Deporting Piers Morgan is consistent with the First Amendment
I don’t really want to deport CNN’s Piers Morgan. He’s making a good living as a carnival barker, and I am a capitalist. Also, he’d probably end up back in the UK, and I don’t dislike the UK enough to inflict such harm upon them, although granted I haven’t watched The Patriot recently. I think we can all agree that losing our supply of “Doctor Who” and “Downton Abbey” in a retaliatory media strike is too great a risk. You win this round, land of my ancestors.
But needling Piers Morgan over the large number of people who do want to deport him is great fun. And it’s a little disturbing to get the wrong answer from the White House when the question of his possible deportation was raised.
The White House, you see, has a petition system, in which any petition that gains the requisite number of signatures must be given a formal response. Currently, the White House is dragging its feet about responding to a valid petition for the construction of a Death Star – which, I am reliably informed by Kevin Glass of TownHall.com, would cost upwards of 852,000 magic trillion-dollar platinum deficit coins. God help us if the thing turned out to be coin operated.
So the petition to launch Morgan across one of the many fine borders available to America racked up the necessary number of signatures, and White House spokesman Jay Carney dutifully came forth to respond… by answering the Constitutional question incorrectly. The Daily Caller relates both Carney’s error and the correct answer:
“Let’s not let arguments over the Constitution’s Second Amendment violate the spirit of its First,” Carney wrote in response to the petition, which has collected more than 100,000 signatures from patriotic Americans.
“President Obama believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. However, the Constitution not only guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but also enshrines the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press — fundamental principles that are essential to our democracy,” Carney wrote.
However, as the Daily Caller reported in December, the First Amendment does not protect Morgan from possible deportation in this case.
Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto explained on Twitter December 22 the legal precedent that prevents Morgan from citing the First Amendment to protect his status in the United States:
“Your opinion is protected, your presence in the U.S. is not. See Kleindienst v. Mandel (1972),” Taranto replied to Morgan.
Taranto linked to transcripts from a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to allow a foreign journalist into the United States did not violate the First Amendment. The case resulted from Nixon administration attorney general Richard Kleindienst’s refusal to grant a temporary nonimmigrant visa to Marxist Belgian journalist Ernest Mandel.
Sure, it’s a silly question, but it’s disappointing that the White House couldn’t spend ten seconds getting the answer right, particularly when this particular Administration’s fidelity to the Constitution is a sore point with many Americans.
Update: Some have sought to defend Carney by saying he only implicitly linked the First Amendment to his reason for refusing to deport Morgan. That’s a rather fine act of hair-splitting – when someone says “I will not do A because the Bill of Rights says B,” they are bringing constitutionality into the discussion.
What I find dismaying about this little tempest in a teapot (is that an unacceptably stereotypical metaphor when discussing a British person?) is that Carney felt obliged to bring up the Constitution and the First Amendment, when it was clearly unnecessary. He could simply have said, “You shouldn’t call for deporting someone because you disagree with them, because you find them annoying, or even because you think their misunderstanding of our Constitution is dangerous. The American system is strong enough to withsthand criticism.” If he was looking to score a sarcastic point against his political opponents, he might have added that “shut up” is not an acceptable contribution to discourse, and “get lost” is just “shut up” plus frequent-flyer miles. There are better ways to respond to Piers Morgan than filling out a symbolic petition telling him to go away.
Carney might also have usefully noted a simple fact that also tends to override any First Amendment considerations here: deporting Piers Morgan would not remove him from the American airwaves. The media doesn’t work that way any more. CNN has offices in Britain, and just about any other country Morgan’s plane might be diverted to, if the British decided not to allow him into their airspace. It would be harder for him to conduct his type of face-to-face interview show if he weren’t based in the United States, but not impossible, and interviews don’t have to be conducted in person.
Morgan was on Twitter recently, sniveling that it’s “fascinating to see how the U.S. right wing masses as one to target anyone who disagrees with them on guns.” Something tells me he’s not really all that disappointed with the attention he’s gained from this “massing,” which has not included any serious effort to push him off the air. I’m not a regular viewer of his, so can someone tell me if he stuck up for Rush Limbaugh when the Left was “massing as one” to target him?