Fox News host Mike Huckabee defended a mob that chased a protester at Louisiana State University off campus on Wednesday by claiming that throwing garbage at him was protected speech under the First Amendment.
Graduate communications student Benjamin Haas had planned to read a statement in support of another student who took an American flag off the LSU War Memorial and burned it in protest. Haas had also planned to burn an American flag himself, but decided not to after failing to obtain a burn permit from the city.
But the speech ended before it started when about 1,000 LSU students and others surrounded Haas, yelling obscenities and chanting, “USA, USA” and “Go to hell, hippie!” They also threw trash and water balloons at him.
“The Supreme Court ruled that burning an American flag was protected free speech,” Huckabee said in an email, “but they never said people who did it were immune to other people’s free speech.”
Huckabee said the students “followed the Court’s lead by interpreting actions as speech” by throwing trash and water balloons at Haas. “It’s definitely not the ’60s anymore.”
Horse-mounted police quickly intervened in the protest and escorted Haas away.
A transcript of his remarks said he wanted to defend “basic human rights and avoid putting students into the criminal justice system when it can [be] taken care of internally”
“In the name of peace, there will be no flag burning today,” Haas’ statement said. “This country and the flag that flies over it stands for freedom, democracy, love, peace and the ability to question our government.”
A female student who tried to defend Haas’ First Amendment rights was reportedly shouted down with the chant, “Whore.”
“The real story is the rapidity and ease by which a group of otherwise intelligent, sympathetic students were transformed into an impulsive mob by the power of social media,” LSU associate professor of rhetoric Nathan Crick said in an statement. “This should give us all pause.”
Image courtesy of David Ball