By Bill Kelly -
Just in time for the Independence Day festivities, Sen. Dick Durbin has launched another bullying attack on free press. The senior senator from Illinois penned a recent op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times called, "It's time to say who is a real reporter."
"To those who feel politicians shouldn’t define who a journalist is, I’d remind them that they likely live in one of the 49 states, like Illinois, where elected officials have already made that decision," Durbin writes. "It’s long past time for Congress to create a federal law that defines and protects journalists."
Durbin's argument is outrageous, arrogant, deceitful, and dangerous to anyone who truly values the First Amendment.
Are the American people are supposed to trust Durbin and his biased colleagues with this determination as if they have no memory of the Justice Department's recent seizure of phone records from Associated Press reporters and Fox News' James Rosen? Or the IRS' targeting of conservative groups?
Should politicians be trusted with any more power?
In his piece, Durbin also wrongly attempts to lump bloggers in with the casual Facebook user or tweeter. "Journalists should have reasonable legal protections to do their important work. But not every blogger, tweeter or Facebook user is a 'journalist,'" Durbin writes.
The senator's track record is one of partisanship, not policy. Durbin has a bigoted view of conservative media and his newfound zeal to redefine modern journalism doesn't pass the smell test.
So who does Durbin think is a "real reporter?"
America was founded on the principle of a free press thanks in no small part to citizen journalist John Peter Zenger, who published editorials critical of British rule back in 1735. Would Zenger have passed Durbin's test?
Would Drudge Report, Daily Caller, Breitbart.com, Michelle Malkin, and the Blaze meet his criteria? What about the thousands of influential national and regional blogs?
Members of the Chicago media who are conservative or who work for right-leaning publications have experienced Durbin's contempt. Mayor Rahm Emanuel shares Durbin's contempt ― even hatred ― for conservative media, bloggers and otherwise.
I have been a contract writer for the Communities at the Washington Times for three years now and have contributed to outlets like the American Spectator, Breitbart.com, and the Chicago Tribune's Chicago Now website. I have also produced Emmy award-winning TV programming for major outlets and am registered with the City of Chicago as a credentialed member of the press.
But if I had a nickel for every time a Democrat politician or member of the mainstream media screamed 'you are not a real reporter' at me in frustration or attacked me in their reporting, I wouldn't need to bother myself with the dim future of my social security benefits.
Conservative media are discriminated against; there is no question about that. But Democrat politicians like Durbin and Emanuel are not the only problem. Mainstream media are just as prejudiced against New Media.
In Chicago, I've had CBS chief correspondent Jay Levine threaten to 'deck me' if I didn't stop asking Rahm Emanuel tough questions on a public sidewalk.
I've also had the news director of a radio news network scream at me that 'questions aren't allowed during a press conference' and that he was going to 'get me thrown out by the cops' in order to protect Durbin from being questioned.
“You guys aren’t going to cover this are you?” Durbin asked his friends in the Chicago media that day. For the record, they didn't.
Members of Emanuel's senior staff and security have also been instructed to surround me and shove me at media events to prevent me from asking questions. Chicago police have detained me to 'thoroughly' review my credentials ― even in public squares and parking lots ― while other members of the media are allowed to do their jobs i.e., not ask tough questions. The complaints I've filed with the Chicago Inspector General have gone nowhere.
In the old days, these incidents would have been swept under the rug. Durbin and Rahm could have laughed off my questions. Mainstream media would have kept it all hush-hush. But thanks to the internet, these incidents ― and those of other conservative media ― have gone viral instead.
Make no mistake about it: This is a turf war: a turf war for exclusive control over America's hearts and minds. Durbin and his media counterparts have been losing the war and are expressing their anger.
That fact alone should make freedom-loving Americans very happy.
William J. Kelly is an Emmy award-winning TV producer and conservative columnist for the Communities at the Washington Times. He is also a contributor to the American Spectator and Breitbart.com. He is a native from Chicago’s South side.