As we know, Donald Trump has noticeably become the talk of the town when it comes to him saying and doing whatever he wants to and with whatever he wants, especially his twitter rants, but does he truly violate the First Amendment? Under the First Amendment, it protects individual’s rights to free speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government. So, was Donald Trump expressing his First Amendment when he tweeted calling the kneeling NFL player a “Son of a bitch”? Disappointingly the answer is yes. In a case called Garcetti v. Ceballos, the Supreme Court held that when public employees are not speaking as citizens — but instead in their official public capacities — the First Amendment does not protect anyone from being disciplined for their speech. (Wehle). But, it is important that when Trump tweets, he tweets as president, and he would not get the same first amendment protections as a private citizen would if their constitutionality were ever tested in a court of law. This is because he is not speaking as a private citizen he is speaking as a government official and not releasing “official statements”.
The question now is, should Donald Trump be disciplined for his speech? If I’m the one being asked I would say, yes, he should. He is the President of the United States and he should act as that at all times, which he does not. I, in my 19 years on this earth, despite not being very long, have never seen a President, or someone who is supposed to be the face, and example of our country act as the way Trump has. Now, why has no one stood up for this to be put into action? In fact, someone has and it has been put into action, Trump has actually found himself in a First Amendment violation. (Timm). Trump tweeted that NBC’s broadcasting license “must be challenged” and potentially “revoked,” based on a series of NBC news stories that embarrassed him. He also suggested the NFL’s tax status should be changed and raised if the NFL continues to allow its players to peacefully protest police brutality by kneeling during the National Anthem. (Timm). Trump is threatening NBC and/or the NFL not as a private citizen, but as the President of the United States, from his Twitter account, which the White House has previously acknowledged is a vessel for releasing “official statements”.
Deliberately, Donald Trump is very quick to tweet about all of the “fake news”, “Sons of bitches” and all of the things that could be viewed opposing or negatively affect him, yet he and his defenders simultaneously express outrage when liberal activists oppose speakers they believe publicly disrespect minorities. (Post). Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for example, proclaimed at Georgetown University on Tuesday: “Protesters are now routinely shutting down speeches and debates across the country in an effort to silence voices that insufficiently conform with their views.” (Post). This is a very accurate representation of what Trump is doing, vise versa, and not with private organizations. These people are expressing their first amendment while acting on others, however the outcomes of these situations will be for sure different, possibly completely opposite.
Continuously, Trump is making it obnoxiously clear that those who oppose him will be publicly punished. “A recent example is his call for the firing of ESPN anchor Jemele Hill, who had the temerity to call Trump out as a “white supremacist” and a “bigot.” How do the constitutional standards of the First Amendment apply to such behavior on the president’s part?” (Post) The president has also engaged in a verbal campaign designed to suppress speech that offends him. Trumps angered dedication is clearly directed at core political speech protesting law enforcement’s unfair treatment of minorities. Trump’s allies have already begun organizing boycotts (for example, a “Turn off the NFL” campaign) to give teeth to the president’s intemperate attacks. (Post) There is no indication that he is invoking the law enforcement apparatus of the federal government to harass or sanction NFL players who are taking a knee.(Post). He is just making sure to publicly sanction those who are not truly punished in a court of law and anything, and/or anyone who has views other than his own. “Trump’s attacks on the political speech of private citizens are inconsistent with the requirements of his office. It is striking that Trump’s insistent and recurring political instinct is to appeal to his base by constructing enemies—the press, Jemele Hill and now football players who kneel during the national anthem. Enemies are by definition excluded from the American body politic. They are excommunicated from “We the people.” Trump can disagree with his opponents, but he must always convey respect for their right to dissent. By casting them out as enemies, he undermines the hard-earned and necessary integrity of “We the people.”” (Post)
Our president has numerously proved that he is unqualified to be president. He cannot imagine a country where people can agree to disagree, compromise, or freely express the first amendment. Trump may have not actually acted on these, but he is threatening these two organizations for expressing their rights to the first amendment, by trying to sensor their speech, threatening to penalize them for freely expressing what these organizations stand for. If trump were to actually revoke the licenses of these companies because of freely expressing of the first amendment, a case may still be actionable. Donald Trump does have his own first amendment rights as president to opine about things he does and doesn’t like, but still as a government official, those rights are limited.As stated before, when Trump speaks, the government technically speaks, so he can continue to speak negatively and unprofessionally, yet there may inevitably be judicially enforceable limitations.
Contributor, Kimberly Wehle opinion. “Trump’s NFL tweets are not constitutionally protected free speech.” TheHill, 28 Sept. 2017, thehill.com/opinion/white-house/352534-trumps-nfl-tweets-are-not-constitutionally-protected-free-speech.
Post, Robert, et al. “Do Trump’s NFL Attacks Violate the First Amendment?” POLITICO Magazine, 27 Sept. 2017, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/09/27/do-trumps-nfl-attacks-violate-the-first-amendment-215650.
Timm, Trevor.“Trump’s threats amount to a First Amendment violation.” Columbia Journalism Review, http://www.cjr.org/covering_trump/trump-nbc.php.