Gardiner Harris is the New York Times’s White House reporter. His Twitter feed, where many reporters reveal themselves, shows Harris to be an unabashed cheerleader for the Democratic Party. To cite just one of many examples:
Republicans consider ending the Republic as we know it: That Supreme Court Stonewall May Not Crumble Anytime Soon https://t.co/9CG8cfeT78
— Gardiner Harris (@GardinerHarris) November 4, 2016
So when Gardiner Harris asks questions of Josh Earnest in White House briefings, it is very much a conversation between friends. On Monday, Harris wondered why the Obama administration assassinates terrorists but not purveyors of the left’s current obsession, fake news:
Q Josh, this administration has made a huge priority out of responding to online threats from jihadists. You have a whole set of people at the State Department; you have them at the Pentagon; you’ve got people who have gone after those who posted these messages and killed them in the Middle East.
It is nice, if unusual, to see a representative of the Times approving of killing our enemies.
The administration has gone to Silicon Valley and had conversations with Twitter and social medial companies about making sure they crack down on these jihadi threats.
Here it comes: why can’t you take the same measures against “fake news”?
You had an entire set of businesses up here on Connecticut Avenue for months getting direct death threats, and they said that nothing was done about them. Is it only a priority if these are jihadi threats? And is it not a priority for this administration if businesses and normal people are getting death threats and being terrorized for months with no action on the part of this administration? Help me understand the difference there.
Where are those drones when you really need them? Josh Earnest responds:
MR. EARNEST: Well, Gardiner, I would strongly disagree with the assessment that somehow the administration had not done anything to respond to this situation, particularly when it comes to violent threats. I’ll refer you to my colleagues at the Department of Justice and the FBI for the role that they may have played in investigating those threats.
I’d also refer you to the Metropolitan Police Department here in Washington for a discussion of any work that they may have done to ensure that the D.C. residents who were patronizing those establishments were able to do so safely.
Threatening to kill people is illegal. More from Gardiner Harris:
Q I think everyone in this room has gotten threatening emails and threatening things on social media and the rest.
We have gotten them here at Power Line, too.
…I guess what I’m asking — I’ve never heard you talk about what the administration is doing, even not just on a law enforcement basis but a policy basis, reaching out to these Silicon Valley companies. I mean, the President has recently been discussing the problem of fake news on Facebook. Why hasn’t there been a concern — a growing concern on the part of the administration about what seems to be a growing amount of vitriol directed at a variety of people, sometimes violent vitriol, within the United States?
Josh Earnest explains:
MR. EARNEST: Well, Gardiner, I think over the course — over the last year or two, you’ve heard the President I think speak quite bluntly about the rhetoric that was being used in the context of this political campaign, and the impact that that could have on the broader political debate and the climate — political climate in the country. So I do think this is something that we have talked about, and it’s something that the President is concerned that that kind of harsh, sometimes violent, rhetoric obscures legitimate policy debates that we should be having in this country.
Perhaps Earnest is referring to repeated assertions that Donald Trump is a fascist, a Nazi, a racist, and so on. Those false and vitriolic claims might be expected to lead to assassination attempts against Trump, and they surely have led to violent assaults on his supporters, like this one. More from Mr. Earnest:
Obviously, there are some important First Amendment issues that come into play when we’re having this discussion. Those First Amendment issues aren’t prioritized in the same way when we’re talking about overseas terrorist organizations that don’t enjoy the same kinds of protections that American citizens do.
Cool down, Gardiner! You can’t kill American citizens who say things you don’t like with drones. You know you are in trouble when it takes Josh Earnest to explain the First Amendment to you. Earnest explicates further:
So they’ve got their own built-in interest in protecting the First Amendment rights of their users while also creating a community and a platform that people actually want to use. And yes, if you do administer a platform that is used extensively to propagate hate and to inspire acts of violence, well, I think most people are going to be less likely to use the platform.
So this is the kind of balance that these technology companies are going to have to strike, and it’s something that I know that they’ve been grappling with for some time. In some cases, I know that they’ve been doing it even outside the context of politics.
I picture Harris’s next question being delivered with a sneer:
Q Do you think the market just will have to police itself on that then?
God forbid! Earnest tries one more time:
MR. EARNEST: Well, look, I don’t think it necessarily has to be — I think there is a — given the First Amendment questions that are raised, the role for the government to play in all of this is going to be necessarily limited by that.
I’m so old, I can remember when reporters not only had heard about the First Amendment, but were in favor of it. But I guess the “fake news” crisis is so acute that the Left can’t let such niceties get in the way.
Oh, one more thing: about that “harsh, sometimes violent, rhetoric” that pops up on social media. Do you think this is what the Democrats are talking about?
No, I don’t either.
Via InstaPundit, with much more at the link.