Tuned In

Losing Your TV Job Is Not a First Amendment Issue

Cable TV, thank God, is not the government.

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Sigh. I can’t believe we have to explain this, over and over, every time a media figure loses a job (or just gets a for-show suspension) over saying something stupid, but: Losing your job for saying something that embarrasses your private employer–even if that is a media outlet–is not a free speech issue. It is not a First Amendment issue. It may be dumb, it may be justified, but it is not a constitutional violation. It is not for Phil Robertson, Alec Baldwin, Martin Bashir, Don Imus, The Dixie Chicks, Rush Limbaugh, or anyone else. People changing the channel or not buying your products because of what you said is not “censorship”; nor is losing a business deal for same.

Cable TV is not the government, thank God. But apparently some politicians both inside and outside the government could stand to reread the First Amendment.

 

257 comments
MaryMartin1
MaryMartin1

Can anyone cite a state law or court decision on this? I've read a lot of opinions but, I don't see any factually verifiable information cited. I am in an employment law class and have a case similar to this, I would be very interested to read something I can verify as fact. 


In my case the person is an employee who on her off time is a KKK member and gives a TV interview at a KKK rally, She tells the interviewer that she is a "Manager" but does not mention the Company name. However, she states that in her opinion her "Company" is becoming "wicked" because they are hiring too many "non-whites" and people of "Jewish" heritage.


I am to determine what course of action the company should take with this person.

armygirlrose
armygirlrose

I can't believe I have to say this over and over again. No T.V. is  not a government issue, however,  He did not say it on Duck Dynasty, not to mention he did not say it on A & E..  Hence he did not slander anyone as well. If the media had showed his true comment they would have seen the bible verses that were quoted, as well as his point that American values have declined. Since this was not on A & E  it did not reflect the station in anyway, however, the point is that it did  affect  his freedom of religion and his freedom of speech. Just saying., any good attorney could find a  huge  loop hole with this..... I wish they would post his full contract online so people could see for themselves... GLBC is nothing but a bunch of bullies, they can slander Christians all day and call them names but can't take someone not liking there lifestyles... It might be my opinion only but they are bullies...

jamesy1979
jamesy1979

@armygirlrose it doesn't matter.  if what he does, past or present hurts his employer, like in this case; it offended a large group of people, could hurt ratings, could make less companies buy commercials or pay less for commercials.  It's hurting their business, so they have every right to suspend/fire him.

as for GLBC being a bunch of bullies, that statement could not be more ignorant.  The gay community has no issue with Christians or the religion in general, only if those people make bigoted comments towards the gay community, then you see them defending themselves.

There really isn't a part of your comment that wasn't uneducated and ignorant.  Congrats.

RudyLeffler
RudyLeffler

What good are constitutional rights if your employer or others can take them away? If someone can control your speech and actions outside the work place, you are a piece of property. It's called slavery.

The constitution might as well be done away with.

rmformond
rmformond

Libtards have no clue. This may not be a First Amendment violation as far as a lawsuit may go, but it IS A&E not supporting the first amendment rights of their star. When intolerant liberal show hosts spew their anti-Christian BS on MSNBC or similar outlets we are told it's their first amendment right to do so and they rally around these bigots because of the first amendment. Lawrence O'Donnell has yet to be suspended for his libel and bigoted speech. Then again I guess that's why MSNBC has some of the worst ratings on cable news.

umich04
umich04

@rmformond All you have demonstrated is a complete lack of understanding of the constitution.

I absolutely love how every post that includes the term "libtard" in it leads directly to the most incoherent and incorrect analysis known to man as written by the author. Us "libtards" aren't arguing an opinion or point of view, we are literally pointing out the manner in which the law is interpreted and applied. If you cannot understand this, you are simply not intelligent enough to comment on such issues.


The first amendment of the constitution gives you the right to speak freely without government persecution. You seem to be implying that the first amendment, or the "freedom of speech," somehow applies to the acts of other people, and we should be equally outraged when an employer (or anybody) censors speech. No, we shouldn't be, they are not the same thing in the eyes of the law or reality. Nobody has a right to their particular job. You conservatives seem to agree with this wholeheartedly when it suits you. We also live in a capitalistic society, which you conservatives seem to enjoy. Yet, market forces causing a company to make a decision somehow is wrong to you, yet is right in every other situation that opposes your view.

You just come off as marginalized when you cannot understand a concept this simple. Do you also think parents shouldn't scold their children for what they say? Are parents directly opposing the first amendment? Seriously, this is along the lines of what you are implying here.

Lexa
Lexa

Not surprised Sarah Palin doesn't understand the difference between Freedom of Speech and Breach of Contract since she can't even read.  When asked which magazines she reads to keep current she couldn't name one.  Gov. Bobby Jindal

Networks NEVER allowed free reign aka freedom of speech...member censors???  Yah we still have those.  

waclark57
waclark57

@Lexa Nice argument. Typical liberal rant, however, which starts by insulting people rather than addressing the issues. So you think reading magazines keeps you up on current events? Seriously, like People or US Weekly? Or maybe your style is more Soap Opera Digest? If you want to stay current you don't need to read weekly or monthly magazines. They won't keep you current and in many cases will present a biased view of world and current events. I get a lot of information via the web and in many cases from blogs that aggregate articles from other sources. I couldn't begin to tell you what all those sources are. And it doesn't matter because I read multiple sources to get both sides of the story and then make up my own mind. Do you think busy politicians sit around and read magazines all day? Hardly, that is why they have staffers who gather information and present it to them in the form of briefs.


PS - in case you haven't noticed we don't have much censorship in cable TV these days.

dmorgan828
dmorgan828

I agree with a lot of the viewer's here, but this is getting pushed to far many things in our country needs addressed before a 100% red neck show that has no plot in the first place, but if some want to watch these un shaved nasty looking people great for them. TV has got to the point not many shows worth   seeing unless its 40 plus years old. never know if some one naked or fail sex or words will be used in front of our kids and grand kids, lets take our country back care for the USA and what it stood for when our grand parents came to New York by ship from the old country, or when our parents had a family .not for the world to know when they went to rest room or any other issues   during the day ,Merry  Christmas   and may God Bless America, ! now there are   words we all should be worrying about  loosing with free speech, not some silly  a## show ratings , again Merry Christmas to the world. 

UnPoliticallyCorrect
UnPoliticallyCorrect

@dmorgan828-Phil Robertson only expressed his personal opinions. Phil is a reality TV star. His success and popularity is based on his opinions. A&E fired a reality star for having controversial opinions? Are you kidding me? I suggest A&E executives need to visit a psychiatrist’s couch.

"The Duck Dynasty scandal is about intolerance. But the intolerance is on part of Hollywood and A&E. The star of a reality show is allowed to have opinions. If you don’t like them, you have no right to ban them. That’s tyrant’s behavior. That’s McCarthyism. That’s the attitude of police states we find in countries run by tyrants like Stalin, or Fidel Castro, or Huge Chavez, or the old East Germany.
I don’t have to agree with Phil Robertson to stand behind him. I support free speech. If it can happen to Phil, it can happen to anyone of us.

Defenders of A&E and Hollywood claim this is about “branding.” They say a private business (like A&E) has the right to decide it’s brand and fire anyone hurting its brand.

That would be true if this was a fair two-way street. I too support private property rights for business owners to run their businesses anyway they want. Only the CEO should decide who works for his company, not the government.


But this is not the way the rules currently work in America. Because if any private business said “I won’t serve a customer because of his race or sexual orientation”- would that decision be allowed by government?

If a businessman, in his own private business, decided to fire any employee that supports gay marriage, would that decision be allowed? If a CEO fired employees because they were atheist, would that decision be allowed? If a CEO fired a woman because she was an outspoken supporter of abortion, would that decision stand?

How about if a CEO concerned about his brand said, “You’re fired because your outspoken support of gay rights is killing my business”- would that decision be allowed?

More specifically, how about a TV network firing the star of a reality TV show because they made remarks in an interview supporting abortion or gay marriage or stem cell research. Would government, courts, or Hollywood accept that decision? Leftists and gay rights organizations would beg government to intervene. And we’d see $100 million class action lawsuits galore.

So it’s a lie to say that private businesses have a right to fire who they want. The law is only used to protect leftist and “progressive” views. This was never about “branding.” It was about the shock and horror when people who drink Obama-Kool-Aid realized that their biggest TV star actually believes in something they don’t. They had to rush to silence him."

Divdar
Divdar

Yes, there was no government intervention.  Nobody was arrested, jailed or fined.  But for those who are saying it's not an issue of free speech, you need to start correcting yourself on the phrase of gay marriage is illegal.  It's not illegal.  Have a ceremony, exchange rings, change your social status.  Nobody will be arrested, jailed or fined either.

spam5900
spam5900

@aztecian @Divdar he said the blacks he worked side by side with were always happy.  OMG!?!?  WHAT A RACIST?!?!  

aztecian
aztecian

@Divdarif this guy is not the epitome of the kkk...man...you should hear what he said about african americans and picking crops, even the naacp is getting involved, demanding and apology.  this dukkk calling whakkkO is going down.

aztecian
aztecian

@BradHart@spam5900@aztecian@Divdar exactly and what he said about them being happy and then implying now in today's world they were not and best off before in the conditions of being slaves.  this is pure hate.  naacp is now stepping in!

UnPoliticallyCorrect
UnPoliticallyCorrect

@BradHart@spam5900@aztecian@Divdar- really? That is what he said, this line for whites and the other for colored? WOW, can you point to that portion of the article or are you, with your awesome intelligence ASSuming? FYI - I am sure the 4 adopted kids in his family, one of which is BLACK would love to know your ASSumptions.......you are such an uneducated BIGOT!

UnPoliticallyCorrect
UnPoliticallyCorrect

@aztecian@BradHart@spam5900@Divdar- NAACP are bigger racist than any other segment of our society. I am curious, where in that entire article did he say blacks should go back to the days of Jim Crow? Oh, my bad you are ASSuming and reading in to something so that you can invoke your race card, which of course has officially been DECLINED! But hey, go and tell the 4 adopted kids his family has, one of which is black that your ASSumption is code word for what he really said, in your mind of course!

rmformond
rmformond

@DivdarGay Marriage is illegal though in many states still. It's just not a criminal issue. It's more just not recognized as a legit marriage.

iknowall321
iknowall321

I agree the best place to discuss this is on Title VII...yet what A&E did still fails to violate Title VII, and was perfectly legal.  Title VII was meant to protect employers from discriminating for no purpose.  HOWEVER if there's a good reason for the discrimination, it's allowed.  Wikipedia quote "In very narrowly defined situations, an employer is permitted to discriminate on the basis of a protected trait where the trait is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise."


Certainly what qualifies as as "bona fide" is subjective.  My opinion is that A&E's actions were bona fide.  They have a public reputation to protect.  I'd also put in that category the Catholic Church refusing to hire a Jew.  Meaning what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  


What Title VII is meant to protect is a bunch of Catholics at John Doe Inc. (or any other company) from firing Jews, Blacks, Democracts, etc.  Put another way, I think it's fine that the KKK only take Catholics.  I think it's fine that the Aryan Nation won't take Blacks.  I think it's fine that the LBGT orgs won't hire straights, WFD won't hiring hearing, and non-Fox TV won't hire Bible thumping bigots...those are bona fide requirements for those orgs because of who they cater too.  


Yes, that's right, I put KKK on equal footing with LBGT in this case.  It's appropriate.  There is no "OK" definition of an organization.  Orgs define their values.  However I am not suggesting that KKK and LBGT's values are the same, just that they deserve equal rights.

spam5900
spam5900

@iknowall321 I disagree.  They hired this family knowing full well they were Christian and prayed in his name.  Then to fire him for being Christian is NOT just cause.  It didn't hurt their reputation because this show isn't watched by homos and liberal idiots.  It is watched mostly by Nascar watching, rural, white God fearing people who believe in the Bible and believe in what Phil said.  The problem is that A&E liberal idiots put these rednecks on to make fun of them, but everyone ended up liking them and relating to them.  They hit cult status when they started going around praising God.  So it isn't about ruining anyone's reputation, but simply not agreeing with someone's religious beliefs and firing them solely for that belief.  A&E is not a Jewish network, or atheist network or any other kind of network that would prevent them from hiring a Christian.  If it was, they wouldn't have hired this highly religious family in the first place.

MattressCC
MattressCC

@iknowall321  actually, your definition of bona fide occupational qualification is where you go wrong. BFOQ may not be used as a defense the discrimination is not reasonably necessary to the normal operation of a particular business. Essentially this means if he can still perform his job, despite beliefs, BFOQ is not a valid defense. The employer must prove that the ability to perform the duties of the job are hindered by the BFOQ. The defense that it objects to the "central mission of the employers business" is more valid, but A&E claims their mission is "creating entertainment that celebrates the human story" on their website.


What you have is a very loose interpretation of the law that is not true in many cases. 

burningrectum
burningrectum

@spam5900 @iknowall321 He was not fired for being a Christian. He was suspended for saying stupid things that some people find offensive, and pressured companies to pull adds which hurt A&E's bottom line. If you can show me the bible verse that discusses the hierarchy of genitalia desirability or equates homosexuality to terrorism, then you may have a point. The very fact that you can go to the A&E website right now and see an episode depicting the family preparing for a nativity scene or read the cast descriptions about their faith completely undermines your assertion that he is being persecuted for religious beliefs. 

giveyadialtone
giveyadialtone

It may not be a free speech violation but it is a violation of Title VII of the civil rights act of 1964

TyroneBiggims
TyroneBiggims

@giveyadialtone Wrong, This is not a Civil Rights issue. "Compelling interest" is a exception to the Civil Rights Act. The media is typically exempt because the courts have reasoned they have compelling interest if they can reasonably believe such comments might alienate a segment of their viewership, cost them sponsors, or cost them ratings. Whether it does or doesn't isn't really important. The courts have virtually always sided with the employment at will doctrine in these cases. It is the same idea of a movie director discriminating against a black actor for a white role, or a modeling agency refusing to hire a fat girl, or political organization firing someone who conveys a message that goes against the message of the group. They have a compelling interest to discriminate in these examples. Furthermore, the "compelling interest" clause and "at will employment" are hallmarks of conservative legal theory and form the basis of "right to work", "Corporate free speech", and "Corporations as individuals theory".

BradHart
BradHart

@giveyadialtone  There are several really good reasons this is not a Title VII violation and the biggest one is the people on the show are not actually employees of A&E.  There are at least two and usually three companies involved in the production of most television shows.  The first one is the network and actually has very few actual employees in terms of the number of people it takes to make a show.  They air the show and sell the advertising.  They also dictate to the production company what content they want to be included and excluded from a show.  They don't actually employ the actors on the show.  In suspending Phil they tell the production company,  Gurney Productions, they don't want him to have any screen time and Gurney Productions edits him out of the story.  The production company employs all the technical people: producers, directors, videographers, grips, etc.  A third company, usually called the show's name, hires all the entertainers.  While this company is almost always owned by the network or production company, they are a separate business entity entirely.    That is the only company any of the actors could actually file a Title VII claim against, but that company has not done anything that Phil or any others could file a claim for which assumes they are actually employees and not independent contractors.  While there are most likely contracts between A&E and all the parties involved at every level that does not make those people employees of A&E.

KyleBaxter
KyleBaxter

@BradHart @giveyadialtone the robertsons signed a contract making them the stars of a reality show that is aired on A&E. Therefore they are employed by A&E, hence they are employees of A&E.

BradHart
BradHart

@KyleBaxter @BradHart @giveyadialtone Employed at or by and employees of a company are very different things.For example I am employed by several local small businesses to maintain their websites, but I am not their employee.  The people who most retailers have doing their floors every night are employed at the retailers, but are not employees of the retailer.  A&E only distributes the show and has content oversight, they do not directly employ the people who make the shows.