Tomi Lahren, the controversial right-wing commentator who catapulted to fame by using her television show on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network to broadcast her extremist views, has now been suspended by the network after stating last week on “The View” that she is pro-choice.
Beck totally ignored the issue on his radio program today, which is not surprising given that Lahren’s suspension seem to fly directly in the face of a piece he wrote last year in which he declared that he would never, ever try to silence anyone who works for his network for voicing an opinion different from his own because “we cannot allow any person, or any collection of persons, to put a muzzle on our freedom of speech.”
At the time, Beck was responding specifically to a petition calling on him to fire Lahren after she compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the Ku Klux Klan in the wake of the murder of several police officers in Dallas.
Beck responded by declaring that he would never seek to censor Lahren’s views because, while he might not agree with the things that she says or the way in which she says them, the principle of freedom of speech was simply too important to ever be violated:
At TheBlaze, I hire many people with whom I disagree on many levels. While I am deeply religious and a conservative libertarian, I hire and work side-by-side with atheists, liberals, Obama supporters and Trump supporters. (I am not sure how many Hillary supporters we have on staff, probably not many.) People would be shocked (sadly) at how many women hold senior positions, that we have several gay employees, that the two presidents of my companies (MRA and TheBlaze) are Jewish. But the fact that we may disagree on certain positions or policies does not matter inside our company, because we focus on our principles. So, though I disagree with many of the people who work for me, I will never cave to a boycott or a protest or fire someone for their voicing their opinion, EVEN if (and perhaps especially if) I disagree with their position.
I view the freedom of speech not only as fundamental to our way of life as Americans, but also as a natural right, a God-given right. It is a right I would defend with my life. And if someone has the courage and moral fortitude to express their feelings publicly, all the more reason for me to defend their right to speak. Very few of us have the conviction required to speak boldly and fearlessly in the face of opposition. Very few of us would speak out at the risk of being alienated, shunned, or — as history has shown and the present seems to be foreshadowing — of being killed.
Malcolm X. Gandhi. Churchill. Margret Sanger. MLK Jr. All of these leaders were outspoken. They each made the independent, courageous decision to make their voices and opinions known. Even in the face of opposition and obstacles, they stood proudly and loudly for the thing they believed in. I would have proudly stood or marched with some of them. I wish I could have. Some of these leaders espoused views that I find personally abhorrent, but I would proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any of these leaders to defend their God-given right to speak their conscience. This is why I like Bernie Sanders. He has the courage to say what he believes. At least I know who he is. At least I know where we disagree. A broad diversity of thoughts and opinions in the marketplace of ideas does not make us weak, but rather, it is the impassioned exchange of these ideas that makes us strong. Indeed, it’s the uninhibited, free exchange of ideas that has always set America apart.
The only speech that needs defending is the speech we disagree with. The only speech that moves us forward as a people and culture is the speech that makes us stop and think — that challenges us. This type of speech makes us uncomfortable, it can be offensive. Often times “offensive” speech is stupid, but sometimes it can be critically important.
It seems that Beck was willing to stand by Lahren, regardless of whatever outrageous statements that she made, because it was a matter of deep principle for him that “we must be very careful when we try to limit speech.” But then Lahren declared that she is pro-choice, at which point Beck’s belief that “the only speech that needs defending is the speech we disagree with” apparently went by the wayside and he suspended her from his network.