The Constitution’s First Amendment enshrines freedom of speech. We have the right to speak out whether our opinions are based on fact or fallacy. But there are also legal guardrails in the form of slander, libel and defamation.

I’m fortunate to have a platform on these pages to say, for example, ex-President Trump is, by far, the worst president America has ever endured. That’s my opinion, which you may or may not share, but it is also protected free speech.

Where I would get myself and the MDJ in serious legal trouble is if, say, I falsely accused the owner of a Kennesaw business who I don’t like of being a pedophile. If it happened to slip by my editor, that owner could sue everyone associated with my libelous commentary and he would prevail in any court of law.

Thus, with our free speech rights come responsibility, accountability and, yes, consequences.

We saw that play out last week when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga-14) was stripped of her House committee assignments for her irresponsible endorsement of demented QAnon conspiracies and violence directed Democratic leaders. Were Greene a private citizen, there would be no accountability. She can say whatever she wants. But as a holder of high public office, Greene must be held accountable and suffer the consequences for her irresponsibility.

Which brings me to the Big Lie, an expression coined by Adolph Hitler in “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) to describe a lie (quoting Hitler) so “colossal,” the public would never believe the big liar would “have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

Trump’s Big Lie is he won the 2020 election in a landslide and that the office was “stolen” by Democrats conspiring with companies that supply voting technology, Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic.

If conservative media had ignored Trump’s Big Lie and truthfully told their audiences, no, Joe Biden won and there was no conspiracy, they would not be facing legal consequences.

Fox News, OANN, Newsmax and other right wing media didn’t do it. That’s not their business model. They all know there’s a huge MAGA/QAnon audience out there attracted to outlets that will dishonestly affirm their anger, suspicions and prejudices, and that translates into advertising revenue.

So they all amplified Trump’s Big Lie for two months, recklessly defaming and damaging the businesses of Dominion and Smartmatic while endangering the lives of employees at both companies who’ve reportedly received death threats. They also helped Trump trigger the violent insurrection at the Capitol.

Last week, Smartmatic dropped a $2.7 billion defamation law suit on Fox News and its on-air hosts, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, and Maria Bartiromo. Dobbs in particular was the Big Lie’s most ardent media amplifier, perhaps explaining why Fox Business abruptly cancelled his top-rated show a day after the network was hit with the law suit.

There is another free speech guardrail in our law called incitement, which is defined as encouraging another person or persons to commit a crime.

Trump’s incitement began Dec. 19 of last year when he tweeted, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” On Jan. 6, Trump told the crowd at his so-called “Save America” rally, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” and “we will stop the steal,” and “we are going to the Capitol,” which is where, at that moment, Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over the certification of the Electoral College vote in the Senate chamber.

As the insurrectionists breeched the Capitol, Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done…”

As the ex-president’s former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, told Congress in 2019, “(Trump) doesn’t give you orders, he speaks in code and I understand the code…” The code was definitely received and understood by those Trump supporters who violently stormed the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

So we have incitement, crimes and arrests. This is why Trump was impeached again and why he faces another Senate trial.

Every public word Trump uttered mattered. This is why past presidents have always measured what they said. Trump just mouthed whatever popped into his head, such as injecting disinfectant into human bodies.

He has free speech rights, true, but there’s no denying Trump incited his mob to ransack the Capitol. And when they got there, he made no attempt to stop them, reportedly watching events unfold on television. Two hours later, Trump said he “loved” them and to “remember this day forever.”

Many Republicans want to “move on,” saying Trump is out of office. Others have dismissed the MAGA riot, claiming it couldn’t have been an insurrection because of poor organization and the motley characters who participated.

With a conviction in the Senate, Democrats want to send an unmistakable message to any future president who might attempt a coup. Republicans don’t. There was a time conservatives demanded accountability and consequences. What happened?

Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, writer and author who lives in Kennesaw. You can contact him through his website at kevinemmetfoley.com.

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(14) comments

Howard Peterson

So now the liberals want to take Fox News off the air. C'mon man, this is going way to far!! There's a whole lot of liberals who need to zip their pie holes also!!!

Howard Peterson

Who told you to write a column that drips with so much "unity"? Mr J.B. (Job Buster) Joe Biden would be proud of you! LOL!!!!!!!!!

Butch Smith

Don't talk about Greene until you are willing to address the "squad" and all of the crazy things they have said.

Funny how now the Dems want accountability when that word hasn't been mentioned for 4 years. Until there is accountability on both sides there will never be unity.

When someone is Impeached shouldn't there be a hearing to review the evidence in the House. They skipped it this time because there is no evidence.

Howard Peterson

YES!! AOC said that "Ted Cruz tried to have me killed". And if that wasn't a big enough lie, she wasn't even in the Capitol building when the "event" happened!!

Howard Peterson

Communism is alive & well in this country. There is no free speech unless you are a Communist/Democrat. Hi-Tech & the Fake News Media control everything that the citizens see & hear. And if Fox News is taken off the air then we will officially be known as the Communist States of America. And mentally sick people would actually be proud of this.......

Howard Peterson

If I were a Senator, I would vote to have witnesses and try to drag out this sham impeachment "trial" another 2 or 3 weeks just to p... off Job Buster Biden & his administration!!

Butch Smith

If you want accountability lets start with NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo who sent 9000 covid patients to nursing homes and assisted living with over 15,000 deaths there. Then lied and hid the real numbers. He should be sent to jail.

Howard Peterson

A BIG YES again Butch!! Lots of "unity" in NY. No wonder everyone is leaving for Florida & also Georgia but for some reason they can't leave their lunatic liberal ideas behind! In a few years, NY & CA will be red as an apple. By the way, let's throw Newsome out of the Governor's mansion in CA!!!

Howard Peterson

Speaking of Cuomo, let's give him that giant swab right square up the butt that his no-brain brother thought was so funny on CNN!!!! He needs to face a jury, resign or be recalled & give his Emmy to the House of Representatives for trying to impeach Trump twice!!! LOL!!!!

Allie Bradford

Funny, I'm betting you had no problem with Hillary literally telling America her election "was stolen." Her words. And look at Stacey Abrams saying basically the same thing and screaming about voter suppression with zero evidence of it.

Howard Peterson

So Biden is considering a travel ban to Florida? For what reason? I guess it's such a successful Republican governor & Miami mayor who have the state & cities under control as well as being so efficient in controlling the China virus & administering vaccines. Restrictions on travel to Florida but open borders to let aliens into this country without virus tests or search of their backpacks for more illegal fentanyl. Is this president f'd up or what.............

Butch Smith

And now the end of another totally partisan, unconstitutional impeachment comes to a close. What a waste of time and money. This shows how far the Dems will go to get power and control over this Country.

Howard Peterson

I know you always appreciate when I give you a suggestion for next week's column. Please tell us what the unarmed lady did to get shot by the capitol police on Jan. 6. If you can't write anything but "I don't know" then keep reading. I'm still waiting to hear what BLM & Stacey Abrams did to get a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.....

Howard Peterson

I said above that I wanted witnesses to be called. Boy, would I have loved to hear Nancy Pelosi's truthful testimony about what she knew & how she handled the Capitol police prior to 1-6-21! I bet she set a world record for a 100 yard dash for 80 year old ladies in getting from her office in the House over to the Senate floor to get the impeachment managers to shut the h... up!!

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