Palin doesn't understand First Amendment

In an interview, Sarah Palin suggests her free speech rights are threatened when reporters criticize her.

Published October 31, 2008 6:00PM (EDT)

In a radio interview that aired Friday morning, Sarah Palin said Americans' First Amendment rights are in danger. Ironically, it's apparently the press who's threatening those rights.

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin said, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

That is, to be clear, a fundamental misunderstanding of what the First Amendment is about. Let's review the text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

To put it succinctly: the press can't violate Palin's First Amendment rights. If the government were to criminalize her speech, that would be a violation. But what the press is doing in criticizing Palin is exercising the First Amendment.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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