Why Does Sarah Palin Keep Getting The First Amendment Wrong?

Sarah Palin took to her Twitter account this morning to say this about the Juan Williams story:

NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it. Juan Williams: u got taste of Left’s hypocrisy,they screwed up firing you

This isn’t the first time that Palin has invoked the First Amendment when she has a beef with the media. In the final days of the 2008 campaign, she complained that journalists who were asking questions about her and her record were violating her First Amendment rights and that such journalists were “a threat to democracy.” During the Carrie Prejean beauty pageant/gay marriage kerfuffle, she accused the media and pageant officials of violating Prejean’s First Amendment rights. Back in May she essentially said that journalists who printed stories she didn’t like were a threat to freedom of the press. And, most recently, she invoked the First Amendment to defend Dr. Laura Schlesinger from the criticism that followed her repeated on word use of a racial epithet.

None of these, of course, are First Amendment situations, even the Williams case. While NPR does receive a small portion of it’s revenue from the taxpayer-funded Corporation For Public Broadcasting, most of it’s funding comes from member stations and donations. It is, for legal purposes, a private entity and thus not subject to the First Amendment.

Why is it, though, that Palin and others can’t seem to get this idea straight?

It strikes me as either being outright ignorance or a deliberate effort to blur the lines.

Update: As sam mentions in a comment, UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh provides the definitive answer to the question of whether NPR could possibly be covered by the First Amendment:

A bunch of people have asked me whether NPR’s firing of Juan Williams for his statement about Muslims on The O’Reilly Factor violates the First Amendment. The answer is “no.” NPR is not a government actor, and thus not bound by the First Amendment; that it gets some funding from the government does not make it a government actor, just as private colleges’ getting grants and other benefits doesn’t make them government actors bound by the First Amendment. See Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830 (1982) (so holding, even as to a school that got 90% of its money from the government).

Absent a statute from Congress conditioning the federal funding on certain actions, NPR and the CPB are free to act however they wish.

FILED UNDER: Politicians, Quick Takes, Sarah Palin, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ken says:

    As always, the The Onion knows why.

    I think I would have said “defiant ignorance” rather than “outright ignorance.” Accuracy in rhetoric is an elitist expectation; Real Americans don’t expect it.

  2. john personna says:

    NPR may be pursuing an imperfect form of neutrality, but it’s worse that Palin plays up that very attempt as “left.”

    NPR errs to the right and to the left. Of course, to actually know that you have to listen to it.

    Heck, Planet Money is one of the big voices for hands-off free market capitalism these days.

  3. DC Loser says:

    Well, according to the World According to Palin, everything to the left of Fox News is “left.”

  4. […] violation, and it’s silly to say that it is. So naturally Sarah Palin said it is. As Doug Mataconis points out, it’s just the latest instance of Palin misconstruing or misrepresenting what the First […]

  5. Bruce Rheinstein says:

    “NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it.”

    That’s an accurate statement. Because NPR is not a government actor they can fire Williams for saying things they disapprove of. The comment is intended as irony, not to confuse private and government actors.

  6. sam says:

    At the risk of interrupting rino moron’s* roll, here’s Eugene Volokh on the issue:

    A bunch of people have asked me whether NPR’s firing of Juan Williams for his statement about Muslims on The O’Reilly Factor violates the First Amendment. The answer is “no.” NPR is not a government actor, and thus not bound by the First Amendment; that it gets some funding from the government does not make it a government actor, just as private colleges’ getting grants and other benefits doesn’t make them government actors bound by the First Amendment. See Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830 (1982) (so holding, even as to a school that got 90% of its money from the government).

    The government may by statute impose many conditions on the use of government funds — that’s what Congress did with Title VI and Title IX (which generally bar recipients of federal funds from discriminating based on race and sex). Congress thus might condition NPR’s funding on its not firing commentators based on their off-NPR speech. (I say “might” because there are some twists which I set aside for now.) But Congress hasn’t enacted such a statute, and it is of course under no obligation to do so. [http://volokh.com/2010/10/21/is-npr-bound-by-the-first-amendment-in-its-hiringfiring-decisions/]

    *EDITOR’S NOTE: This refers to a comment by a poster who has since been banned and had his annoying posts deleted.

  7. […] So apparently now the wingnuts want to defund NPR because it didn’t re-up the contract for a liberal. At the forefront of the “PUNISH NPR” crowd are the Huckster and Snowflake Snooki. Doug Mataconis at OTB wonders aloud: […]

  8. sam says:

    “The comment is intended as irony, not to confuse private and government actors.”

    C’mon, Palin, irony….really?

  9. Brandon says:

    I wonder if Hussein will have a beer summit over this firing?

    What else has he got to do?

  10. sam,

    Thanks. I was waiting for one of the lawprof bloggers to weigh in on this.

    I’ve added it as an update to the post as well

  11. Brandon says:

    Gee, I wonder what the opinion of a lawprof from, say, the Heritage Group would say???

    Nope, no bias here!

  12. Brandon,

    Volokh is generally identified as a libertarian/conservative in case you weren’t aware. Though I have a feeling he’s probably not a Palin fan

  13. Brandon says:

    “Though I have a feeling he’s probably not a Palin fan”

    Then he’s no conservative.

  14. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    You have entirely misinterpreted Palin on this one. She isn’t saying that Williams can’t be fired due to 1st Ammendment protections, she is saying that NPR portrays itself as an advocate of 1st Ammendment freedoms but will fire any employee who actually chooses to use those freedoms which make it hypocritical.

  15. As would any media institution who perceives, rightly or wrongly, that an employee has violated it’s standards and practices

  16. Jack Carter says:

    Because she’s an idiot, that’s why.

  17. Are you Brandon or RINO MORAN* ?

    You do realize I can see your IP address right?

    You’re free to comment here but pretending to be two different people is a no-no

    *EDITOR’S NOTE: This refers to a comment by a poster who has since been banned and had his annoying posts deleted.

  18. Derrick says:

    “You’re free to comment here but pretending to be two different people is a no-no”

    BUSTED!

  19. d says:

    he gave an opinion on how he feels, just like many others on here probably do the same exact thing when they are flying and see muslims getting on the same flight. They are scrutinized more due to 9/11. weather people want to admit it or not it is reality.If you’re allergic to bee stings, do you get worried when you’re standing next to a hornets’ nest? Even though most bees never stung a person? I would think so

  20. d says:

    unemployment , that would be 10% and congress controlled by democrats since 2007

  21. d says:

    last 21 months deficit is 3.9 trillion under this POTUS and current congress. 8 years under bush 4.9 trillion. projection for remaining to year is to hit 5.9 trillion under current administration and people whine about something sara palin says. people need to wake up before this country goes the way of russias currency back in the early 90s

  22. d says:

    Rhino moron, thanks
    look up the crash of 1987 and there are eerally simalarities as to what is going on today in the markets and back then. it will happen again , history tends to repeat itself

  23. d says:

    there not pimple poppers there indoctarnated students who think the world can be a utopian society by liberal teachers and profs. How that war on poverty going for them that started 40 some years ago.

  24. Herb says:

    I’m kinda missing Zelsdorf and Tangoman right about now….

  25. d says:

    something like 25% for white students and for black students its about 50%. late teens to early 20s

  26. “Though I have a feeling he’s probably not a Palin fan”

    Then he’s no conservative.

    Four legs good! Two legs bad!

  27. fasteddie9318 says:

    Man, you guys get a low-rent form of troll around here. Is d actually a separate entity or another sock puppet?

    Hopefully when they’re done pleasuring each other they’ll move on.

  28. Michael says:

    I’m kinda missing Zelsdorf and Tangoman right about now….

    I know right?

  29. Michael says:

    fasteddie9318,
    These are drive-by trolls, not our usually resident ones. They’ll have moved on to another blog by morning.

  30. anjin-san says:

    > What’s the unempyment rate again folks?????????

    From today’s WSJ:

    Xerox Profit Surges, Plans Job Cuts
    Xerox’s profit more than doubled as revenue jumped amid benefits related to its acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services. The company also said it is cutting 2% of its work force.

    Clearly our unemployment problems are all Obama’s fault.

    Nice to know if I suffer a blow to the head and much of my brain is damaged, I will have a home waiting for me in the tea party.

  31. An Interested Party says:

    “Just imagine how left Mataconis will get when the Red-State Rangers beat the NY Yankees!!”

    Oh well, don’t be too sad when the Blue State Giants beat the Rangers…

    “Then he’s no conservative.”

    Oh my, so that’s the litmus test for conservatives these days? What a small tent that will be…

    “he gave an opinion on how he feels, just like many others on here probably do the same exact thing when they are flying and see muslims getting on the same flight.”

    So I guess Williams wouldn’t be too offended if someone else expressed the opinion that he/she gets “nervous” whenever he/she sees someone who looks like Williams walking down the street towards him/her and perhaps, clutches his/her wallet/purse even tighter…

  32. anjin-san says:

    My sense is that Palin lacks the brainpower to really conceptualize the Constitution, which is, after all, one of the most remarkable documents in human history. The men who wrote it ranged from very sharp cookies to intellectual giants, and the dumbing down that the far right/tea party is applying to their work is painful to behold.

  33. sherifffruitfly says:

    Because she’s stupid. Durr.

    There are few things worse than people who try to magically turn a simple question into a deep-and-meaningful one, simply by ignoring the obvious and correct answer.

  34. Juneau: says:

    Liberal (Definition):

    Someone who struggles daily to recall all of the things their college professor scoffed at so they can remember what they stand for.