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‘A chilling transgression’ of free speech: FCC commissioner slams 2 House Dems asking cable companies if they plan to keep conservative outlets

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FCC commissioner Brendan Carr

Ahead of a Wednesday congressional hearing regarding the role of companies that provide cable television service in the spread of misinformation concerning the 2020 election, two committee members sent a letter to cable providers Monday asking if they plan to continue carrying outlets such as Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News Network (OANN).

The New York Times was the first to report on the story.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr issued a stern denouncement of the letter, calling it “a chilling transgression of the free speech rights that every media outlet in this country enjoys.”

Fox News in particular has been the target of a $2.5 billion defamation lawsuit from the election technology company Smartmatic accusing the outlet, as well as a handful of anchors and frequent guests, of spreading misinformation about voting machines and the company itself. Fox has denied Smartmatic’s claims and filed a motion to throw out the lawsuit.

In the lead-up to the hearing, titled “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media,” two Democrat members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday penned a letter to AT&T, Comcast, Dish, Spectrum, Verizon, Cox, and Altice, inquiring about their role in “the spread of dangerous misinformation.”

“To our knowledge, the cable, satellite and over-the-top companies that disseminate these media outlets to American viewers have done nothing in response to the misinformation aired by these outlets,” California Democratic Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney wrote in the letter, per The Times.

“What steps did you take prior to, on and following the Nov. 3, 2020, elections and the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks to monitor, respond to and reduce the spread of disinformation, including encouragement or incitement of violence by channels your company disseminates to millions of Americans?” the letter asked the companies.

“Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News, OANN and Newsmax on your platform both now and beyond the renewal date?” the letter continues. “If so, why?”

In his denouncement of the letter, Carr also said that, “Debate on matters of public interest should be robust, uninhibited, and wide open. More speech is better than less.” He continued, saying, “Yet the concerted effort by Democrats to drive political dissent from the public square represents a marked departure from these First Amendment norms.”

“A newsroom’s decision about what stories to cover and how to frame them should be beyond the reach of any government official,” he added, “not targeted by them.”

Fox News also denounced the congressional effort, saying in a statement, according to The Times: “For individual members of Congress to highlight political speech they do not like and demand cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination sets a terrible precedent.”

Dominion Voting Systems, another election technology company at the center of 2020 election fraud allegations, has sued three Trump-aligned individuals who spread dubious claims about the company and its voting machines following Election Day, with the individuals having appeared on Newsmax in the weeks after the election. Two of former members of former President Donald Trump‘s legal, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, were sued in separate lawsuits last month, each demanding over $1 billion in damages. On Monday, Dominion sued Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow.

Newsmax defended its election coverage as accurate and called the letter an “attack on free speech,” The Times also reported.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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Screen Shot 2021 03 03 at 2.45.28 PM

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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