Politics

Howard Dean Lambasted for Falsely Claiming First Amendment Doesn’t Protect Hate Speech

Howard Dean / Getty
Howard Dean / Getty

Former Democratic National Committee chair and presidential candidate Howard Dean earned the scorn of social media Thursday when he tweeted that hate speech is not covered by the First Amendment.

Dean was responding to a former New York Times reporter, who referenced a past comment made by conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

Dean's assertion is false: "hate speech" is fully protected in the United States under Supreme Court precedents such as Brandenburg v. Ohio and Snyder v. Phelps. The only hateful or bigoted speech that can be banned is incitement to "imminent lawless action" that poses an immediate threat.

Twitter users were quick to mock Dean.

Perhaps the best smackdown came from the Washington Post‘s The Fix blog.

"What's the matter with Howard Dean?" asked reporter Aaron Blake.

Blake pointed out the "hate speech" tweet was just part of a longer trend of Dean tweeting questionable and erratic things. Most notably, Dean accused Donald Trump of using cocaine without presenting any evidence during the 2016 campaign.

Then on Wednesday, Dean somehow managed to endorse and then un-endorse a French presidential candidate in the span of four minutes.

"Dean would probably be better served by being more careful about weighing into the major political debates of the day. Or better yet, he might just want to #NeverTweet," Blake concluded.