Madonna’s Remarks May be Distasteful to Many People, But It is Protected Speech

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Fox News that  Madonna “ought to be arrested” after her recent speech at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. During that address, the singer said, “I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.”

Madonna later said, “I am not a violent person, I do not promote violence, and it’s important people hear and understand my speech in its entirety rather than one phrase taken wildly out of context,”

Still later, the singer sought to clarify her remarks in  a statement on Sunday, stating her comments were “taken wildly out of context,” adding, “I spoke in metaphor, and I shared two ways of looking at things—one was to be hopeful, and one was to feel anger and outrage, which I have personally felt. However, I know that acting out of anger doesn’t solve anything. And the only way to change things for the better is to do it with love.”

“I know that acting out of anger doesn’t solve anything,” she continued. “And the only way to change things for the better is to do it with love.”

Madonna then quoted the poet W.H. Auden who once wrote on the eve of World War II, “we must love one another or die. I choose love. Are you with me? Say this with me. We choose love. We choose love. We choose love.”

OUR FREE OPINION

Federal law prohibits anyone from making threats against the President. The federal statute, 18 U.S.C. section 871, makes it unlawful for anyone to “knowingly and willfully” make a threat to take the life of or threaten bodily harm to the president. The same law says it is unlawful to incite or encourage others to do the same.

Madonna’s comments, made at a political rally, hardly meet the prohibited conduct proscribed by this statute. Gingrich was probably engaged in some wishful thinking when he called for her arrest. Such loose rhetoric on his part and the perceived (by some) tasteless remarks by Madonna are offensive to many people. However, freedom of speech in our country is just one of the things that make it so great. Moreover, terroristic threats, to be unlawful, must be intended to cause fear in the victim and the fear experienced by the intended victim, must be based on reasonableness. Madonna’s comments could not, as a matter of law, be perceived as a reasonable threat of violence directed at the President.

 

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