Legal analyst Sunny Hostin recently schooled her "View" co-host Meghan McCain on the First Amendment and why it protects WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Professional lip-flapper Meghan McCain did her best Veruca Salt impersonation on The View Thursday as the show’s quartet of chatty Cathys took up the issue of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s recent arrest in London and whether or not freedom of the press is at stake.
The U.S. government has demanded the Aussie national be trussed up and airmailed to the States so it can pursue a hacking charge against Assange, whom the feds say conspired with Army intelligence specialist Chelsea Manning in 2010 to break into a Pentagon computer. Manning leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Assange about U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other state secrets, which Assange later disseminated through his website, WikiLeaks.
Assange dodged the law for seven years by taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, till the Ecuadorians tired of protecting him and turned him over to British police. Online, the debate has raged: Is Assange a self-serving scumbag who put American lives at risk or a First Amendment icon who risked all in service of the truth?
McCain was of the former opinion, referring to Assange as a “cyber terrorist” and saying that she hopes he “rots in hell.”
She called out Democrats for not recognizing Assange’s threat until 2016, when WikiLeaks published embarrassing emails that had been hacked from prominent Dems, such as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Clinton campaign manager, John Podesta.
“This is something that a lot of people who have put national security first — I put myself in that category — have been warning about and warning about and warning about,” McCain said. “And the only time the Democrats started caring is when it started affecting them politically and Hillary Clinton’s emails were released.”
She also slammed the Obama administration for not indicting Assange because of First Amendment concerns.
That’s when co-host Sunny Hostin, an attorney and ABC legal analyst jumped in, schooling McCain on the First Amendment, which Hostin said protects Assange.
“I think that if you have a problem with Julian Assange and what he released in terms of national security, then you need to have a problem with the Pentagon Papers, you need to have a problem with the Panama Papers, you need to have a problem with the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs being released,” said Hostin.
— The Hill (@thehill) April 12, 2019
Each of those incidents strengthened American democracy, she argued. And so, the Obama administration was correct not to pursue criminal charges against WikiLeaks and Assange, because the First Amendment applies even if the information in question was obtained illegally.
To that point, in its 1971 Pentagon Papers decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Nixon administration could not prevent The New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing a classified, government history of the Vietnam war, despite the administration’s contention that doing so would be a national security risk.
But McCain was having none of it, labeling Hostin’s argument “straight propaganda.”
Hostin shrugged, “Well, if the law is propaganda, I’m sorry.”
Hillary Clinton and other Democrats cheered Assange’s arrest, with Clinton saying Assange must “answer for what he’s done.” During an appearance at New York’s Beacon Theater, she cracked that Assange, “may be the only foreigner that this administration would welcome to the United States.”
— ACLU (@ACLU) April 21, 2017
Others, such as famed whistleblower and fugitive Edward Snowden called Assange’s jailing a “dark moment for press freedom.”
The ACLU Tweeted a statement, echoing those of many free speech advocates that, “A criminal case against Wikileaks would represent a direct threat to the First Amendment.”
And famed journalist Glenn Greenwald, a co-founding editor of The Intercept, blasted members of the media for applauding Assange’s downfall.
“U.S. journalists have long hated WikiLeaks because they have published stories of far greater importance & impact than most of those journalists in the lifetime will ever publish, all without being part of their little club,” he Tweeted. “But to cheer the Trump DOJ prosecution is just grotesque.”