At the tail end of an interview with former FBI Director James Comey, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked if he and other government figures should have allowed people to chant “lock her up” during the 2016 election or if they should instead have “shut down” those chants.
“Of course ‘lock her up’ was a feature of the 2016 Trump campaign,” Amanpour said. She continued, “Do you, in retrospect, wish that people like yourself, the head of the FBI, I mean the people in charge of law and order had shut down that language—that it was dangerous potentially, that it could have created violence, that it’s kind of hate speech—should that have been allowed?”
Amanpour grew up in Iran and, starting around age 11, moved to Britain. So she wasn’t raised here, but surely by now, she’s familiar with the First Amendment. Apparently, the concept of free speech and the Amendment which specifically prohibits the government from interfering in that haven’t completely sunk in. I honestly can’t imagine any American host asking this question of a government figure (or a former one in this case).
However, Amanpour does seem to be familiar with the argument that “hate speech” is something the government can “shut down” when it wants to do so. She also seems to suggest that such speech might have been tantamount to violence. Neither of those ideas represents the American approach but they do sound reminiscent of the ideas being promulgated by some far-left activists on American campuses. In essence, Amanpour is asking if the government should have made the 2016 election a safe space. It’s a genuinely embarrassing moment. To his credit, Comey gives the correct answer about the government’s role (though he also makes a partisan point about Republicans).
“That’s not a role for government to play,” he replied. He continued, “The beauty of this country is people can say what they want even if it’s misleading and it’s demagoguery. The people who should have shut it down were Republicans who understand the rule of law and the values that they stand for. Shame on them, but it wasn’t a role for government to play.”
The strange thing is that most of the 25-minute interview before this question was fine. Amanpour walked through the issues of collusion, obstruction, Russian interference in the election, Comey’s decision to announce he was re-opening the Clinton email investigation, etc. We’ve heard much of this before and most of what she asks about seems perfectly reasonable if well-worn. She even made the case, at one point, that what appeared to be obstruction by Trump with regard to Gen. Flynn was perhaps just Trump’s inexperience in government. In other words, she seems to be making some effort to appear evenhanded. And then the wheels completely fall off with her final question about the government silencing Americans.
Here’s the clip of the “lock her up” exchange.
Christiane Amanpour asks James Comey if the phrase "lock her up" should have been "shut down" by people like him in 2016.
She asks if he thinks "it was dangerous potentially, that it could have created violence, that it’s kind of hate speech? Should that have been allowed?” pic.twitter.com/S3Gv0V0e1M
— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) April 2, 2019
Finally, here’s the exchange about Trump and obstruction regarding Gen. Flynn.
James @Comey tells me that “it’s possible” President Trump did not have “corrupt intent” when he fired him as FBI director.
“I didn’t know what his intention was. I knew it could be obstruction of justice.” pic.twitter.com/guyRiqEXrg
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) April 2, 2019