FCC: Hands off Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert wasn't exactly at the top of his game when he entered his fiery opening rant against Donald Trump that recently landed him in hot water. 

It's not really accurate to call the monologue "edgy," because harsh criticism of this president is as mainstream as it gets.  Colbert's monologue wasn't funny, either.  But that isn't his problem.

"You have more people marching against you than cancer," Colbert fumed, speaking of President Trump.  "You talk like a sign language gorilla that got hit in the head.  In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladamir Putin's c--- holster."

It's that final remark that caught the attention of the ever-sensitive leftist SJWs, who found the comment to be "homophobic."  The very viewers Colbert hoped to endear with his commentary immediately took to social media with the hashtag #FireColbert and called for a boycott of the show.

And that might be the only thing funny about this tirade, which otherwise seemed a collection of bad one-liners better suited for Twitter than the stage of The Late Show.

It's a delicious morsel of irony for us conservatives, sure.  But where this went from ironically hilarious to frightening is when the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) chairman, Ajit Pai, said "his agency would be looking into complaints made against Stephen Colbert for what some labeled a homophobic joke."

"I've had a chance to see the clip now and so, as we get complaints – and we've gotten a lot of them – we are going to take the facts and apply the law as it's been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we'll take the appropriate action," he said.

What's the "appropriate action"?  "A fine of some sort is typically what we do," Pai said.

Let's be clear.  This is a representative of the federal government.  And he is saying that his agency will "typically" punish, monetarily, a person like Colbert, or a private entity like CBS, if public outcry demands that a punishment is warranted for speech that is deemed, after review by an unelected federal politburo, not very nice to gay people.

I'm not an attorney.  But allow me to cite legal precedent for why Pai's contention that a federal government agency has a right to punish an American citizen or private business entity for such a thing is entirely illegal (emphasis added):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

For those who may not know, that's the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

I'm also not a judge, but allow me to issue a verdict as to the matter of the FCC illegally fining an American citizen or a private business entity for saying things that a lot of really loud, sensitive people find "offensive."

Guilty as charged.

Pai and his politburo can dissect every Court case ever opined, cite as precedent the rulings and opinions established in it and "other courts," and he and his agency would be irrefutably guilty of a crime, in violation of the First Amendment. 

So perhaps Ajit Pai can tell me when and where, in law, the First Amendment was abrogated, and thus became irrelevant?  If he can't, it should be quite clear that fining Colbert or CBS, on the grounds that whiny people made complaints about the supposedly offensive thing he said about gay men, is not warranted by a federal government that is explicitly forbidden to do any such thing in the very first law enumerated in our Bill of Rights.

Ajit Pai is an Obama appointee.  That is not the point, though it does likely evidence why he apparently believes that his role in federal authority is to root out and destroy "mean" speech about gay people.  Trump did, however, reappoint him for another five years.  That suggests something different, insofar as Pai's actions today are appraised.

If President Trump hopes to "drain the swamp" in D.C., that begins with a reversion to our core principles.  It begins with fostering a culture within the federal government that does not use executive strong-arming to subvert our freedoms and punish enemies.

I'm not saying this is Trump's intent.  But I am saying he can make it very clear that this is not his intent by calling off the FCC in nonsensical crusades such as this, and declare his support of Americans' First Amendment rights.

It would be an incredible statement.  And, I dare say, it would be a politically winning statement in every political spectrum outside the rabid leftists who find homophobia in every nook and cranny of American culture, and the die-hard Trump supporters who find any criticism of the president an act of sedition.

It is important that we conservatives be consistent.  How can we tell our children about the virtues of unabridged freedom of speech, only to selectively apply it in principle?  How can any conservative argue against a revival of the "Fairness Doctrine," which the Democrat left has pursued in recent years to define what is "fair" coverage by media outlets, without first recognizing and acknowledging unequivocally that the federal government has no such right?

And the inescapably lingering thought is this: why must the danger in a federal government punishing people for unpopular speech, regardless of who's president at a given moment, even be explained?

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.