This week, Jim Jordan’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Government is hosting another hearing bent on exposing a so-called censorship campaign supposedly coordinated by the federal government and Big Tech. Once again, Jim Jordan is using partisan stunts to pander to his far-right base, inviting a panel of witnesses composed of top state prosecutors who have defended outright lies about pandemic policies, COVID-19 vaccines, and the 2020 election. House Republicans claim to be defending the First Amendment, but apparently censorship only includes topics they agree with. When it comes to censoring LGBTQ+ themes and discussions about race in schools, MAGA Republicans are all-in on limiting free speech. As always, Jim Jordan and the House GOP would prefer to push the MAGA agenda over investigating the real issues facing Americans.
Louisiana Attorney General
Jeff Landry’s Legal Experience With ‘Censorship’: Defending Pandemic Misinformation and Election Lies. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Landry used his position to defend conspiracy theories and misinformation. In May 2022, Landry joined Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in a “political grandstanding” lawsuit against the Biden administration for allegedly colluding with social media to “censor and suppress free speech” in trying to fight COVID-19 misinformation like false claims that celebrities died from COVID vaccination. Months later, he successfully challenged a Biden administration order requiring COVID-19 vaccines for federal contractors—when a federal appeals court refused to lift an injunction against the order, Landry called it “a victory for freedom.” He also joined Texas’ baseless Supreme Court lawsuit to overturn presidential election results in states that Trump lost—Landry’s statement on the brief even claimed that some states’ elections “disregard[ed] the U.S. Constitution,” echoing false conspiracy theories pushed by MAGA Republicans during and after the 2020 presidential election.
- Landry Characterized the Biden Administration’s Opposition To Pandemic Misinformation As An Effort To “Censor And Suppress Free Speech.” The lawsuit accused “dozens of federal officials across at least eleven federal agencies” of engaging in a “massive, sprawling federal ‘censorship enterprise.’” In October 2022, Landry filed a second complaint adding dozens of additional defendants: “Throughout this case, we have uncovered a disturbing amount of collusion between Big Tech and Big Government. This egregious attack on our First Amendment will be met with an equally full-hearted defense of the rights of the American people.” Despite Landry’s conspiratorial allegations, the Biden administration was following recommendations from the U.S. Surgeon General. With two-thirds of unvaccinated adults believing “vaccine myths” at the time, he called for a “war against health misinformation” in response to the “urgent threat” of life-threatening false information about COVID-19 circulating.
- Jeff Landry, Louisiana’s “Most Prominent Vaccine Skeptic,” Fought Vaccine Mandates As Attorney General. In December 2021, Landry—who is seen as Louisiana’s “most prominent vaccine skeptic” and “leading” opponent of pandemic safety measures—joined a state lawmaker in a lawsuit against Gov. John Bel Edwards over a plan to include COVID-19 vaccines in required school and college immunizations, claiming they violated “constitutional provisions” giving lawmakers the power to enact laws. In February 2022, Landry joined a lawsuit against New Orleans’ mask and vaccine mandates, calling them “coercive.”
- Jeff Landry Spread Misinformation About the 2020 Election & Jan. 6 Insurrection. In 2020, Landry held a leadership position with the Rule Of Law Defense Fund (RLDF) and its parent, the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which sent robocalls to promote the rally that led to the Jan.6 insurrection. He later refused to join 50 other attorneys general in condemning the insurrection and, in his own separate letter, tried to equivocate the insurrection with the overwhelmingly peaceful Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
Jeff Landry Is A Right-Wing Extremist Who Supports Censorship Against LGBTQ+ Topics, Discussions About Race In Schools. While Landry opposes so-called censorship of conspiracy theories pushed by anti-vaxxers and election deniers, he has pushed for laws censoring books and courses discussing LGBTQ+ topics or race and American history in public schools. In May 2021. Landry joined a letter to the U.S. Education Dept. opposing Critical Race Theory in school curricula—Meanwhile, the ACLU has argued that anti-CRT laws “suppress free speech” and another advocate has found that they “impose government dictates on teaching and learning.” Several months later, Landry created an online tip line to report library books and fight the “taxpayer-subsidized sexualization of children”—many “raged” at Landry for hypocritically refusing to set up a similar clergy sexual abuse tip line in 2018 and claiming he didn’t have the authority to investigate the matter. Last month, Landry unveiled a “protecting innocence report” with a list of “sexually explicit books” that had been targeted by book banning campaigns—a leading trans advocate criticized Landry for “censorship.”
Former Missouri Solicitor General, Deputy Missouri Attorney General for Special Litigation
John Sauer Supports Censorship Of Voices He Disagrees With. Throughout his legal career, Sauer has used his government positions to curtail the rights of marginalized people and silence voices he disagrees with. In 2018, Sauer fought against the first amendment religious liberties of members of the Satanic Temple in a court case about Missouri’s anti-abortion statutes. In November 2022, Sauer also sought to silence people with disabilities from participating in a legal case about COVID-19 mask mandates, arguing that representation for students with disabilities was unnecessary and plaintiffs “didn’t have to raise every single argument” in court.
- John Sauer Fought Against Civil Liberties For LGBTQ+ Americans. Sauer opposed marriage equality in 2015 and fought discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in 2021, submitting a legal brief arguing in favor of eschewing protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In College Of The Ozarks v. Biden, Saur asked the court to strike down a Biden administration directive redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
- John Sauer’s Fought Efforts to Combat Pandemic Misinformation. Sauer joined Jeff Landry and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in a lawsuit alleging collusion between President Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and social media companies to “silence” individuals. Sauer personally added a prominent conspiracy theorist known as one of “the most notorious purveyors of disinformation in the country” as a plaintiff in the case. The plaintiff’s firm pushed false information about COVID-19, including claims that vaccines were “98 times worse than the virus” and caused “strange clots,” and the case defended misinformation like false claims that celebrities died from COVID vaccination.
John Sauer Is An Arch-Conservative Trump Donor Who Supported Overturning the 2020 Election. Sauer is a contributor to right-wing Federalist Society and has donated over $45,000 to federal Republican candidates and PACs since 2008, including at least $5,600 to former President Trump’s 2020 campaign. As Missouri Solicitor General, Sauer also signed a Supreme Court attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election results
U.S. Senator (R-MO)
Eric Schmitt Fought Against “Censorship” of Pandemic Misinformation. A review of Schmitt’s record shows his own widespread efforts to censor vulnerable communities and to spread misinformation both about the pandemic and about the 2020 election:
- April 2020: Schmitt Sued China To Distract from Trump Administration Pandemic Lies. Just weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, Schmitt sued the Chinese government for the COVID-19 pandemic and was accused of a “last-ditch” political stunt to distract critics from the Trump administration’s pandemic response that was ultimately thrown out by a federal judge.
- Summer 2021: Schmitt Decried Censorship While U.S. Surgeon General Warned of “Urgent Threat” Posed By Vaccine Misinformation Putting “Lives At Risk.” As early as Mid-2021, Schmitt claimed that the Biden administration was colluding with big tech to “censor free speech” by trying to fight online disinformation. Despite Schmitt’s conspiratorial allegations, the Biden administration was following recommendations from the U.S. Surgeon General. With two-thirds of unvaccinated adults believing “vaccine myths” at the time, he called for a “war against health misinformation” in response to the “urgent threat” of life-threatening false information about COVID-19 circulating.
- May 2022: Schmitt Launched A Lawsuit Defending Pandemic Misinformation and Normalizing Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric. In May 2022, Schmitt joined Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in a “political grandstanding” lawsuit against the Biden administration for allegedly colluding with social media to “censor and suppress free speech” in trying to fight COVID-19 misinformation like false claims that celebrities died from COVID vaccination. As one Missouri State Rep. said, “our Attorney General normalizing these people spreading lies, it’s petrifying.” Schmitt’s lawsuit was lauded as “a cause célèbre” for anti-vaccine activists and conspiracy theorists, including one plaintiff, Jim Hoft, who had “spread debunked conspiracies for years” on his website Gateway Pundit—one vaccine expert accused Schmitt of “using health freedom propaganda for his own political advantage.” The lawsuit accused “dozens of federal officials across at least eleven federal agencies” of engaging in a “massive, sprawling federal ‘censorship enterprise.’” As part of the lawsuit, Schmitt’s office deposed Dr. Anthony Fauci—The National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases director and White House Chief Medical Advisor. In October 2022, Schmitt filed a second complaint adding dozens of additional defendants: “Throughout this case, we have uncovered a disturbing amount of collusion between Big Tech and Big Government. This egregious attack on our First Amendment will be met with an equally full-hearted defense of the rights of the American people.”
- 2022: Schmitt Sued Dozens of School Districts In An Effort To Strike COVID-19 Safety Measures. Schmitt sued more than 45 Missouri school districts to strike down their COVID-19 safety measures by January 2022, with one district accusing him of “bullying” and overriding local officials. The lawsuits alleged that districts “do not have the authority to impose public health orders for children,” in what school officials called a “waste of taxpayer money on both sides.” Schmitt “backed 0ff” from the lawsuits by December 2022, and counter-suits have questioned whether Schmitt himself had the authority to unilaterally demand that schools stop requiring children to wear masks during the pandemic.
Schmitt Opposed Election Fact-Checking, Worked Overturn the 2020 Election, and Complained About “Censorship” Of Debunked Lies and Conspiracy Theories. Schmitt signed a statement defending Trump’s “indefensible campaign” to stop social media from fact-checking Trump’s election fraud falsehoods while Trump complained about “censorship.” The statement came just days after Trump had publicly called on North Carolina voters to attempt to vote twice, in violation of the law. Schmitt served as Vice-Chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) while its fundraising arm made robocalls urging a march on the Capitol the day before the deadly Jan. 6 Insurrection occurred there; Schmitt was promoted to Chairman after the riot. After the 2020 election, Schmitt signed a brief in support of a Texas Lawsuit seeking to invalidate electoral votes in hopes of reversing the results of the presidential election, an “embarrassing” move according to former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Shortly after the 2020 presidential election, Schmitt joined in a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania mail-in ballots, which one elections expert called “perhaps the dumbest argument ever made” to the Supreme Court.
Eric Schmitt Supports Censorship Of Discussions About Race In Schools. In May 2021, Schmitt joined a letter to the U.S. Department of Education opposing Critical Race Theory (CRT), and penned his own letter calling CRT a “flawed and harmful lens,”—even though only one Missouri school district incorporated anything resembling CRT. Meanwhile, free speech advocates have argued that CRT opponents “suppress free speech” and seek to “impose government dictates on teaching and learning.” In November 2021, Schmitt sued a Missouri school district over a critical race theory public records request that would have cost the district $170,000 to fulfill—the district accused Schmitt of trying to “intimidate” and abuse “the power of his office.”