Tomi Lahren Can Have a Seat: the First Amendment is Inapplicable to Her Suspension.

Image via Dallas Morning News
Lahren’s Twitter Profile

Tomi Lahren arrived on our radar via a Daily Show with Trevor Noah Facebook post followed by an interview on the show. Ironically, Lahren lamented the lack of “diversity of thought” on the left.

Her popularity among her intended conservative audience took a nose dive and she was suspended for at least one week from the Blaze after she, according to some, she stepped out of line when appearing on “The View” on Friday.  Lahren admitted that she supports abortion rights on the show, saying it would be hypocritical of her to believe the government should decide what women should do with their bodies.”

Lahren’s lapse in popularity with her conservative audience may itself be a “Meltdown of the Week.”  Lahren gained popularity through her viral monologues on her nightly show “Tomi” for the Blaze; a show created by conservative media personality Glenn Beck.  Lahren’s undaunted appearances on Bill Maher and Trevor Noah further supported the growth of her platform which boasts nearly 4.3 million followers on Facebook and praise by President Trump. The Washington Post reports that Trump was so taken by one of her appearances that he personally called her say thank you for her “fair coverage” of him.

Multiple reports state that the “Tomi” Show was suspended for at least one week.  Anti-abortion advocates flooded social media, rallying that it was impossible for Lahren to maintain her conservative credentials and be in favor of abortion rights. At the center of critics’ attention is whether she is authentic.  Lahren was called out for her previous, seemingly contradictory remarks about abortion.


Lahren, who has bragged about being a millennial, is also criticized based upon her youth. Critics site her young age as the reason for her apparent display of ignorance on political philosophy and ideology.  One commentator tweeted regarding Lahren’s statements on the View: “Even Hillary Clinton didn’t call pro-life conservatives hypocrites.”

Despite Beck’s invocation of the First Amendment on Monday saying, “Freedom of speech, it’s not free. Speech isn’t free. It comes with a very high price tag,” First Amendment rights do not apply to Lahren’s suspension. The First Amendment does not apply to private employers.  It limits only the government’s ability to suppress speech.  That means that the only people who enjoy First Amendment protection at their place of employment, are people employed by the government.  And despite how closely President Trump follows conservative media, the Blaze is not the government.

For non-governmental workers, employee free speech rights may be more accurately summarized: “An employee may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be employed.” Oli­ver Wendell Holmes, Jr.  In other words: If you want to keep your job, you often can’t say what you like.

Depending on the jurisdiction, many employers possess the latitude to terminate employees for speaking their minds. Only five states (California, Colorado, Montana, New York, and North Dakota) prohibit employers from punishing employees for legal off-duty activities that do not conflict with the employer’s business-related interests.

Admittedly, a certain degree of employer control over employee speech is inevitable and appropriate. For instance, individuals who represent the public face of the company may endanger the company’s reputation by making public comments that contradict the company’s brand.  In such circumstance, many would agree that a CEO or spokesman may be justifiably terminated. The law, notwithstanding applying such a standard too loosely include other executive or employees generally would be bad policy. No smart employer wants to build a reputation as intolerant of diversity of thought as Lahren intimated about Blaze on in a tweet.

Employers should respect genuinely held beliefs but remain sensitive and responsive when expression of those beliefs clash with that of the company’s brand or aspirations. Otherwise, the resulting self-censorship compromises the free exchange of ideas necessary for an inclusive workplace and a functional democracy.  In the meantime, Lahren clearly has some work to do in terms of consistently aligning her words to her authentic truth.


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