Washington, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) delivered remarks at a Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing about government censorship and the silencing of political views.
Anyone who values free speech and a free press should be alarmed by these actions today. It’s an attack on the First Amendment when public officials use their power to coerce private companies to censor and silence viewpoints they don’t agree with. pic.twitter.com/3gOZmMxsOU
— Energy & Commerce GOP (@HouseCommerce) February 24, 2021
As prepared for delivery:
“In all my time on this committee, there has never been a more obvious direct attack on the First Amendment.
“I want to be very clear, condemning the January 6th attack and upholding truth and facts is a shared, bipartisan goal. But that is not what this hearing is about.
“If the Majority was interested in a meaningful dialogue, you would not schedule a hyper-partisan hearing to shame and blame. You certainly would not send letters pressuring private companies to block conservative media outlets.
“I’m not only disappointed in this hearing, I’m deeply troubled by what it means to our fundamental rights. EVERY journalist—from MSNBC and CNN to the New York Times —should be concerned by the Majority’s actions. And ANYONE who values free speech and a free press should be worried.
“Elected officials using their platform to pressure private companies to censor media outlets they disagree with—that sounds a lot like actions from the Chinese Communist Party, not duly-elected representatives of the United States Congress.
“Here we cherish free speech and a free independent press. We believe in dialogue and in the battle of ideas .Rather than censor and silence constitutionally protected speech, the answer is more speech. That’s the American way.
“Chair Pallone and Chair Doyle, surely you agree with me. Less than a year ago, you sent a letter to the FCC decrying attempts to censor or interfere with broadcasters’ discretion to air legally protected content.
“You said… ‘At a time when autocratic governments around the world are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to suppress press freedoms, we must reaffirm, not undermine, American’s commitment to a free press.’
“What’s changed? As you once put it, to stay silent could undermine the First Amendment.
“We should all be publicly denouncing this censorship campaign based on political ideology or someone saying something you disagree with.
“Is this the standard you want to set?
“Should CNN still be carried after hosting Governor Cuomo? For months, liberal media lauded him and legitimized his lethal response to COVID-19. He even won an Emmy for his use of TV to spread misinformation.
“How do we know it was misinformation? Because of a balance of networks that pursued investigative journalism.
“Should MSNBC still be carried for pushing the false “Russia collusion” narrative? Thanks to independent journalists and a robust free press, we learned their reporting was false.
“Does your new standard stop with cable news or should it now be applied to social media? This is a dangerous and un-American standard for more control to redefine for your own power what is true.
“Do you think Republican Members of Congress agree with all of the content in media outlets? No. Have we sent TV companies threatening letters to stop carrying certain channels? No.
“Now more than ever, we need to uphold the First Amendment.
“It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
“This is unique to us as Americans. It’s been fought for and defended all through our history for free expression without censorship from the government.
“It’s foundational to our personal rights and liberties. So, we should all be troubled today on what appears to be an attack on the First Amendment by elected officials to coerce private companies to censor political speech.
“This is an abuse of power. Our country is for ‘we the people.’ Not a few in a position of authority dictating to the rest.
“Today, the media is the target but where does it end? We already see liberal ideology pushed in our schools, where we work, the books we read, who we communicate with, and how we practice our faith.
“This is frightening. Do you know what the worst part is? Right now, people are afraid of a woke and authoritarian system that is getting them fired, canceled, and shamed.
“So they are silent. They have no voice. They can’t trust broken institutions to protect them.
“This culture of fear is unjust. This committee should not be using fear to force everyone to be the same or be destroyed.
“Rather than abuse its power and force a state religion of liberal ideology, I urge us all to embrace our fundamental rights that lie at the foundation of a free government by free men.
“Let’s give people hope in the Promise of America again— so they have the courage to be unique, creative, and live their lives without fear. We should all be publicly denouncing this censorship campaign on news that doesn’t fit a specific worldview.
“I yield back.”