The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Last week, the Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City, led by Democrat Marilyn Mosby, filed a "formal complaint" with the FCC asking the Commission "to enlist the full investigative and enforcement powers granted to you by the Federal government to take action against the [local broadcaster] WBFF as soon as possible" for "the tone" and "the frequency of" stories by WBFF journalists about State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
A federal grand jury has been investigating State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby for financial dealings, and the WBFF newsroom has run several investigative stories regarding possible corruption within the State's Attorney's Office.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr issued the following statement in response:
"The State's Attorney's Office, led by Democrat Marilyn Mosby, has launched a chilling and direct attack on free speech and journalistic freedom. The complaint her office filed with the FCC asks the Commission to censor a newsroom simply because journalists are doing their constitutionally protected jobs and shining a light on the work of the State's Attorney. Invoking the power of the state to silence journalists for unfavorable coverage strikes at the very heart of the First Amendment.
"It is particularly troubling that a public official would work to silence reporters that are investigating her work at a time when federal prosecutors have already opened a criminal investigation into her activities.
"Indeed, the day after the State's Attorney's Office filed its complaint with the FCC, the targeted newsroom was awarded four prestigious Regional Edward R. Murrow awards for journalism excellence, including for one of its stories covering the work of the State's Attorney's Office.
"The State's Attorney's Office complaint alleges that there is 'troubling, abhorrent, and outright dangerous' conduct going on here. They are correct in this respect—it is the conduct of the State's Attorney's Office that is troubling, abhorrent, and outright dangerous.
"Yet this complaint is part of a recent and troubling surge in efforts by Democrat officials to pressure the FCC and its regulated entities into censoring news coverage and political speech that Democrats don't like. The FCC should make clear that it will not operate as the DNC's speech police. That is why the FCC must dismiss this complaint with prejudice by the end of today. No journalists should have a complaint like this from their city's top prosecutor hanging over their newsroom."
I have no view on whether Democrats or Republicans are more culpable on such matters, but I agree with Commissioner Carr that Mosby's complaint is unsound. If other Commissioners speak up about this, in either direction, I'd love to post their comments as well.