Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called out the White House Friday for maintaining a long-standing relationship with Media Matters for America, despite the liberal group’s attempts at “driving [conservative] voices clear out of the public square.”
“It’s hard to imagine a more broadly-accepted proposition than the fact that Americans are free, above all else, to speak their minds openly and freely without fear of punishment or reprisal from government authorities,” McConnell said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. “Human nature being what it is, however, I think we would all have to admit that there will always be a temptation, particularly among those in power, to muffle one’s critics.”
During the speech, entitled “Growing Threats to Our First Amendment Rights,” McConnell emphasized what he views as a continuing effort by the Obama administration and its surrogates, like Media Matters, to “muffle” free speech by exposing “critics to harassment and intimidation, either by government authorities or third party allies, and that should concern every one of us.”
“The attacks on speech are legion,” said McConnell, placing special emphasis on efforts by Democrats to turn back political speech protections afforded by the Supreme Court’s decision in the infamous Citizens United case.
“President Obama has publicly accused the Kochs of being part of a, quote, ‘corporate takeover of our democracy,’ whatever that means,” McConnell reminded his audience, referring to conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, “and not only did his campaign publish a list of eight private citizens it regards as ‘enemies’ — an actual old school enemies list — it recently doubled down on the effort when some began to call these thuggish tactics into question.”
The Kentucky Republican noted that President Obama must not oppose efforts to silence conservative critics, because he has never condemned intimidation tactics aimed at his opponents, ranging from targeting businesses that support conservatives to the illegal tactic of “SWAT-ing” — whereby conservative writers have been harassed using 911 services to claim murders in the homes of targeted individuals.
And that should come as no surprise, McConnell explained, when the president has allied himself with the very groups that specialize in intimidating critics of the government.
“The tactics I’m describing extend well beyond the [Obama] campaign headquarters in Chicago. To an extent not seen since the Nixon administration, they extend deep into the administration itself,” McConnell warned.
“News reports suggest that top White House officials have long participated in a weekly conference call with a left-wing organization in Washington whose stated purpose is to track conservative media voices, seize on potentially offensive content and then use it to mount corporate intimidation campaigns aimed at driving these voices clear out of the public square,” said McConnell referring to the liberal messaging group, Media Matters for America.
As reported by The Daily Caller, Media Matters has indeed participated in a weekly strategy call with the White House and the far-left Center for American Progress during most of President Obama’s time in office. It is unknown if those conference calls continue to this day.
What is known is that Media Matters has been credited both internally and by other liberal groups with organizing campaigns aimed at silencing such media voices as Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Don Imus and most recently, Rush Limbaugh.
That effort, to have Limbaugh forced out of his number-one rated radio show, has since gone dormant after failing to scare enough advertisers away from the program. The group mounted its campaign against Limbaugh after the talker came down on liberal activist Sandra Fluke for testifying before Congress that college students should be entitled to taxpayer-funded contraception. Limbaugh used an analogy he later apologized for: “It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”
To McConnell’s point, despite regular contact with Media Matters, the White House made no effort to head off the groups’ attempts to silence Limbaugh. Instead, the president joined them in condemning Rush and even called the 30-year-old Fluke to console her.
And Media Matters’ support of President Obama continues to grow. TheDC reported last week that the tax-exempt group has published defenses of the president at a vastly higher rate as Obama undertakes his 2012 re-election campaign than it did in 2011.
McConnell told the audience Friday that any effort by the government in unison with its third party allies to intimidate or silence critics flies in the face of the First Amendment.
“Lets be very clear,” said McConnell, “No individual or group in this country should have to face harassment or intimidation or incur crippling expenses defending themselves against their own government simply because that government doesn’t like the message that they’re advocating.”
Watch McConnell’s speech: