CNN’s Chris Cuomo Gets An Ethics Dunce Hat Trick: Law, Journalism And Civics

dunce capBad day at CNN. First John Berman turns the morning news into frat boy jokes about “big stones” —a testicles reference! HAR!–and then CNN’s AM Big Kahuna Chris Cuomo humiliates himself and everyone associated with him by tweeting,

“Hate speech is excluded from protection. Don’t just say you love the Constitution…read it.”

Wow. Not only is Cuomo spectacularly wrong, but he was smug and arrogant about it. Much as censorious fake liberals who want to impose speech and thought codes on us all would like it to be the case, “hate speech” has no special status in the Constitution at all, other than its status as “speech.” Reason, in a rebuke to Cuomo that drips with appropriate but still somehow inadequate contempt, points out:

Okay, let’s take Cuomo’s challenge. Let’s read the speech part of the Constitution. (I hope this doesn’t take too long; I hate reading.) Oh, good, the speech stuff is right there at the beginning of the “things you can do” section:

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 the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. My copy of the Constitution seems to be missing this fabled “except hate speech, none of that” clause.

Well, then, it must be an exception found by the Supreme Court, right? Uh, no…Reason continues its schooling:

There are indeed limits on the First Amendment; the Supreme Court has held that “fighting words” and incitements to specific and imminent violence are not protected.  But as recently as 2011, the Court ruled 8-1 that the Westboro Baptist Church had a First Amendment right to picket a military funeral and wave signs that read “You’re going to hell” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

I guess Chris missed that story, along with high school civics, law school Constitutional Law class, that Journalism 101 section about the First Amendment, and several Ethics Alarms posts that could have helped him out, like this one, or this.

The man is co-host of CNN’s “New Day”. He presumes to school his guests in national policy, politics and more: he might be the most opinionated news anchor in captivity.  He was a law and justice correspondent for ABC News, meaning that he was obligated to have the basics of  the Constitution committed to memory. He has a law degree from Fordham University and is a licensed attorney. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is his brother, and the late Mario Cuomo, liberal icon, was his father.

Ethical breaches? How about incompetence, irresponsible conduct, lack of diligence (before snottily suggesting to others that they read the Constitution, Cuomo was obligated to do so himself.), disrespect (ridiculing those who in fact knew the Bill of Rights better than he does), abuse of position (his Twitter followers undoubtedly think he knows what he’s talking about, so he just made thousands of Americans more ignorant), and rotten citizenship. Every American has a duty to understand the Bill of Rights, and newscasters even more than the rest. Which anchorman is less trustworthy, one who makes up tall tales like Brian Williams, or one who doesn’t know the core values of the nation he’s covering? Or Ron Burgundy, an idiot? I think it’s a toss-up.

When conservatives accuse liberals of being anti-American, this is the kind of thing they often point to, and quite correctly. If you want to gut freedom of speech, prohibiting content, you want to rip the heart out of our democracy.

This was too stupid even for Cuomo’s fellow liberals to tolerate: he’s being castigated  right, left and center. Let’s see, who has he embarrassed? CNN, of course. His family, his profession (law), his profession (journalism), his law school…who else?

Let’s see if Cuomo has the guts to apologize: nothing short of “I’m an idiot, I was wrong, and I’m sorry,” will do. If he says that on the air, I’ll be able to give him a little respect to build on. As things stand now, he’s a disgrace.

UPDATE 5/7: Still a disgrace! In a muddled explanation that was still wrong, Cuomo today said: “Here’s the bottom line: of course hate speech is almost always protected by the First Amendment,” he continued. “It doesn’t say that in the First Amendment but the case law does. It’s always about the case law in understanding the Constitution. It’s all about how it’s interpreted by our justice system. So I created confusion that I was trying to clarify. That’s the irony, but that’s on me.”

Wrong. Hate speech is always protected. If it isn’t, then the speech is something other than juts hate speech. Wrong. The First Amendment does say hate speech is protected, because it’s speech, and the amendment doesn’t say it isn’t protected. Wrong. The right to free speech doesn’t come from the courts, it comes from the Constitution. This is Cuomo, again, asserting that our rights come from “government.” Wrong. He mixed up fighting words, which must be face to face, and “hate speech,” which the Courts don’t even recognize as a category. He wasn’t trying to “clarify,” he was confused himself. Now he’s just spinning.



Facts: Reason, Salon


22 thoughts on “CNN’s Chris Cuomo Gets An Ethics Dunce Hat Trick: Law, Journalism And Civics

  1. “Every American has a duty to understand the Bill of Rights, and newscasters even more than the rest.”

    Exactly, their ability to be newscasters depends on it. Only sanctioned mouthpieces for a totalitarian regime would be so ridiculous.

    Oh, wait…

    • Try a conspiracy theory…
      Assume Cuomo just can’t be stupid enough to believe what he has said. Now apply the WSC dictum: ‘A lie is halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on.’ In this context that means ‘ I know this is rubbish, but for for every person who reads the rebuttal there’ll be umpteen who believe the lie. Heads I win, tails I don’t lose.

      • Chris seems like a nicer guy than that, and if you’re right, he’s pretty bold taking one for the team. But it’s not a crazy theory: if you wanted to undermine freedom of speech in the culture, and if there aren’t a scary number of progressives who think that’s a good idea, I’d like to hear another explanation for what I think I’m reading and hearing, then a good way to get there is by gradually miseducating the public about what free speech is.

        • I’m going to agree with that assessment. Just like the attempts to redefine the Second Amendment as pertaining only to the arming of a militia, Progressives are hoping to re-educate citizens into accepting what they want the Constitution to say instead of what it actually does say.

        • This is just another of the “Hate Speech Isn’t Free Speech” mantras. This is shouted from the rooftops and believed lock, stock, and barrel by today’s liberals. Chris Cuomo may be smart enough to know it isn’t true, but he probably wants it to be true. He probably just got his timing wrong, the public hasn’t been brainwashed enough to let his one pass…yet.

  2. I’m less concerned with what Chris Cuomo says about the Constitution than what the framers themselves did. However, “original intent” is a bad word in liberal juristic circles! The intent of the First Amendment is the protection of political free speech, the free exchange of information and the moral law that binds it. Free speech, press and religion. The three are a package deal, put together in one amendment for a purpose. They cannot be considered separately. Otherwise, they fall separately.

    • Original intent isn’t involved in this particular Constitutional point. The Second Amendment is ambiguously written: even its strongest advocates admit that. The First Amendment is not. It’s clear. No infringing speech means the same thing now as ever: fomenting a riot was considered conduct, not speech, even in the 18th Century. (Yes, excluding “fighting words” was a mistake: it should be over-ruled.)

  3. Another example of a trend that I cannot understand. What well run business would continue to hire folks like these? This is a money-losing business decision that continues to place CNN, MSNBC, etc. with so many fewer views that watch commercials that generate money for the company. What business can sustain those loses when other Media outlets are consistently winning not only viewers,but the “Demo” viewers that count for Commercial Revenue? These folks are responsible to investors to return a profit on their stock and to increase the value of the company, not to mention to their employees who should share in a more successful profit margin. Yes, many of these channels exist only because Cable companies package them with bundled services, so people cannot opt out, but still….this is malfeasance at a Corporate level….why are they never called on it by stockholders and boards of directors? I think this is the most unethical part of this whole trend.

    • Jim, news divisions are generally part of a bigger corporation, also generating income. In a nut-shell, unless the news division becomes such a draw on the general income that is causing the whole corporation to not make money, nobody’s going to question whether the DIVISION is making money, as long as the CORPORATION is doing so.

  4. Chris Cuomo is part of a growing trend of progressives who truly believe that rights are conferred upon the citizenry by governmental fiat. He thinks that there is something called ‘hate speech’, which he wants to lump into the ‘fire in a theater’ and ‘fighting word’ limited exceptions to the First Amendment. He recently argued with a guest about same-sex marriage, openly rejecting the idea that liberties come from God: “No sir. Our rights don’t come from God! They come from the government”. His opponent was not well-versed in the idea and floundered around with some lame response, which should have been, “No, actually, there is no such thing as ‘hate-speech’ and if you read Locke, Calvin, Hobbes (and Calvin and Hobbes), Rousseau, Jefferson, and a whole host of writings in the Federalist Papers, you will see that social contract theory recognizes that individual liberty is something immutable and unalienable. It is the individual’s natural and moral right to be from unreasonable governmental intrusion without due process. Where, Chris, do you think the ‘penumbra of privacy rights’ held so dear in Supreme Court cases come from? If, Chris, you are correct that our rights come from the government, then why does a woman have a privacy right in the area of abortion? Why should the government need a search warrant and/or probable cause to search my house, my car, my phone, and my other stuff? What restrains or prevents a government from telling the news media what to print and not to print? Why do you think marriage, which you consider a right, shouldn’t be defined by judicial decree but debated in the public forum and legislative process? Could it be that if the government can declare who can marry whom, it can then decide who should or shouldn’t marry and under what conditions?”

    Maybe eadav is on to something. Perhaps Cuomo is part of the ever-encroaching governmental leviathan that slowly and quietly insinuates itself into every fabric of society.


    • Obviously IF the Gov *grants rights* the Gov can take those rights away,
      don t people like Cuomo even *think* one step further in their thought processes ????
      Another mind bender for Ole Chris, *just what constitutes hate speech?*
      I already know Chris’ answer, “Anything the Left dosen t like” ya dummies, see Cuomo vs US Constitution “

    • While incorrect about hate speech being excluded from Constitutional protection, Cuomo is correct about our rights not coming from God. Our rights exist only by law, which usually entails government. Prior to enactment by law (and only when the law is enforced), rights are only wishful thinking. If our rights were natural or God-given, there would have been no need for the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Nor would there have been any need for our war of independence, our fight for women’s suffrage, and our civil rights movement. If these rights existed regardless of law, the trend of complacency of which Jack warned would not be so dangerous. Complacency along with the myth that our rights are somehow inalienable is a dangerous mix that allows rights to be trampled upon, and eventually (if the slope is slippery) invalidated. Yes, the government can take away our rights. That is why we must be continually vigilant. As dragin_dragon pointed out in the post linked to above, our only guarantee is that “people, young or old, man or woman, of any stripe, race or religion are willing to tell that government ‘NO’, and mean it”! We, the people, are both originators and guardians of our rights.
      We can argue that our rights emanate from natural law or God, but there is a shortage of evidence supporting either of these beliefs. If arguing with a person that does not believe in God or natural law, these propositions are non-starters. Arguments that rely on fabricated, fictitious, and imaginary social contracts are also inadequate. The imaginary is wholly incapable of proving the existence of anything real. (<a href=" text to show as a hyperlink“>Incidentally, this is the original video of Cuomo’s interview with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.)

      • Rights do not exist by law—laws enforce rights and protect them. So human beings have no right not to be slaves in a dictatorship? That’s not the position of our culture. Rights are inherent to the status of being a human…the fact that we need laws to stop people and organizations from violating those rights doesn’t mean that the law is the source of those rights. Cuomo’s position is monarchist: the King grants or witholds all rights. That gives outrageous power to government.

        One doesn’t “believe” in natural law…natural law is just shorthand for saying “this is intrinsically the natural state of things in a non-chaotic, just universe. Jefferson was just channeling centuries of philosophical consensus. Humans have a right to LIVE. They have a right to AUTONOMY and they have a right to try to be HAPPY. That’s as basic as you can get.

        But however you cut it, Cuomo’s statement was classic statism.“Please, massa, what rights do I have?”


        • You and I have a right to not be slaves in a dictatorship because we live in the United States of America. Folks in North Korea have no such right. I have no doubt that most or all North Koreans want the right, but wanting isn’t the same as having. While free by nature, human beings do not have a natural right to be free from slavery. The reason is rather simple: rights are not natural. Rights are created by people. (Though, we could argue that people create them naturally.) Rights are created by people to protect themselves from (unnatural, human initiated) infringement on their natural freedom to fulfill natural desires such as those for autonomy and happiness. Because something exists naturally or is naturally desired (e.g., freedom, life, autonomy, and happiness), does not mean we have a right to it. Humans naturally have hair; most of us want hair. This does not mean we have a right to hair.
          “Position of our culture” and “centuries of consensus” are not sufficient evidence of the truth (or rightness or goodness) of any proposition. (The world is neither flat nor the center of our universe.) Further, Jefferson was not channeling centuries of philosophical consensus. The notion of natural human rights is now centuries old, but was relatively new and radical at the time of Jefferson. Further still, it was the lack of consensus that prompted our Declaration of Independence and revolutionary war. Certainly, King George had different thoughts about our rights.
          Yes, as the role of enforcing and protecting rights is usually relegated to government through law, governments have outrageous power. This is so regardless of the type of government. Protection from the outrageous power of government is the reason for our Bill of Rights, and the reason we formed a government controlled by the people. This is one of the reasons many of us prefer government that is limited in size and scope. This is also why it is dangerous to believe rights are natural and inalienable. When we believe rights are natural and inalienable, we believe they are difficult or impossible to take away. We can be caught sleeping while our government slowly chips away at our freedom.
          Another consequence of separating rights from law is that we can convince ourselves we have a right to anything we feel it is natural to want – regardless of legality. We can give ourselves permission to engage in a variety of illegal behaviors. We may convince ourselves we have a right to destroy a police car, loot the local mall, or shoot a police officer in the face. We may even call it justice.

          • “Rights are not natural. Rights are created by people.”

            Wrong. The universe has an ideal order that minimizes chaos, Rights are among the features of that order. People do not create right, they figure them out. It’s called the study of truth: philosophy. You just denied its existence.

            As for the right to hair, no no one has a right to take your hair without your consent. I’m an expert on this topic.

  5. Let’s go Clintonian on the First Amendment. It’s the way of now and the future, after all. Maybe someday, we’ll call it “going Cuomoized” instead.

    “Congress shall make no law…” Stop. Done. Therefore, the President can make any decision or direction imaginable to “respect,” “prohibit,” or “abridge” [whatever the First Amendment allegedly is intended to protect]. The President does not need the Congress to “make law;” the current Executive Branch with all its powers and reach ought to make that self-evident. And the Congress is expressly forbidden to make law.

    Therefore, the President can make law all by herself. NOTHING described in the First Amendment is off-limits to regulation by the President, and nothing in that Amendment suggests any limitation to the extent of regulation to which the President is empowered. Therefore a President’s speech is the ONLY speech that is protected – save for any other speech, which is protectable only by the President.

  6. I particularly love how both his original tweet and his subsequent apology are self-contradictory. Idiotic.

    “It’s always about the case law in understanding the Constitution.”

    But you told us to read the Constitution, you idiot.

    I suppose “Don’t just say you love the case law….” just doesn’t have that ZING.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.