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The extortion will be televised

A waitress wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus stands near a TV showing live telecast of U.S. election, at a pub in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A waitress wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus stands near a TV showing live telecast of U.S. election, at a pub in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
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The following is an editorial by Armstrong Williams

Last time I checked, we live in a free society with free access to information and free speech protected by our Constitution's First Amendment, right? If the answer is still yes, then someone should tell that to CNN reporter Brian Stelter.

He should be ashamed of himself. The other day he suggested that AT&T eliminate Newsmax and OAN (One America News) from the telecommunication giant's platforms. In essence, Stelter's message is this: I don't share the political views of these competitors, so you should cancel them and cut off access for tens of millions of Americans. What could be more un-American than limiting the free flow of ideas?

We are a nation of disparate views and at the heart of the American experiment has been our diversity and the protection of people's right to not only have differing opinions but to freely express them. The dangerous and destructive path that we are headed towards if we begin cowing to Brian Stelter's demands, is uniquely un-American. Our uniqueness as a nation is because of our freedom and liberties, namely the right to free speech, a significant part of the Bill of Rights. It's what gives us the right to challenge each other and, most importantly, a right to challenge the government. Without it, how can dissenting views and opinions ever exist? The problem with Stelter's idea isn't just that its fundamentally dangerous, it’s an attack on the very ideals that makes us free.

If AT&T goes down this dangerous path, then it could very well find itself one day on the wrong side of this same equation. Imagine if tens of millions of subscribers suddenly cancel their service and encourage the public to move en masse to T-Mobile or Verizon. Is AT&T ready for that? As a company, AT&T must understand the importance of being a non-partisan and non-bias corporate entity that serves the American people regardless of their beliefs. To do anything else, would be akin to a company discriminating against someone because of their race or sexual orientation.

Are they prepared to lose millions of dollars in revenue by disenfranchising their customers who have conservative views? I hope that the answer is no and that AT&T stands firm against bullies like Brian Stelter, who use public outrage at a sensitive time in our country to cause even further division.

It's an old truism that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. What would be Stelter's reaction if a mass of people were to put economic, social, and negative PR pressure on CNN to fire him because they were offended by something he said? Indeed, he would probably feel wronged and that he should have the freedom to express himself without fear of losing his livelihood.

If Brian Stelter is successful in his bid against Newsmax and OAN, he only paves a road back to himself and those who share his views because someday he'll be next. Someday, someone will say his views and beliefs are dangerous or that CNN shouldn't be on air. Does it ever end, or do we continue on this dangerous path until it results in complete self-destruction and there's nothing left of the America we know? It is much easier to destroy and nation than it is to create and, once it's gone, we likely won't get it back because when you start limiting individual freedoms, it's only a matter of time before someone wants to go even further and that someday will arrive knocking at Brian's and CNN's doorsteps.

These campaigns aimed at attacking legitimate media outlets for merely allowing those who see things from a different perspective have a voice amounts to little more than economic extortion. Such actions should have no place in the free market. In this country, the people must have the freedom to choose the media that they want to view, just as they are permitted to live their lives how they wish, free from fear of excessive censorship and government interference.

Free speech is one of our most cherished freedoms. It is a freedom that belongs to all of us and not just to some. AT&T should ignore Stelter's misguided calls and should instead consider the consequences of going down the slippery slope of curtailing freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Mr. Williams is Manager / Sole Owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the year. |

Follow me on Twitter @arightside

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Editors' Note: Sinclair Broadcast Group has a business relationship with Armstrong Williams, who is a political commentator and the owner of Howard Stirk Holdings.

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