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Marco Rubio Flunks the Free Speech Test — Again

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) unleashed a tweetstorm on Tuesday evening in reaction to President Donald Trump’s press conference earlier in the day, blasting the president for suggesting both sides were to blame in Charlottesville.

Rubio declared that the white supremacist groups who demonstrated against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee were “100% to blame” for the violence that ensued, even though they were attacked by left-wing “Antifa” rioters. Over a series of six tweets, Rubio argued that the white supremacists’ beliefs lead to violence, and that assigning any blame to those who attacked them would be counted as a win for the supremacists’ ideology.

At no point did Rubio acknowledge that the First Amendment protects all Americans, regardless of how offensive their views are. Nor did he assign any blame at all to the left-wing “Antifa” activists who brought weapons with which to shut down the demonstration by force — weapons that were also used against reporters covering the scene.

It is not the first time that Rubio failed to defend the rights of free speech and assembly, and excused the violence of the radical left by shifting blame to Donald Trump. In March 2016, when organized left-wing activists in Chicago rioted and caused a Donald Trump rally to be canceled by police before it began, Rubio told reporters that “words have consequences,” and that Trump was to blame because of the rhetoric he had used in the past:

It shouldn’t surprise us that you see a growing amount of violence at some of his events. I would point out there isn’t violence at my events, there isn’t violence at Ted [Cruz]’s events, there isn’t violence at a [John] Kasich event, there isn’t violence at a [Bernie] Sanders event, there isn’t violence at a [Hillary] Clinton event. There’s only one presidential candidate who has violence at their events. And I do think Donald needs to realize and take responsibility for the fact that some of the rhetoric he has used has could potentially be contributing to this environment that is growing increasingly disturbing for a growing number of Americans.

Rubio, who rose to national prominence by styling himself as a Constitution-loving conservative in the Tea Party vein, could not bring himself to recognize the constitutional rights of Donald Trump or his supporters as paramount.

The groups behind the effort to shut down Trump’s rally in Chicago were not shy about claiming credit. Organizers supporting the Bernie Sanders campaign congratulated the rioters on Twitter: “Remember the #TrumpRally wasn’t just luck. It took organizers from dozens of organizations and thousands of people to pull off. Great work.” MSNBC reported that “activists tapped into existing networks of pro-Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter activists” to stop the event from happening. The shutdown enjoyed positive coverage throughout the mainstream media.

Several months later, it was revealed that much of the violence that occurred on the fringes of Trump’s rallies — and at other Republican events — had been deliberately incited by Democratic activists as part of a tactic called “bird-dogging.” The mastermind behind the tactic was Chicago native Robert Creamer, working as a consultant for the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The violence was intended to create a sense of “anarchy” around the Trump campaign. And Rubio, rather than stand up for free speech, played into their hands.

The one thing that can be said for Rubio is that he is at least consistent in his view that freedom of speech is not a fundamental right. But if “words have consequences,” his words are likely to encourage left-wing thugs to persist in attacking people with whom they disagree. It is a tactic directly at odds with the civil rights tradition of protest, which used the moral force of non-violence to defeat segregation. In that sense, the moral failure is Rubio’s own.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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