Before embarking on a television career, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren worked as a highly successful trial attorney. She graduated from Georgetown Law, represented clients in federal and state venues and picked up her share of accolades along the way.
And last night she ditched her legal-eagle sophistication in a monologue criticizing activist Pamela Geller for putting the lives of police officers on the line at an event Sunday in Garland, Tex. “Everyone knew this event would unglue some who might become violent,” said Van Susteren.
In a story that has resurrected a fierce debate on the First Amendment, two gunmen on Sunday were killed by police after they descended on the Geller-organized event showcasing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack and U.S. officials are investigating any possible link. Geller is president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group that bills itself as a protector of U.S. constitutional freedoms but that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an “active anti-Muslim group.” Muslims consider depictions of the prophet offensive. In January, terrorists carried out a massacre at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, which had repeatedly satirized Muhammad.
So Van Susteren scolded Geller for holding the cartoon contest. “My message is simple — protect our police. Do not recklessly lure them into danger and that is what happened in Garland, Texas at the Muhammad cartoon contest,” she said. “Yes, of course, there’s a First Amendment right and it’s very important, but the exercise of that right includes using good judgment.”
In other words, watch what you say, or draw.
The Fox News host continued: “It’s one thing for someone to stand up for the First Amendment and put his own you-know-what on the line, but here, those insisting they were defending the First Amendment were knowingly putting officers’ lives on the line — the police,” said Van Susteren, who went on to say that the “police had no choice but to do their job.”
We’d like to put the emphasis here on the part where Van Susteren says that it’s their job. Correct: Police in this country have for many years protected the First Amendment rights of protesters and political provocateurs of all sorts. That’s one of the things they do for the Constitution. Asking them to do so isn’t “luring them into danger”; it’s democracy. What more noble work do police perform?
Van Susteren went further astray with this comment: “But was it fair to the police to knowingly put them at risk by this unnecessary provocation? I say no,” she said. It’s here that we give thanks that Van Susteren is merely a television host and not a government official, because we wouldn’t want anyone at the levers of power deciding what provocations are “unnecessary” and “necessary.” Perhaps Van Susteren can furnish a two-tiered list on her next show.
To bolster this brief segment, Van Susteren turned to Donald Trump, who had said earlier on Fox News of Geller: “She’s a provocateur. All she is doing is provoking and taunting people and this country has enough problems right now.” “Provoking and taunting,” huh? Perhaps our country’s censors should have a look at Trump’s Twitter feed.
Fairness, though, dictates including the opinion of Garland Mayor Douglas Athas, who said of Geller: “Her actions put my police officers, my citizens and others at risk. Her program invited an incendiary reaction. She picked my community, which does not support in any shape, passion or form, her ideology.”