What Is Free Speech--And What It Isn't

white house correspondents' dinner

(Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- I spent my Saturday night doing my civic duty as a Bostonian – watching the Celtics eviscerate the Bucks in the deciding game of their playoff series.

In addition to helping the fellas bring it home, there was an added benefit – I missed the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner, the so-called “nerd prom” where journalists mingle with celebrities and air out their tuxedos.

However, in the wake of the annual uproar over the tastelessness of much of the material offered by the comedian they always insist on presenting, I did watch some of the alleged comedy, and it wasn’t very funny, especially some personal remarks about the hapless White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Why does a group ostensibly devoted to honoring White House reporting and raising money for scholarships foul its own nest every year this way?

Margaret Talev, president of the Correspondents’ Association, explains that “it’s a night about free speech.”

Really? Is that what free speech is all about, having some C-list comic personally humiliate someone to their face?

The First Amendment has never been about granting complete license to vulgarity and cruelty, only about barring government from trying to suppress it.

The job of the press is to report and seek truth, not to be some kind of unedited sewer. Legitimate journalists self-edit all the time, when to do otherwise would be irresponsible.

I have no love for Ms. Sanders, whose job consists of keeping a straight face as she defends and explains the indefensible and inexplicable.

But poor taste is not synonymous with free speech, and last night’s debacle was the former, not the latter.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. Listen to his previous podcasts on iHeartRadio. 

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Keller @ Large

Keller @ Large

Jon Keller is a WBZ TV & Radio political analyst. Read more

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