In America, we have the freedom to say, read or believe most anything, no matter how distasteful or false some may claim it to be— except that which is illegal. But in recent times, the heavy hand of censorship has become a sledgehammer. At SharylAttkisson.com, I'm highlighting people, ideas and topics that other outlets have declared too hot to handle.
It’s not about whether I agree with a particular person or view; it’s about recognizing that, in America, open expression is supposed to be protected lest we ultimately lose our freedoms.
The conservative attorney team of Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova has experienced virtually every aspect of the cancel culture and smears.
“For two decades, Joe and I were called, for example, by The Washington Post, oh, regularly to comment on cases that we weren't associated with in any way whatsoever just to give our legal opinions,” says Toensing.
Toensing’s resume includes Chief Counsel of the Senate intelligence committee, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and lawyer for whistleblowers on government misconduct.
Joe diGenova served as Special Counsel to the House of Representatives, Chief Counsel to the Senate Rules Committee, and former United States attorney for the District of Columbia. He also was Independent Counsel investigating the improper search of then-candidate Bill Clinton's passport file by the George H. W. Bush administration. And in 1997, he was Special Counsel investigating the Teamsters Union.
For years, the married duo was a well respected power couple, frequently consulted for their views on a wide range of legal topics. All that has changed.
“But after Trump took office and we were supporters of Trump, and The Washington Post was writing about very important legal issues like executive privilege and the case of Michael Flynn, which I knew everything about, very good at, that they would never interview me or Joe or anybody from our side," says Toensing. “And they were printing things that were just wrong legally. But it was at that point, anybody who supported Trump or came out speaking on behalf of Trump was not —was verboten.”
"There's no doubt that these institutions, newspapers, networks, cable, knew that there was a legitimate other viewpoint, but they didn't want to put it out because it went against their narrative,” adds diGenova. “And so if you were intelligent, articulate, knew the subject and happened to be conservative, you were done. It was the end of a discussion.”
"So the first step is they silence you, they cut you out of giving an opinion,” says Toensing. “But then the more frightening step is where they censor you. So it's silence. And then censure, they’ll write about you, then in disparaging terms, mockingly. For example, every time Joe and I were mentioned in various things that we were involved in, we were ‘conspiracy theorists,’ you know, with the wires coming out of our heads. And so they mock you or they write false things about you.”
“One thought, one one view of things, only one permissible view of anything that is to me that's extremely scary,” says diGenova.
This past year, post-election, diGenova gave the couple’s critics something to seize upon. He said a fired Trump election security official should be “taken out at dawn and shot” for doubting election fraud. diGenova’s apology for what he called a “poor attempt at humor” fell flat… he was sued and faces calls for him to be disbarred.
Those who make the mistake of a remark in poor taste are given harsh status as cancelled and unforgiven — when they’re off-narrative Trump supporters.
At the same time, countless high profile wishes for Trump’s death have been treated by many as “understandable” and free speech. They include actor Johnny Depp, Rep. Maria Chapelle-Nadal, and entertainer Kathy Griffin.
Toensing goes on to highlight what she calls the “attack on lawyers” who have anything to do with Donald Trump, as a way to try to bully people into not supporting the former President.
“There's been a terrible attack on lawyers who represent Trump and going after them, threatening them, but threatening their law firm so that they lose their jobs at the law firm,” says Toensing. “This this is the Lincoln Project has done this and there are a bunch of lawyers and they have asked that Joe and I be disbarred and Moody and Jenna be disbarred because we represent Trump, because we say false things on TV and then other things in court. But we've never appeared in court. So that's a problem. And they didn't specify any false statement. And yet a thousand lawyers signed this. How can you sign something like that?”
DiGenova says, "But not a word from the American Bar Association. Over the years, the ABA puts out all sorts of statements about do not condemn lawyers because they're representing people at Guantanamo Base who are terrorists. This is in the great tradition of American lawyers representing the most despised defendants, because under our Constitution, even the worst person is entitled to a quality defense. But that doesn't apply to lawyers who represent Donald Trump or support Donald Trump or come out and speak on his behalf.”
I asked the American Bar Association (ABA) to comment on the claim they should be doing more to discourage bullying of attorneys who represent Donald Trump and protect their professional rights. The ABA says told us it hasn’t adopted a policy on the questions raised, only on the case where the government steps in and limits free speech.