Will the White House Ban Be Another McCarthyism Against the Press?

Last night, while watching the Oscar debacle of naming La La Land as best picture, reminded me of all the legal movies I watched with my attorney father. I don’t know if there’s a movie on the “Last Clear Chance” rule to get us thinking about whose fault it was.

The last clear chance is in the law of torts and is employed in contributory negligence jurisdictions. Under this doctrine, a negligent plaintiff can nonetheless recover if he is able to show that the defendant had the last opportunity to avoid the accident.

Yet, an even more significant devastation occurred on February 23, 2017, when White House press secretary Sean Spicer banned reporters from CNN, the New York Times, Politico, the Los Angeles Times and Buzz Feed from attending a “gaggle,” a non-televised briefing, hand-picking who gained access.

Many films have portrayed the First Amendment, such as Network and The People vs. Larry Flint. For me, the most memorable and applicable to the White House ban is, “Good Night. And, Good Luck.”

An environment of fear prevailed during the McCarthy era. Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee labeled thousands of Americans communists who ended up being blacklisted and unable to find work.

Despite pressure from CBS and its corporate sponsors, producer Robert R. Murrow spoke out against these atrocities. He did what so many were afraid to say or do in his formidable and influential on-air report:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.

If we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and defend the causes that for the moment were unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history but we cannot escape responsibility for the results. We proclaim ourselves indeed as we are the defenders of freedom wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. 

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay among our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear. He merely exploited it and rather successfully. Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Good night. And, good luck.”

Cassius said this to his friend, Brutus, in Shakespeare’s, ”Julius Caesar.” He was trying to persuade Brutus to stop Caesar from becoming a monarch – an act he felt was not in the best interest of the country. He argues that it is their weak position, not fate, which is exploiting them to act against their will.

Other cases heard before the Supreme Court have tested the First Amendment and helped continue to shape the rights of journalists. “The Pentagon Papers” was an extremely important case for journalistic rights. The court ruled in favor of the NY Times stating the need for a balance between the right to a free press and the government’s right to protect our national security. The ruling challenged journalists to use their freedoms responsibly as gatekeepers for disseminating information to the public.”

The Framers of the American Constitution were visionaries and designed our Constitution to endure the test of time in an ever-changing uncertain future. I hope we’re not destined to go back in time and relive our country’s rights which we fought so hard to protect.

If you’re unfamiliar with the law, here are ten of my top legal movie picks, which illustrate the constitutional amendments:

  • Inherit the Wind
  • To Kill A Mocking Bird
  • 12 Angry Men
  • All the President’s Men
  • Witness for the Prosecution
  • Philadelphia
  • Erin Brockovich
  • The Paper Chase
  • And Justice for All
  • Nixon

To watch the best legal dramas ever made, go to: