Censuring Trump, Abroad and Here in the U.S.

In an article written for the New York Times, Dan Bilefsky has reported that “Donald J. Trump has threatened to abandon plans to invest more than $1 billion in Scotland if Britain bars him from entering the country over his comments that Muslim foreigners should not be allowed into the United States.”

(Permit me a digression. I cannot help but notice that the media are starting to insert Trump’s middle initial into references to him. This practice no doubt started when Trump himself referred to himself in the third-person and included his middle initial in announcing his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. But it seems just a step removed from the tendency to refer to some well-known assassins and serial killers by their first, middle, and last names—for example, John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, John Wayne Gacy, and Theodore Robert Bundy.)

(Permit me a further digression. Given that another serial killer, the Australian John Wayne Glover, was deliberately or coincidentally given the name of the iconic American actor, and given that John Wayne Bobbitt has his penis cut off by his wife because of his infidelity, it seems at best a very mixed blessing to carry the name.)

But, returning to the article on Trump, Bilefsky reports more specifically: “In the wake of the comments late last year, which spurred a global outcry, interest surged in a petition calling for Mr. Trump, a Republican presidential contender and real estate developer, to be barred from Britain on the basis of laws against hate speech. More than 570,000 people in the country signed the petition, easily passing the threshold requiring Parliament to at least consider debating it. The question will be taken up Jan. 18.

“Although members of Parliament will debate the relative benefits and risks of barring a potential future president of the United States from entering the country, the final decision rests with Home Secretary Theresa May, from the governing Conservative Party.

“The government’s official response on the petition’s website was that it ‘has a policy of not routinely commenting on individual immigration or exclusion cases,’ although Prime Minister David Cameron has denounced Mr. Trump’s comments as ‘divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.’ . . .

“Mr. Trump outraged many people here last month when he told MSNBC that parts of London were ‘so radicalized the police are afraid for their lives.’ Mayor Boris Johnson dismissed the assertion as “simply ridiculous,” adding, ‘The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.’ . . .

“Even before the latest comments, Mr. Trump’s views had stoked a backlash in Scotland, where Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, revoked his status as a business ambassador and Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen stripped him of an honorary degree. . . .”

Bilefsky’s complete article is available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/08/world/europe/donald-trump-scotland-britain-petition.html


The Daily Kos provides somewhat fuller details on the decisions to strip Trump of his designation as a “business ambassador” and the honorary degree:

“From Buzzfeed UK:

“Trump has been an ambassador since 2006 as part of the GlobalScot network, which promotes the country’s businesses abroad and helps Scottish businesspeople to open trade routes in different countries.

“However, following his statement on Monday that Muslims should be prevented from entering the US, first minister Sturgeon said Trump has been stripped of his ambassadorial role with immediate effect.

“A spokesperson for the Scottish government said: ‘Mr Trump’s recent remarks have shown that he is no longer fit to be a business ambassador for Scotland and the first minister has decided his membership of the respected GlobalScot business network should be withdrawn with immediate effect.’

“They weren’t the only ways distancing themselves from Donald Trump:

“Meanwhile, Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen has revoked an honorary degree from Trump due to ‘statements that are wholly incompatible’ with the university’s values.”


In an article written for the Washington Post, Amber Phillips reports, however, that Trump’s status as a national political candidate makes it much more difficult for any publicly funded body in the U.S. to censure him:

“Imagine for a moment that you’re a member of a city council and you are really peeved at Donald Trump’s recent idea to ban Muslim immigrants 1) because you don’t agree with the idea and 2) what he said risks undermining all your hard work to build ties to your city’s Muslim community.

“What can you do? One idea is to use your seat of power to condemn what Trump said — and possibly the GOP front-runner himself.

“’Presidential candidates have the right to say dumb things,’ Portland, Ore., Commissioner Nick Fish recently said. ‘We have the right to censure them for it.’

“Well, kind of. State and local lawmakers from Portland to New York are doing what they can to try to express their disapproval of Trump’s presidential campaign and his most recent divisive statements. But they’re also walking a thin, slippery line on whether elected officials can legally use their power to influence people’s politics. Some might even be going over it.

“Regulations vary from state to state, but most states prohibit elected officials from using their position to advocate for or against a political candidate.

“’It’s this idea that you’re not supposed to use public authority to influence an election,’ said Kathleen Clark, a law professor with the Washington University in St. Louis. . . .”

Amber Phillips’ complete article, titled “So You Want to Censure Donald Trump? It’s Not So easy,” is available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/12/18/state-and-local-governments-move-to-rebuke-and-ban-donald-trump-but-its-not-so-simple/



4 thoughts on “Censuring Trump, Abroad and Here in the U.S.

  1. This is certainly another good example of why hate speech laws are a terrible idea. Trump should be ridiculed, condemned, and mocked–but he certainly shouldn’t be banned. It’s interesting that only one American college has given an honorary degree to Trump (why, I can’t fathom): Liberty University. So far, they show no signs of wanting to revoke it.

  2. Justice Hugo LaFayette Black

    “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

    “The First Amendment’s language leaves no room for inference that abridgments of speech and press can be made just because they are slight. That Amendment provides, in simple words, that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” I read “no law . . . abridging” to mean no law abridging.”

    Justice Louis D. Brandeis

    “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

    Aren’t we, the universities, supposed to be bastions of free inquiry? And isn’t that the right that is central to our purpose? I’m no fan of Trump, but to censor him and his words is hypocritical to say the least, and plain wrong.

  3. Like pretty much everyone else, I’m no fan of Trump, would like to see him defeated in an epic manner in November, and I don’t think banning him from the UK (or anywhere else) is a good idea at all.

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