Gag Order Is, Well, No Gag

Terry H. Schwadron

Feb. 23, 2019

I was delighted to hear that federal Judge Amy Bennett Jackson in Washington had dropped the gag hammer on Roger Stone after he had posted her photo with a cross-hairs target on social media.

Stone, the self-described dirty trickster for Republicans, and the 2016 Trump campaign, has offered a never-ending stream of commentary on the court, on Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and Democrats in general in an attempt to come across as a legal victim in his arrest by demeaning everyone involved in his prosecution.

In issuing a gag order, Judge Jackson said Stone’s social media behavior not only was outrageous, but that she could not believe his testimony about it as offered under oath. Hoo-boy, Stone and his legal team must be less than eager to see the trial itself get under way on felony charges of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and making false statements to investigators in the all-things-Russia probe. Not only has Stone’s electronic mouth-running been in poor taste, it has not helped his legal defense.

So, the rest of us gratefully get a moment of silence from Stone until the court does the speaking.

While we’re at it, how about some more gag orders, however fanciful.

Top on the list of needed gag orders would be one for Jusse Smollet, the actor who seems to have lied about a homophobic, racial attack to promote himself. I think he’s lost the right to be heard in mixed company.

With imperial powers, I’d issue a gag order for Rudy Giuliani to stop his nutty defenses for any involvement by President Donald Trump in nefarious enterprises. His remarks have been continuously guilty of twisted logic and inventive of the fact pattern on which he seeks to comment.

For that matter, I’d order some kind of falsehood gag order on Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Judge Jeanine Pirro and others in the conservative talk television mode who basically fuel the worst of Trump. These are people who consistently, regularly and unnecessarily misstate the factual part of their arguments on behalf of the president. I’d love to just hear their advocacy with an agreed-upon set of facts. Perhaps something could pop up on the screen to say, “Made up facts” in the midst of such presentations.

Surprisingly, by contrast, columnist Ann Coulter, who almost always takes the other side from my own about what to do, actually does base her opinions on the actual events as they occur.

For fairness sake, perhaps there should be a smugness gag order for Rachel Maddow for when her commentary suffers from undue political snobbishness.

How about a gag order for Stephen Miller, the president’s close adviser on all-things-immigration. Every time he goes on the talk shows, you get comments like that from last Sunday. In an interview with Chris Wallace about the Wall, Miller made an astonishing statement that undocumented immigrants kill thousands of Americans every year — with no evidence. And one for Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has acknowledged his promotion of white supremacist thinking in office.

Other candidates for my personal gag orders are those members of the Trump cabinet like Wilbur Ross, commerce secretary, whose ethical problems have even drawn a full report from a congressional oversight committee, Ben Carson, who has yet to support the public housing he oversees, Betsy DeVos, who seems to hate both public schools and victims of sexual assault, Alex Acosta of Labor, who seems to have a background of going legally easy on punishment for a Florida businessman convicted of sex crimes, and Alex Azar, whose odd policies on lowering drug prices by not lowering prices simply leave people confused.

IN the end, of course, we probably all wish that the man in the White House would gag some of his most vociferous tweeting with no distinction of any kind for those which have little backup in fact-world and which have none.

Lest there be any confusion, I’m not looking to gag the voices of support for the president, just the speakers of non-fact alternatives, speakers for fantasy in support of argument. Why can’t we just agree to disagree over any particular set of facts that seem to create the need for commentary.

On the other hand, we need something that is the opposite of a gag order for moreactual information and commentary from some others. It would be nice actually to hear from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, whenever he finishes his investigation and reports, because I think we can anticipate that any written word will not come close to public understanding about what has gone on over the last three years.

I even look forward to hearing more from former Trump fix-it guy Michael Cohen this week, whose tell-all possibilities sound as if they could be as interesting as former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s were last week.

Again, I’m not endorsing the opinion, just the idea of basing argument on fact.


Journalist, musician, community volunteer

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