Eric Holder’s First Amendment Follies

The Obama administration's top justice official shows nothing but contempt for the Fourth Estate.


It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall in Attorney General Eric Holder's office when someone first brought to his attention the idea of naming Fox News Channel's James Rosen as some kind of "unindicted co-conspirator" in a government leak inquiry. Any objections that this would violate the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press were likely met with guffaws accompanied by at least one Holder advisor saying, "Hey – he works for Fox. All the other reporters will love this!"

Well, they didn't – anymore than they love having to depend on Fox News President Roger Ailes to defend their constitutional right to gather and report news without government interference or sanction.

Most of the media's superstars seem to regard Ailes as "controversial" because of his success in making Fox "America's News Channel." He is reviled because he refused to develop yet another house organ to feed the desires and hopes of the left-leaning, self-perpetuating class of intellectuals who dominate the political, cultural and media elites. He, unlike the editorial board of The New York Times or the leadership at MSNBC and CNN, has not been strangely silent about the scandals involving the Justice Department's seizure of phone records belonging to the Associated Press as well as its attempts to squeeze Rosen.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

Ailes has made it clear he will have none of that and will follow the story to its conclusion – unlike the other members of the nation's news establishment, who are helping the story disappear from the front page day by day by day.

What Holder and his department have done is an outrage. It is a grievous offense against the constitutional protections the Founding Fathers deliberately assigned to the members of the Fourth Estate. Holder has not only crossed the line, he has stamped on it contemptuously

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should There Be Such a Thing as 'Reporter's Privilege'?]

If the offense had not been committed against Fox, but instead had been part of a campaign to intimidate the Washington Post, other media outlets would have rallied to the paper's defense. Anyone who has studied the history of the so-called "Pentagon Papers" understands that every publisher in America worthy of the title understood how important it was to block the government's attempt to preemptively censor the news on the grounds of national security.

As we now know, it was more about avoiding national embarrassment than anything else. The American media rallied to the Times' defense in what was a glorious moment for freedom of the press. It could and should be again now – save for the fact that the institutional liberal bias of the elite Washington press refuses to acknowledge that an offense of this type, committed against Fox and its reporters, is an offense against them all.

That bias makes the media's sheepish response shameful. Ailes has shown heroic colors over the last two weeks and deserves the thanks of every journalist in Washington, even those whose liberal blinders keep them from seeing the truth.

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