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ICYMI: Statement of Ranking Member Nadler for the Hearing on "The State of Intellectual Freedom in America"

Sep 28, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following opening remarks during a Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice hearing on "The State of Intellectual Freedom in America":

"The purported subject of today’s hearing is the “State of Intellectual Freedom in America.”  Despite this lofty title, however, the hearing’s actual purpose is to reinforce the bogus narrative that cultural institutions and those who run them are arrayed against conservative people and ideas. 

"We start with an old favorite of the right-wing media sphere, which is the assertion that colleges and universities are dedicated to persecuting conservative scholars while brainwashing students into becoming liberal activists.  Simply put, however, there are plenty of conservative academics teaching at colleges and universities, including at least three sitting before us today.

"And, as if a hearing on the topic of “liberal academics” alone was not already a waste of taxpayer dollars, today’s hearing will also feature a panel on a right-wing conspiracy theory of more recent vintage, namely that social media companies are intentionally suppressing conservative viewpoints.  This would now be the third hearing that the House Judiciary Committee has held on so-called anti-conservative social media bias.  At no point in the previous two hearings have we been presented with any credible evidence that social media companies are censoring conservatives for ideological reasons.

"Instead of indulging in conservative talking points, the Subcommittee could be holding a substantive hearing about the use of social media.  For instance, we could be holding a hearing on the undisputed fact that the Russian government used social media to wage a disinformation campaign to attack our democracy during 2016 election. 

"Indeed, in light of the upcoming midterm election, such a hearing would be timely.  The Wall Street Journal – a publication not exactly known for its liberal bias – reported just last month that U.S. intelligence officials warned of a “pervasive” effort by Russia to disrupt the 2018 election.  Yet, rather than focus on a real topic of critical concern, the Majority has now wasted three hearings on meritless claims of anti-conservative social media bias.

"This hearing is remarkable in one sense.   The Majority seems to have reached a new low in terms of who it has chosen to invite as witnesses.  Many of the Majority witnesses here today are not just notable for their fringe ideological positions, but for their extreme conduct, their peddling of false conspiracy theories that hurt innocent people, and their outright animus towards the civil rights of gays, lesbians, and transgender people. 

"For example, Jim Hoft of the Gateway Pundit website – in an attempt to discredit the courageous efforts of the survivors of the horrific shooting at Parkland High School in Florida in support of reasonable gun regulations -- helped to propagate the false story that these shooting survivors were not real victims, but were instead trained “crisis actors.”  After Mr. Hoft’s website published that story, sponsors of a panel on the topic of “suppression of conservative views on social media” at the Conservative Political Action Conference – an annual gathering of leading conservative activists –demanded that Mr. Hoft be removed from the panel, and ultimately, the panel was cancelled as a result.

"In short, Mr. Hoft’s association with the "crisis actor" conspiracy theory was too much even for CPAC, which describes itself as "the birthplace of conservatism."   Yet, Mr. Hoft has been invited here today to testify before this Subcommittee.  Are we to believe that this Subcommittee has less decency than the organizers of CPAC?       

"As if this were not enough of an embarrassment to our Committee, Professor Mike Adams, another Majority witness, has a history of harassing students and making remarks denigrating LGBTQ persons.  When challenged about his behavior, Professor Adams tried to hide behind the claim that his statements were merely “satire” or exaggerations meant to anger liberals.  We should, however, listen to just some of Professor Adams’s statements:

  • He mockingly asked whether a 19-year-old student was on a “‘Queer Muslim’ Jihad” and wrote “Her claims to be a ‘queer Muslim’ are probably part of an act designed to fit into as many victim categories as possible.”
  • He referred to transgender people as “mentally ill.”
  • And, he said that “[g]ay couples do not deserve equal benefits because they do not equally benefit society.”

"Political correctness run amok?  No.  These statements were simply bigoted.

"Also invited to testify here today is Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that represented Professor Adams in his free speech claim against his university, and which continues to advance the meritless argument that the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause permits business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ persons.  I must note that their willingness to represent Professor Adams calls into question the integrity of the argument that they merely defend “religious liberty,” rather than invidious discrimination. 

"I do not dispute that Professor Adams – as a professor at a public university – is protected from workplace retaliation by the First Amendment.  I would note, however, that his speech raises the question of whether it creates a hostile environment under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits verbal harassment that is sufficiently serious to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from federally funded education programs and activities. 

"Finally, the Majority’s argument that conservative views are being suppressed is undermined by the fact that the witnesses appear to have a wide audience for their views.  For instance, both Mr. Hoft and Professor Adams have had no problem leveraging the internet, and in Professor Adams’ case, his taxpayer-funded perch at a public university, to connect with like-minded followers.

"The very fact that we are holding this hearing refutes the claim that conservative viewpoints are not being adequately heard by society or reflected by American political institutions.  Today’s hearing is being held because conservative Republicans currently control the House of Representatives, not to mention the Senate, the presidency, and the majority of state legislatures and governorships.  This is hardly evidence of the suppression and victimization of conservatives.

"But many conservatives conveniently ignore these facts.  The truth is that despite conservatives’ dominance of our government, they continue cultivating the notion that they are the true victims, and honing resentment of cultural “elites” among their base – a cynical tactic that has undergirded conservative political strategy for decades.  In the process, they are only too happy to lob insults and criticisms at students, universities, or technology companies and to complain about the fact that members of historically marginalized groups seek redress for their real victimhood.

"And so here we are today, at what must be the most expensive taxpayer-funded “safe space” ever, to listen yet again to conservative complaints about their purported victimhood.  This hearing is truly a waste of time."         

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Issues: 
115th Congress