That was President Barack Obama speaking to college students as part of his current trip to Asia. The quote surfaced during a town hall discussion in Shanghai, and was widely regarded as a shot toward human rights violations at the hands of the Chinese government.
It's great to see that our President believes in free speech. But apparently, it should only be applied in countries where there is no Rush Limbaugh.
Associated Press reporter Charles Hutzler was quick to offer glowing coverage of the speech in an article titled "Obama to China: Uncensored Society is Healthy." The piece emphatically praised Obama's "animated defense" of free speech while completely ignoring the President's own record of attacking news outlets in the States and urging fellow politicians not to listen to talk radio.
Before continuing, readers are encouraged to set down all beverages and reach for the duct tape, for the blatant hypocrisy to come is unbelievably rich:
"I'm a big supporter of non-censorship," Obama said. "I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet - or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged."
Given where Obama was speaking, such a comment carried strong implications. And he appeared to be talking directly to China's leaders when he said that he believes free discussion, including criticism that he sometimes finds annoying, makes him "a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear."
That's right, folks. The same President who stood on a stage in McLean, Virginia, and told conservatives to stop talking is now suddenly praising himself for becoming a better leader through listening to critics.
The AP was happy to repeat the revisionist line without any effort to challenge it.
As for free speech on the internet, again Obama's record at home does not line up with the persona offered in China. It was just a few months ago when the White House openly singled out the Drudge Report as a peddler of "disinformation" and set up a snitch line to report on so-called fishy things published on the internet.
Also not addressed was Obama's appointment of Mark Lloyd as FCC diversity czar, who famously praised Hugo Chavez for controlling the media in Venezuela, or the administration's plans to legislate the internet through the FCC under net neutrality.
In President Obama's world, the internet will somehow be more free and "uncensored" with the help of FCC busybodies - and the AP couldn't be bothered to ask for an explanation.
Obama then went on to encourage more diverse views in political discussion:
Then he added that freedom of expression and worship, unfettered access to information and unrestricted political participation are not unique to the United States; instead, he called them "universal rights."
Universal rights to participate in democracy? If only our President felt that way about TEA party organizers here in America, whom he recently mocked as "folks waving tea bags around" and complained about them appearing too much "on certain news channels."
The issue with a certain news channel progressed into an all-out attack in October when Obama advisors Anita Dunn, Rahm Emmanuel, and David Axelrod launched a smear campaign against Fox News. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs aimed a direct hit at Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity by mentioning Fox's programming at 5:00 and 9:00 pm.
Back then, President Obama wasn't so much worried about free-flowing information. In fact, the White House went to the point of attempting to ban Fox from a press-pool interview before other networks, disgusted by the blatant act of censorship, pressured the administration to back off.
For some perspective on the truth not supplied by the AP, let's walk down memory lane to see how Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace described Obama's record on free speech in September:
They are the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington...They are constantly on the phone, or emailing me complaining...I mean, they are working the umps all the time.
Obama's record and reputation among the American media simply does not line up with his self-congratulating narration overseas. If the AP was an honest news outlet, it would have presented the truth instead of parroting Obama's speech.
Thanks to compliant reporters, many readers will not be confronted with the facts about the state of free speech in America.