Biden Appoints Advocate of Restricting Free Speech To Transition Team

In November, Richard Stengel was appointed as Team Lead for the US Agency for Global Media. On numerous occasions, Stengel has advocated for laws to restrict the first amendment.


In November the New York Post reported that Joe Biden had appointed Richard Stengel to his transition team. 

Richard Stengel was appointed as Team Lead for the US Agency for Global Media, the US federal agency “overseeing public service media networks that provide unbiased news and information in countries where the press is restricted”. 

The agency includes Voice of America, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 

Last year, Stengel wrote a Washington Post op-ed that discussed the need for ‘hate speech’ laws. The article was titled “Why America needs a hate speech law”.

In the article, Stengel wrote: “When I was a journalist, I loved Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s assertion that the Constitution and the First Amendment are not just about protecting “free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

“But as a government official traveling around the world championing the virtues of free speech, I came to see how our First Amendment standard is an outlier. Even the most sophisticated Arab diplomats that I dealt with did not understand why the First Amendment allows someone to burn a Koran. Why, they asked me, would you ever want to protect that?”

Continuing, “the First Amendment protects the “thought that we hate,” but it should not protect hateful speech that can cause violence by one group against another.”

“All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails. I’m all for protecting “thought that we hate,” but not speech that incites hate.”

It is unclear how a law to curb what Stengel calls “speech that incites hate” would fare in the courts. 

As Glen Greenwald discusses in his most recent Substack article about the effort to ‘criminalize speech’, he wrote:

“it is the claim rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in two landmark rulings: its unanimous 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which overturned the criminal conviction of a KKK leader who had used a speech to threaten violence against political officials, and the 1982 ruling in Claiborne v NAACP, also unanimous, in which the Court held that the First Amendment bars imposing liability on someone for the criminal acts allegedly “inspired” by their speech (that ruling protected NAACP officials from attempts by the State of Mississippi to hold them liable for the violent acts their fiery pro-boycott speeches allegedly incited).”

Last May, Richard Stengel as an MSNBC analyst argued that the First Amendment “doesn’t protect false speech about a virus or false speech that endangers the health of your users.”

While on live TV, Stengel said, “The First Amendment doesn’t protect false speech about a virus or false speech that endangers the health of your users. And by the way, Facebook and Twitter have been taking things down, but they need to be even more vigilant about it, and Google needs to be even more vigilant about what they prioritize in their search results. They need to prioritize factual information in their search results, rather than emotional and inflammatory conspiracy theories that get people’s eyes.”

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