Why Betsy McCaughey Is Siding With A Hatemonger
June 2, 2015

Serially dishonest right-wing healthcare propagandist Betsy McCaughey has an op-ed in The New York Times today defending Pam Geller's right to foist hate speech on public transit systems:

Don’t Censor My Commute

SUBWAY platforms and bus shelters have become the newest targets of political correctness.

The mass transit agencies in Washington, New York and Philadelphia have all moved to ban political advertising, in response to the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group known for criticizing Islam.

In Philadelphia, a federal judge in March ordered the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority to accept a bus ad from the group that shows a 1941 meeting of Adolf Hitler and a Palestinian Arab nationalist leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini, with the line: “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Quran.” On Thursday, after the ads came down, the agency banned future advertising “expressing or advocating an opinion, position or viewpoint about economic, political, religious, historical or social issues.”

That same day, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority suspended all “issue-oriented” advertising through the end of the year, after the anti-Islam group tried to place an ad attacking the Prophet Muhammad.

Officials aren’t calling it censorship, though that’s exactly what they’re doing. The wording of the rules the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved in April -- banning political speech, including that aimed at “the action, inaction, prospective action or policies of a governmental entity” -- makes the danger obvious.

Pam Geller is being denied one set of platforms for her message. She's hardly being silenced. She has her blog. She has three books in print.She makes frequent in-person appearances all over America and overseas. She has, as far as I can see, a standing invitation to appear on Fox News at any time. She's not being rendered an unperson and thrown in the gulag.

Here was a recent Geller ad proposal:

'Draw Muhammad' winner submitted for DC ads

The winning cartoon from the “Draw Muhammad” event that led to a shooting in Texas earlier this month has been submitted to run as an advertisement on Washington, D.C., public transportation.

Pamela Geller, the president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) wrote on Breitbart.com that she has submitted the cartoon as an ad to run on Metro buses, as well as at the Foggy Bottom, Capitol South, Bethesda, L’Enfant Plaza and Shady Grove Metro stations.

Look, I agree that Americans have the legal right to draw Muhammad cartoons. In principle, Americans should not be deprived of that right by those who would intimidate them.

The reality is that there a number of people are likely to react angrily, and quite possibly violently, to public displays of Muhammad cartoons, especially from those who've made no secret of hating Islam. Our government should be able to prevent harm to the public in these cases -- but it can't. And don't kid yourself: I don't care how macho your favorite Republican presidential candidate is, he or she won't be able to ensure your safety in this situation either. This is an ongoing struggle -- it won't resolve itself for a while.

Under these circumstances, do we want Pam Geller to paint targets on D.C. commuters? Does she get to volunteer them for that? If there's a reasonable policy change that still leaves Geller free to write and speak, I favor it.

(And if Betsy McCaughey wants such ads on trains and buses, I'd like to ask her: If you knew that a Muhammad cartoon posted by Pam Geller's organization were on the vehicle you took to and from work every day, would you personally continue commuting that way? Or would you try to find alternate means of transportation?)

McCaughey backs Geller in this op-ed -- and her reasons aren't hard to grasp:

These policies amount to a status-quo protection plan, allowing political speech by the government while denying everyone else the right to protest. For example, New York State would be permitted to run ads claiming that the state is business-friendly, but an individual or group could be blocked from placing ads claiming that state taxes are too high.

Well, there you are. Wingnut-welfare recipient McCaughey wants public transit systems to remain open to anti-government propaganda from the sorts of deep-pocketed right-wingers who've often employed her.

I understand her point (and, clearly, this would also permit political ads I'd agree with on public transit) -- but I see no harm in excluding all political transit ads if it's done without playing favorites. In fact, I'd be happy to see a public-transit ban on the sort of pro-government propaganda McCaughey describes. Such messages can be (and certainly are) delivered via many other outlets, as are the messages of the sorts of people McCaughey has worked for.

Of course, when McCaughey writes this, I can't help thinking that she'd use the term "political speech by the government" to describe ads encouraging commuters to sign up their kids for school breakfast programs -- or encouraging them to sign up their families for insurance coverage on the state or federal healthcare exchange.

If the restrictions on the Geller ads are upheld by the courts, I can imagine that McCaughey and her allies might want to litigate against ads merely noting the availability of existing government programs. And giving the current courts, I imagine such a case could easily succeed.

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