Opinion: Eshoo’s ‘questions’ a pressure tactic


Daily Post Editor

We don’t need the government to decide what TV channels we watch, what newspapers we read or what websites we can visit. The First Amendment leaves that up to the citizens.

But Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, attempted last week to pressure the CEOs of 12 cable and tech companies to drop broadcasters such Fox News Channel, Newsmax and the One America News Network from their platforms.

She and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, held a House hearing titled “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media.” Before the hearing, the two sent letters to 12 CEOs that contained pointed questions, such as:

• “What moral or ethical principles (including those related to journalistic integrity, violence, medical information and public health) do you apply in deciding which channels to carry or when to take adverse actions against a channel?”

• “Do you require, through contracts or otherwise, that the channels you carry abide by any content guidelines?”

• “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?”

In other words, she’s asking cable operators and internet companies like Google and Apple to censor the content of their channels.

At the hearing, Eshoo defended herself by saying she was only asking questions, not making any laws. But George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, one of the witnesses at Thursday’s hearing, told Eshoo that “Making a statement and putting a question mark at the end of it doesn’t change the import of the statement.”

It’s your choice

In writing this, I am in no way defending Fox News, CNN or any other TV channel. Whether you watch one channel or another is your business. You can decide if they’re biased or not.

It’s not the government’s job to decide what the truth is. That’s up to you.

You should be able to hear both sides and make up your own mind.

I’m sad to criticize Eshoo because I think she’s served the community well over the years and made residents proud. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, she jumped right on top of a problem at the Palo Alto Post Office with mail boxes that were too full, making it easy to steal mail. It sounds small but it shows that she’s responsive to constituents.

This attempt to strong-arm the companies that carry TV channels is a stark departure from her normal practices. And it’s angered her constituents, both Democrats and Republicans, as you’ve seen in the letters column.


If Eshoo is so concerned about misinformation, she might show more care in preparing her constituent newsletters.

In the Feb. 5 newsletter she wrote, “In the quiet and exquisite beauty of the Rotunda of the Capitol, the remains of Officer Brian Sicknick laid in honor for his colleagues and Congress to pay their respects for a fallen hero. Officer Sicknick was brutally beaten by insurrectionists on Jan. 6 and he died protecting the Capitol, the Congress and our democracy.”

It appears Eshoo was relying on information from a New York Times story, based on anonymous sources, that said Sicknick died after being bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher by supporters of former President Trump. The Times has since revised its story after medical examiners found no evidence of blunt trauma. Sicknick went to work the day after the riot, texting his brother Ken to say that aside from being pepper sprayed, he was “in good shape,” according to ProPublica. Investigators are looking into the possibility that he suffered a reaction to the pepper spray a day after the riot. His mother, however, thinks he died of a stroke, according to the Daily Mail.

At age 78, with 28 years in Congress, there’s been whispers that it’s time for Eshoo to retire. This unforced error is going to escalate that discussion.

If you ask people, most will say they support free speech. But the hardest kind of free speech to defend is the speech with which you disagree. So even if you don’t like the conservative TV channels she’s targeted, you should defend their right to broadcast because someday they might come after your favorite channel.

George Washington said, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email is [email protected].


  1. As somebody who has voted Democratic in every election, I’m ashamed of what Eshoo is doing. This is so Trump like, I can’t believe she’s doing this. Fox is a joke, but they shouldn’t be taken off the air.

  2. Rep. Eshoo is addressing a difficult but important question — how do we stop misinformation that leads to violence. It’s the duty of the Government to protect us, and she’s taking that job seriously even if it means it is unpopular. TV channels and newspapers shouldn’t be able to print lies that end up getting people killed. Maybe this will lead to a review board that can check stories before they’re published to make sure they’re not harmful. Publishers who profit from disinformation need to face consequences.

    • I assume that either you, or someone favored by you, will be the one with the power to determine what is a “lie” and what is “true”. I am sure that the Official Thinking will be trustworthy.

  3. Dave Price is a gem, telling it like it is.
    The Government is the last entity that should determine what is or is not “misinformation.” The Fourth Estate has lost their way. Be it liberal or conservative, all we are being served is commentary, not news. Rather than providing a story based upon facts, we are subjected to histrionic pap that serves no one well. The press is furthering the division of our society by hyper-politicizing most of issues they cover.
    Everyone should calm down. It is amazing how ill-informed many people are, on both sides of the political spectrum. This is due to the fact that they are getting there information through social media or press sources that are hopelessly biased.
    Ask yourself, who benefits from manipulating and dividing the people of this Country?

  4. “Publishers who profit from disinformation need to face consequences.”
    The consequences should be that people Do not read them and choose to find sources that are more reliable. Not for the heavy hand of the government to shut down anyone who disagrees with them. You want censorship because you agree with Eshoo. What happens when someone you disagree with is in power?

  5. I don’t want somebody deciding what I can or cannot see or read. Eshoo swore an oath to defend the Constitution and that includes the 1st Amendment. I think both the liberal media and the conservative media aren’t to be trusted, but neither side should be shutdown or “deplatformed.” Why is she wasting her valuable time on this when she should be working to get schools reopened.

  6. I’m broke, my small business failed because of the shut down and this is how my congresswoman spends her time? She is out of touch with her constituents. Has she ever held a real job outside of government? Anna, quit this BS and focus on the economy and rolling out the vaccine.

  7. Fact: Cigarettes can kill you. It is now a given that radio and TV media are both prevented by law from containing content that includes the broadcasting of cigarette commercials. Cigarette commercials were banned by Richard Nixon and the Congress in 1970. The ban took effect January 2, 1971. Somehow, this is a clear example of media censorship we’ve all lived with for 50 years, and without consumer complaint. Yet, however, most would agree that providing factual content by way of TV, radio, or internet, which should be fundamentally fact-based is essential for any democracy to remain democratic and free. The US intelligence community will readily verify that abstract alternative facts in the form of misinformation, or disinformation, disseminated by TV, radio, social media, or any other popular media form, will and has cost human life. What occurred in January at the nation’s capitol proves so tragically and eloquently that disinformation can kill. We’ve all been here before. Freedom of speech does not allow the freedom to incite seditious insurrection. There ARE limits to freedom of speech. Or it would be batter to say that freedom of speech.is limited. The FCC will attest to that. Disbelief in facts is not an excuse, but is a now political cause. For some citizens, Newsmax, Fox, or any other right-wing media platform will reconfigure political propaganda for easy consumer consumption and call it freedom of speech. Anna has made her point. Just as no editor of a respected newspaper would allow a story to go to print without checking the facts and verifying the people who spoke them, no news media outlet should allow a talking head to espouse some non-fact most readers would recognize as a dangerous falsehood, or conspiracy theory that leads to death, violence, or destruction.

    • The idea of making certain political statements illegal is not the same as banning cigarette ads. That’s silly, and it shows how far the far Left will go to ban speech they disagree with.

  8. Max, so if we ban pornography on prime time broadcast tv are you saying that’s the same as banning conservative speakers?

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