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Ted Cruz urges free speech, says silencing ideas is 'madness'

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) pushed back on Monday in a discussion about free speech with Washington Post tech reporter Tony Romm, who pressed Cruz about whether attacks on social media about people’s sexual orientation or ethnicity should be censored.

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“The First Amendment was not designed for popular views — popular views, whatever’s popular doesn’t need the First Amendment because you’ve got popular support,” Cruz said at the Washington Post’s third annual Free to State forum at the news outlet’s headquarters in Washington, DC. “The First Amendment was designed for unpopular views and unpopular views sometimes are wrong, sometimes are right, but how do you answer that?”

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Cruz was invited to the event to talk about censorship of conservative views on social media — a topic that was the focus of a hearing Cruz held as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution in recent weeks, during which representatives of Twitter and Facebook testified.

“Do you want a handful of billionaires making those decisions or do you want the public square, the merits, the ideas making those [decisions]?” Cruz asked rhetorically at the forum.

“And even scurrilous lies — the best way to respond to scurrilous lies is to address them and shine a light on them. Don’t simply try to silence anything you disagree with,” Cruz said.

Romm asked Cruz during Monday’s discussion if he believes tech giants Twitter, Facebook, and Google regularly censor conservative viewpoints on their platforms.

Cruz said he thinks political bias and censorship on social media do exist and Americans — especially conservatives — are worried about it.

“This is a concern I hear from Texans and Americans all across this country that the power being amassed in a handful of big tech media companies is a level of power really unprecedented in our political discourse,” said Cruz.

Throughout the discussion, Romm repeatedly asked Cruz about whether he supported free speech in cases such as Alex Jones being banned from social media and the recent YouTube decision to demonetize conservative comic and commentator Steven Crowder after he insulted a Vox reporter.

“You don’t think YouTube should have taken action against Crowder?” asked Romm.

“Absolutely not,” Cruz said.

“Look insults are included in free speech, and if someone doesn’t like what someone is saying, the response is to respond to them and push back,” Cruz said.

Cruz cited the insults he regularly gets on his own Twitter account.

“If you go on my Twitter page right now, pick any random tweet — I could tweet about the weather outside, and I guarantee you there are a bunch of commentators telling me to do things that are anatomically impossible — having all sorts of insults, and you know what? They are protected,” Cruz said. “They have a right to do that.”

“Free speech can be messy and ugly,” Cruz said, even in the case of the ugliest speech.

“Nazis are ignorant, bigoted, racist morons, and yet the Supreme Court rightly said they have a right to march in Skokie, Illinois,” Cruz said. “The answer to their stupidity is not to silence them and say, ‘You’re not allowed to speak.””

“The answer is for us to speak up and say that is ignorant and bigoted and racist and moronic,” Cruz said. “So if the reporter didn’t like what Crowder was saying, engage with him.”

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