Incoming GOP Rep. Allen West: News Outlets Publishing WikiLeaks Should Be Censored

Florida Congressman-elect Allen West allenwestforcongress.com

Allen West
Florida Congressman-elect Allen West
allenwestforcongress.com

Updated: Dec. 15, 12:30PM ET

During an online radio interview last week, newly-elected Florida Republican Allen West called for the censorship of media outlets publishing information obtained by WikiLeaks.

In the interview, which aired on Dec. 7 on blogtalkradio's "African American Conservatives" program, West rails against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He also says he holds the American media partially responsible for the publication of classified information.

The comments were first flagged by ThinkProgress' Lee Fang. You can listen to the full interview here, and the relevant portion here

"Regardless of whether or not you think this really does cause any harm, the fact [is] that, here is an individual that is not an American citizen, first and foremost, [who has] for whatever reason gotten his hands on classified American material and has put it out there in the public domain," West said, speaking of Assange.

He continued: "And I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to be able to do this and then also supporting him and applauding him for the efforts. So that's kind of aiding and abetting of a serious crime."

"This is espionage," added the incoming Florida representative. "And I think we need to take it very seriously."

West is not the first elected official to suggest that censorship of the press be considered when dealing with WikiLeaks: Last week, Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman suggested that the New York Times possibly be investigated for publishing WikiLeaks' findings.

"I'm not here to make a final judgment on that, but to me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship," he said in a Dec. 7 interview with Fox News. "Whether they've committed a crime, I think that bears a very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department."

The Times explained its decision to publish here, writing that "believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match." 

"Of course, most of these documents will be made public regardless of what The Times decides," the newspaper said. "WikiLeaks has shared the entire archive of secret cables with at least four European publications, has promised country-specific documents to many other news outlets, and has said it plans to ultimately post its trove online. For The Times to ignore this material would be to deny its own readers the careful reporting and thoughtful analysis they expect when this kind of information becomes public."

West later backtracked on his statement, telling CBS News in a statement that his use of the word "censor" was a misspeak.

"It has never been my intent to quiet or censor the press or anyone for that matter utilizing their right of freedom of speech granted to them under this country's great American Constitution," the statement read. "The confusion comes with the word censor...when I meant censure- in context that the media should be harshly criticized for printing the damaging documents Assange has released which so clearly puts our soldiers and country at risk."

West, who is supported by the Tea Party, recently made news when his chief of staff was forced to step down after making incendiary comments about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He characterized Assange's actions through WikiLeaks as an attack on America.

"There are different means by which you can be attacked," he said. "I mean, it doesn't have to be a bomb or an airplane flying into a building. It doesn't have to be a shooting. It can be through cyber attacks, it could be through leaking of very sensitive classified information."


Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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