The Corner

Bill O’Reilly’s “Rights”

I caught the beginning of the O’Reilly Factor the other night, and I’ve just got to say that O’Reilly’s idea of free speech is just wrong. He insisted that if someone says something bad or untrue about him — and I’m perfectly willing to concede that lots of bad and untrue things are said about him — then his rights have been violated. He even admitted that he couldn’t win with that argument in court, but insisted over and over again that any unfounded criticism of him is a violation of his rights. And that’s just nonsense. He calls people “pinheads” all of the time. From what I’ve seen, I usually agree with him. But he hasn’t violated anyone’s rights by doing so.

When the government tells people they can’t speak their mind, it’s a violation of free speech rights. When someone criticizes someone else for speaking their mind, it’s call more free speech.

Update: From a reader:

I think that his rant was based upon his frustration with libel and slander laws in the U. S. when applied to public figures. He’s regularly ranted that public figures can be attacked and slimed merely because they are public figures, with virtually no recourse in the courts. If I was libeled or slandered, then I’d have a pretty good case (assuming that all of the elements to the tort were present), but you, K-Lo, Bill, etc., wouldn’t have a prayer. In essence, I have a right available to me that he doesn’t have available to him (for all practical purposes).

I think the reader is right that this is what O’Reilly was talking about. But I think it’s a really sloppy formulation. O’Reilly’s speech rights aren’t hampered because he has a harder time suing for slander or libel. If O’Reilly wants to propose reforms to those laws, I’m open to his suggestions (though it’s not like persuading me would be all that important). But, I generally can’t stand the formulation that criticism of speech is a violation of free speech rights. It’s a complaint you often hear from the left, so I figured I need to be consistent on this and say something when I hear it from the “right.” Even if I’m a Fox News Contributor now.

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