The strange inconsistency of the Tea Partiers reached new depths recently when Nevada's Sharron Angle, running against Harry Reid for the US Senate, sat for an interview with Fox News on Monday. She told her interviewer, when asked about her relationship with the press, "We needed the press to be our friend. We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer, so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported."
In his defense, the interviewer laughed and appeared incredulous, but never challenged her bizarre view of the press' role in a free society.
The Tea Partiers love to claim that they represent the "Real America." Yet, here is their favorite candidate in the Nevada Senate race advocating for some sort of docile, captive press. What would a "real American" like Thomas Jefferson think? Fortunately, Jefferson was a prolific letter writer, so we know.
In a letter to Elbridge Gerry in 1799, he wrote: "I am ... for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents."
Jefferson himself was the subject of much hostile press coverage that consisted largely of lies and gossip. He could legitimately complain about biased media coverage. But, for a real American, the principle was much more important than his own comfort. In a letter to Edward Carrington in 1787, Jefferson wrote, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a
government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." And in Jefferson's day, many newspapers were just mouthpieces for political factions.
So, how do these people, who claim to revere the Founding Fathers and American values, so strongly support a candidate whose views about the press are so anti-American? Jefferson would find Sharron Angle appalling.
Tea Partiers, if true to American values, should, too.