‘If It Was A Different Administration You Might Have A Different Take’: CNBC Hosts Spar Over Biden Censorship Ruling

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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CNBC’s Joe Kernen sparred with fellow host Andrew Ross Sorkin on Wednesday over a ruling limiting the Biden Administration’s ability to censor free speech.

Judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana issued an injunction Tuesday ruling the Biden administration and other federal agencies suppressed free speech in an “Orwellian” manner during the pandemic. Doughty ruled members of the Biden administration, including officials with the FBI and Department of Health and Human Services could not communicate with social media companies for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”

Kernen noted the administration had at one point created a disinformation governance board to dispel alleged “disinformation” and “misinformation,” calling it “Orwellian.”

“I think it was bad that if you said [COVID] was lab generated that that had to be banned, that was bad,” Kernen said.

Sorkin argued that social media companies are part of the free market space and “should be able to receive emails and text messages from anybody, including people at the White House, whether it’s the Trump administration sending those emails or whether it’s the Biden administration or whomever it is.”

Kernen then noted that prior to Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, Twitter was highlighting more left-leaning items, noting that the satirical site, The Babylon Bee, was being suppressed. (RELATED: CNN Legal Analyst Says New Ruling Limiting Biden Admin From Censoring Free Speech Is ‘Dramatic’)

“The point is, you’re ok if the Biden Administration calls Twitter and says don’t print that?” Kernen pressed.

“I’m okay 100% as long as there’s not – this is where it gets more complicated, this idea of coercion, this idea I’m going to scratch your back for something on the other side, that’s what gets much more complicated.”

“Quid-pro-quo is the only time you wouldn’t want that, I mean, to me, I don’t want to be given news that’s filtered through whoever’s in power at that time,” Kernen said.

“I’m saying, whoever’s in power, I believe, has the right to say or do whatever they want.”

Sorkin then brought up the case of the Pentagon Papers and The New York Times, arguing The Times bucked calls from the administration not to publish those papers.

“I’m just sitting here, if it was a different administration you might have a different take,” Kernen said.

“Honestly, I don’t,” Sorkin said.

“I don’t believe you, if the Trump administration was–” Kernen said.

“The Trump administration was just as prolific with its requests to the social media companies,” Sorkin pushed back.

“What I’m saying right now is I don’t think the administration is being held accountable for some really egregious things because you need a really vibrant ‘New York Times,’ ‘Washington Post’ on these things, and they just haven’t been on a lot of these things and we’re relying on what you call ‘rags’ to get any of this information,” Kernen responded.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire if any of it’s true, it’s really serious some of this stuff, really, really serious and it’s being totally ignored by people. It’s almost like it’s so important for their political — you know, whichever way they lean for that to be perpetuated, it’s almost hands off. It’s frightening to me. It’s frightening to me you know what I mean you’ve seen it.”

The suit was brought by Louisiana and Missouri which alleged that Biden officials “went too far” in their efforts to stifle discussions of topics like election integrity and vaccines. Facebook, for example, routinely took direction from the CDC regarding COVID-19 moderation and fact-checking policies throughout 2021.

The Twitter files revealed that the company partnered with the intelligence community and the Biden administration to censor the platform of conservative content