If you're already worried about First Amendment rights, a move by the Democrats on the Federal Election Commission to censor Fox News over the cable network's handling of GOP presidential debates should disturb your sleep.
The move was blocked by Republican appointees on the FEC, but it shows just how under attack rights Americans have taken for granted are now. Here is what happened (as reported on the Fox website):
The vote concerned changes made to the criteria for the Fox News-hosted GOP primary debate on Aug. 6, 2015 in Cleveland. For that debate, Fox News decided to alter the format – hosting two debates instead of one and expanding the first debate for lower-polling candidates to include any candidate identified as such in national polls. Seven candidates ultimately participated in the first debate, and 10 participated in the prime-time event.
A complaint subsequently was filed with the FEC claiming those changes were tantamount to an illegal corporate contribution to the candidates on stage.
FoxNews.com is told that after consideration, three commissioners – Ellen Weintraub, Ann Ravel, and Steven Walther – determined the network had made such an illegal contribution to the seven candidates invited to the first debate.
The case ended on a split 3-3 vote, resulting in no action. Three commissioners concluded Fox News violated election law; two of the Democratic commissioners went a step further and voted to penalize the network. But because any enforcement action requires four votes, the case was dismissed.
While political debate rules have come before the FEC in the past, rarely has the commission come so close to penalizing a news outlet over the issue.
The Obama administration's loathes Fox, but in the past in the U.S. even news outlets that are disliked by the government have been secure in their First Amendment rights.
Commissioner Lee Goodman, a Republican appointed to the FEC, called the attempt to penalize Fox "astonishing" and a step towards censorship. He issued a statement:
“All press organizations should be concerned when the government asserts regulatory authority to punish and censor news coverage,” Goodman said in a statement.
This comes at a time when Democrats are considering prosecuting those who disagree with them on the pet issue of global warming. Similarly, the D.C. Human Rights office has ruled that those who do not use the correct C pronouns for transgender people can face criminal charges and fines, which will be an expensive problem for some Christians who work in the District.