been any intention to silence or suppress Mr. Rogers. Nor would we ever ask him to violate the dictates of his conscience. Rather, we have sought to engage in the necessary journalistic practices of editing, gatekeeping and collaboration.”

“Rob’s recent absence from these pages has occurred as we have sought a structure and platform for future collaboration,” the statement continued. “Alas, we have not been able to find that way forward, and we now part ways with Rob in a spirit of gratitude and affection.”

External References

Eagle Media Corp. purchases Pittsburgh City Paper, Pennsylvania News Media Association

New editorial leadership announced at Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh City Paper fires editor after disagreement on coverage of state legislator, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

‘I refused’: Fired City Paper editor claims efforts to suppress coverage, Columbia Journalism Review

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s baffling editorial decision, Columbia Journalism Review

Pittsburgh paper spikes work of longtime editorial cartoonist, CNN

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist is seeing many anti-Trump cartoons spiked, The Washington Post

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist speaks out about having his Trump cartoons killed, Philadelphia Inquirer

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fires editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Cartoonist Fired as Paper Shifts Right, The New York Times

I Was Fired for Making Fun of Trump, New York Times

Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Prepared by Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded July 18, 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Green Bay Packers fan sues Chicago Bears for barring him from sidelines – June 16, 2017

Chicago, IL

Russell Beckman, a season ticket-holder for both the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears football teams, sued the Bears and the National Football League (NFL) for allegedly violating his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, after he was denied entry to the sidelines at Soldier Field, the Bears’ home stadium, because he was wearing Packers apparel.

Key Players

Russell Beckman is a high school teacher and longtime Packers fan who resides in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, which is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan between Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois. On December 18, 2016, Bears representatives prevented him from entering Soldier Field to watch the team’s pre-game warm-ups, though he had purchased tickets for the experience.

The Chicago Bears is the professional football team based in Chicago. It has a notorious rivalry with the Green Bay Packers, based nearby in Wisconsin. The Bears have a point-based reward system for season ticket-holders, which gives them access to various prizes and “experiences,” including the opportunity to watch the team’s pre-game warm-ups.

Further Details

For more than 15 years, Beckman has purchased season tickets for both the Packers’ and the Bears’ games. He explained to the Green Bay Press Gazette that he enjoys following the teams’ rivalry, and attends the annual game between them at Soldier Field every year. As a season ticket-holder and the owner of a personal seat license, which enables him to sit in the same seat at every game, Beckman is awarded points (based on a formula created by the Bears) that he can use to “buy” merchandise or participate in special experience programs. Buying tickets to the latter allows him — as he wrote in his June 16, 2017 lawsuit — to enjoy watching from the sidelines as the team warms up. Beckman purchased three tickets for the “pre-game warm-up field experience” that would occur before the Bears-Packers game on December 18, 2016.

Beckman claimed in his suit that when he and a friend had purchased tickets for the same sort of experience in 2014 and 2015, both were allowed to wear Packers apparel on the field. This time, Beckman said, he was told by representatives of the Bears that “No opposing team gear will be allowed.” He exchanged a series of emails with them in the days leading up to the game, explaining that he planned to wear Packers gear to the game and during the sideline warm-up experience ahead of it. They told him again explicitly that he would not be allowed to participate if he arrived wearing Packers apparel.

When he arrived at the game in question, Beckman was denied entry to the team warm-up, despite the fact that he had “purchased” a ticket using his accumulated points. His two companions, who were not wearing Packers apparel, were allowed entry to the sidelines.

In May 2017, the Bears informed Beckman that he had once again received enough points for the sideline warm-up experience, and he “bought” four of these tickets for the November 12, 2017, Bears-Packers game. After buying these tickets, according to Beckman’s suit, he again received an email informing him that no visiting team clothing would be allowed. Beckman complained in his suit that he would “continue to be denied access to this experience simply because [I am] dressed in opposing team gear.”

Beckman says he wrote a letter to Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, explaining his situation and requesting that Goodell press the Bears to change this policy. He received no reply.

He then filed a lawsuit against the Bears and the NFL in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, complaining that they had violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Gazette reported that Beckman’s argument hinged on the idea that the Bears are a state actor; because the team leases Soldier Field from the Chicago Park District, he contended, their finances and operations are intertwined to such a degree that what happens at Soldier Field is a public, rather than private, activity.


NFL suit dismissed, Bears suit allowed to proceed

Beckman’s complaint against the NFL was dismissed on March 30, 2018. The judge decided that his suit against the Bears, however, could proceed. Beckman said he does not want to profit from the suit, and only wants to be reimbursed for court fees. According to the Gazette, his desired outcome is simply for the Bears to change their policy and allow him to watch warm-ups from the sidelines while wearing Packers apparel.

Chicago Bears file motion for reconsideration

After the judge decided Beckman’s suit against the Bears could move forward, the team filed a motion to reconsider this ruling. This motion delayed the planned proceedings of the court until the judge rules on the Bears’ motion for reconsideration. As of June 27, 2018, no decision had been reached.

External References

Beckman’s complaint and request for injunction filed U.S. District Court

Memorandum Opinion and Order from the Illinois Northern Court District

Beckman v. Chicago Bear Football Club inc. et al. Court Docket Sheet

Judge Dismisses NFL from Lawsuit bt Packers Fan, Bears Remain, NBC Chicago

Packers fan’s lawsuit against Chicago Bears gets go-ahead from court, The Green Bay Press Gazette

NFL Lawsuit Calls Chicago Bears Rule Barring Visiting Team Apparel Unconstitutional, Top Class Actions

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Uploaded June 28, 2018

Free Speech in Civil Society graphic

Broadcaster Laura Ingraham loses advertisers after criticizing Florida high school shooting survivor – March/April 2018

Washington, D.C.

In March 2018, Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham posted criticisms of David Hogg, who had survived the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida, on Twitter. She was widely accused of bullying him. In response, Hogg called for advertisers to boycott Ingraham’s popular television show, leading a number of sponsors to drop out and sparking conversation about the Free Speech implications of advertiser boycotts.

Key Players

Laura Ingraham is a conservative commentator known for her nationally syndicated radio program and for her Fox News talk show, “The Ingraham Angle.” The latter premiered in October 2017 and garnered 3.3 million viewers upon its debut. Since then, it has often occupied the top position for its time slot against CNN and MSNBC competitors.

David Hogg is one of the founding members of Never Again MSD, a group of Parkland survivors who advocate for gun control and helped organize the March for Our Lives rally against gun violence in March 2018. Hogg has also been the target of conspiracy theories claiming he is a “crisis actor” involved in the falsification of the Parkland shooting.

Further Details

On March 28, Ingraham tweeted out an article from The Daily Wire that called Hogg a “gun rights provocateur” and discussed the rejection by colleges. She wrote, “David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA…totally predictable given acceptance rates.)”

Ingraham received immediate backlash online from those accusing her of “bullying” Hogg. Soon after, Hogg called on Ingraham’s advertisers to boycott “The Ingraham Angle.”

“Soooo @IngrahamAngle what are your biggest advertisers … Asking for a friend. #BoycottIngramAdverts,” he wrote in a March 28 tweet.

By March 29, at least eight companies — including TripAdvisor, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, and Hulu — had withdrawn their ads from Ingraham’s television program. Days later, other companies, such as Allstate and Honda, dropped their sponsorship of the show, which had previously been an advertising draw for Fox. Twenty-seven companies ultimately pulled their ads from “The Ingraham Angle,” and advertising time on the show was nearly halved.

Several of the companies that removed their ads said Ingraham’s remarks did not align with their values. TripAdvisor, through a spokesperson, said Ingraham’s statements “cross the line of decency.” In an internal memo, Allstate wrote that “Laura Ingraham’s comments about David Hogg were inconsistent with our values.”

In the wake of the boycotts, Ingraham issued an apology to Hogg. “On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland,” she wrote in a March 29 tweet. Ingraham also invited Hogg to “return to the show anytime for a productive discussion.”

Hogg, however, made it publically clear he was unmoved by Ingraham’s apology. “She only apologized after we went after her advertisers,” he said. “It kind of speaks for itself.”


Public figures come to Ingraham’s defense, citing Free Speech

After companies began to pull advertisements, several public personalities came to Ingraham’s defense.

Bill Maher, a well-known commentator who anchors the politically oriented Real Talk with Bill Maher on HBO, argued Hogg’s call for the boycott was an overreaction to Ingraham’s “bullying.” On his April 6 program, Maher said advertising boycotts are a “modern way of cutting off free speech.”

CNN host Brian Stelter also questioned the appropriateness of advertising boycotts on an April 1 episode of his program, “Reliable Sources,” calling them “dangerous.”

“Let’s not shut down anyone’s right to speak,” Stelter said. “Let’s meet their comments with more speech.”

Ingraham takes time off, returns to increased ratings

In the wake of the controversy, Ingraham took a week off from “The Ingraham Angle,” for a vacation with her family and returned to air April 9. Her resumption of th program brought the show’s highest ratings ever, averaging over 3 million viewers — a 25 percent bump compared to the first three months of 2018.

Jack Abernathy, co-president of Fox News, reaffirmed the network’s support of Ingraham, saying, “we cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts.”

External References

Advertisers Drop Laura Ingraham After She Taunts Parkland Survivor David Hogg, The New York Times

Laura Ingraham returns to Fox News after ad boycott spurred by Parkland’s David Hogg, USA TODAY

Ebates Is 27th Laura Ingraham Sponsor to Pull Ads, Yahoo Entertainment

Laura Ingraham ad exodus incites conversation about free speech, Salon

Free-Speech Liberal Bill Maher Defends Laura Ingraham In David Hogg Spat, The Federalist

Laura Ingraham Ratings Spike to Highest Ever Despite Advertiser Boycott, Yahoo Entertainment

Maya Gandhi ’20

Uploaded June 26, 2018

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 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.


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.”


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,

Recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Confederate Monuments

Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20

Uploaded June 1, 2018