In the last few weeks, leading Democrats in Congress have called Tea Party constituents terrorists, said they should go to hell and accused them of wanting to lynch black people. Last weekend, at an event attended by President Obama, the head of the Teamsters Union, Jimmy Hoffa Jr., attacked the Tea Party, screaming, "President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let's take these son of bitches (Tea Party members) out and give America back to an America where we belong." (Note: the president was not on the platform when Hoffa spoke.)
So far, neither the president, nor any prominent Democrat has condemned such remarks -- even though the phrase "take out" is commonly used to describe an act of criminal homicide. Thus, Hoffa's statement might rise to the level of incitement to violence.
Of course, the First Amendment protects political speech -- even obnoxious and abusive language. But the Supreme Court has always recognized that some words are not protected. Thus, in Virginia v. Black (2003) the Supreme Court found that while "The First Amendment affords protection to symbolic or expressive conduct as well as to actual speech...The protections afforded by the First Amendment, however, are not absolute, and we have long recognized that the government may regulate certain categories of expression consistent with the Constitution." Thus, for example, a state may punish those words "which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace," said the court in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969).
The First Amendment also permits a state to ban a "true threat." A true threat encompass those statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals. ("Political Hyperbole" is not a true threat.) The speaker need not actually intend to carry out the threat. Rather, a prohibition on true threats "protect(s) individuals from the fear of violence" and "from the disruption that fear engenders," in addition to protecting people "from the possibility that the threatened violence will occur."
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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