TV News Reporters Fire Back at Critics Who Say Explicit Taunts Are Simply Free Speech

June 21, 2015 – In The News
The Wrap

Lincoln Bandlow was quoted in The Wrap article, "TV News Reporters Fire Back at Critics Who Say Explicit Taunts Are Simply Free Speech." Full text can be found in the June 21, 2015, issue, but a synopsis is below.

Recently, journalists have been speaking out against offensive speech from people in public streets during live reports.

Many online commenters believe that this is simply a form of free speech and should not be complained about.

According to First Amendment attorney Lincoln Bandlow, there is not much that can be done about this from a legal standpoint.

“Can they be punished in some way? Probably not. The government can’t come down on them for jumping on the air live and saying something wrong,” explained Bandlow. “It’s not fighting words, or incitement or any of the other narrow categories of speech that can be punished under the First Amendment.”

“You would have a First Amendment issue if somebody yells it on the air live and then the station gets fined by the FCC for allowing an obscenity on the air,” Bandlow added. “Then maybe the station could come forward and say, ‘look, to punish us for this speech raises First Amendment issues.'”

The solution Bandlow offers instead is to shame the people making the offensive comments. “One of the ‘remedies’ for this rude speech is to shame these people for it. As has been recently seen, some employers, as it is their right, have fired people for this kind of behavior,” Bandlow said.