The public cannot trust what the star lawyer-anchor of a morning news program on a major news network says about the law with utter certainty.
The public cannot trust the major news network to correct the false information so conveyed in a timely fashion.
The public cannot trust that major news network.
Unproven hypothesis: The public cannot trust any news network.
Never mind the hypothesis, however. Let us just deal for now with the lawyer/host/news anchor, Chris Cuomo, his inattentive network, and this ridiculous statement he uttered as authoritative fact last week:
”Also interesting is, remember, it’s illegal to possess these stolen documents. It’s different for the media, so everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us.”
“So everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us” would appear to state that it’s illegal for the public to even read the hacked e-mails, which anyone can do here. That can’t be right, and of course is nonsense: anyone can read anything that is available on the web. It is also a sinister theory, claiming that we have to rely on the interpretation, selective reporting, spin and biased analysis of media hacks like Chris Cuomo, because the law says we can’t download or read such material ourselves. Where did Cuomo, a licensed lawyer, get a crack-brained idea like that? More important, why couldn’t he figure out it was ridiculous using common sense? A law degree is hardly necessary, if one thinks for a few seconds.
Constitutional law scholar Eugene Volokh corrects Cuomo thusly:
The First Amendment offers the same protection to the media as to the rest of us, including when it comes to possessing or distributing illegally obtained material (so long as you weren’t involved in the original illegal hack or interception or leak). Indeed, in the 2001 Bartnicki v. Vopper decision, the Supreme Court rejected even civil liability for distributing illegally intercepted cellphone calls, and expressly refused to distinguish the media from others…And the Bartnicki Court cited New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 265-266 (1964) — the case treated the media and non-media speakers equally, and a passage on those pages stressed the rights of “persons who do not themselves have access to publishing facilities” — and First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 777 (1978), which is a passage that stresses the rights of all speakers to speak. Now, while knowingly possessing tangible stolen property would often be a crime for both the media and others, possessing copies of illegally leaked materials is generally not treated the same way. …But in any event, remember that, whatever First Amendment rules may apply, the media has no more First Amendment rights than the rest of us.
Also weighing in was legal expert Floyd Abrams, who told the Wall Street Journal,
“It’s highly unlikely—I would say unimaginable– that the simple downloading of documents made public by WikiLeaks is criminal.I don’t know of any case that so holds or statute that requires such a result.”
What Cuomo appeared to say went further, and absurdly so. He suggested that no one but journalists could legally read the hacked Podesta e-mails.Have you ever heard of anyone being prosecuted for reading something that was publicly available? Of course not, because prohibiting reading is an outrageous breach of the principles of Constitutional law. Whether or not downloading a copy of stolen materials is the legal equivalent of taking possession of the materials themselves is a nice legal point yet to be clarified definitively, but Cuomo’s assertion that the news media could download and read Wikileaks hacks while members of the public would be breaking the law to do the same is a complete misrepresentation.
I have read conservative blogs that suggest that Cuomo is trying to protect Clinton by fooling the public into relying on the news media’s analysis of the leaks. That would be futile and stupid, but not as stupid as what Cuomo said the law was. No question about it: Hanlon’s Razor applies. Now we know why he went into the field of journalism rather than law.
He’s an idiot.
Now the question is, a week later : when will Cuomo or CNN correct the idiocy?