Katie on "freeSpeech"

We've gotten a lot of comments and feedback about last night's "freeSpeech,"which featured a father whose son was killed at Columbine.

A lot of the comments were negative, like these:

Your free speech segment today was the biggest load of hogwash I have ever witnessed. How could you use an unspeakable tragedy to give a rightwing flat earth nut job a podium?

Tonite, you have some idiot who tragically lost his son at Columbine…he has my sympathy, but he does not deserve a spot on the Evening News to spout his political views.

This ultra right wing religious right drivel is a disgrace.

But we also received some positive feedback:
The Free Speech segment from the father of the Columbine student was one of the finest pieces I have ever heard on network news. My sincere appreciation goes to CBS for the courage to air it.

Thank you! As the mother of three children, I applaud your episode of Free Speech tonight. I'm sure that you will receive many e-mails denouncing your segment, but I appreciate hearing a "conservative" view in what can be a very liberal media…I live in the heartland of America (Kansas) and believe we all need a strong faith to get through difficult times.

I never thought I would hear such words on any network television station. He said all the things I have been thinking since the '60s.

Clearly, this struck a nerve.

We knew when we decided to put on this segment that a lot of people would disagree with it. We also knew some might even find it repugnant. (Some of you made that point loud and clear!)

But that is the very essence of what we try to do with the "freeSpeech" segment. This is a platform for our viewers to hear from a wide range of people – those who may share your views, and those who don't.

When we approached Brian Rohrbough and asked him his thoughts about this latest school shooting, this essay was the result. We understood that people may disagree with what he said, and with what he believes. But censoring or attempting to re-shape his opinion would be antithetical to the very idea of free speech.

This is a nation built on dialogue and debate. And, most importantly, on freedom of speech. As George Washington once said, "If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

We hope "freeSpeech" can add more voices to the national discussion. At the very least, last night, we got people talking.

And we hope the conversation is just beginning.

UPDATE: You can find more on this issue, including a statement from Executive Producer Rome Hartman, over at our sibling blog, Public Eye. -- Ed.