Sen. Amy Klobuchar, citing 2018 Capital Gazette shooting, asks Supreme Court nominee Amy Barrett about threats to free speech

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, daughter of a legendary Minnesota journalist, cited the 2018 murder of five Capital Gazette staff members Wednesday afternoon in her questioning U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Barrett about threats to a free press.

Klobuchar ran through a list of statements by President Donald Trump, who has castigated journalists as the “enemy of the people,” in asking whether Barrett would uphold an important legal precedent protecting journalists from libel lawsuits from public officials unless they made a mistake through actual malice.


“The Founders recognized that a free press is vital to a vibrant and strong democracy and that’s why we need Supreme Court justices who understand the importance of protecting the right of journalists,” she said.

The Minnesota Democrat said American’s right to a free and independent press is under assault, and described “unprecedented attacks on journalism and journalists.”


“I want to pay special tribute to those brave journalists whose dogged pursuit of the truth never waivers despite threats of imprisonment, violence and even death. Journalists like Jamal Khashoggi and the men and women of the Capital Gazette. Their legacy has proved that fear will not silence fact.”

On June 28, 2018, a gunman shot his way into the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis and killed Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Gerald Fischman and Rebecca Smith. He had become obsessed with taking revenge against the paper for a newspaper column in 2011.

Jarrod Ramos has pleaded guilty to the murders and is awaiting the second portion of his trial to determine whether he was sane at the time of the attack.

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Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist killed Oct. 2, 2018 in an assassination sanctioned by the Saudi government in Turkey. Both Capital Gazette staff members and Khashoggi were jointly named along with other journalists as persons of the year in 2018 by Time magazine.

Klobuchar is the daughter of Jim Klobuchar, a daily columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for three decades.

She asked Barrett about Justice Clarence Thomas’ recent dissenting opinion, in which he questioned whether the court should uphold New York Times vs. Sullivan. In that 1964 landmark decision, the court found that freedom of speech protections in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution restricts the ability of American public officials to sue for defamation unless journalists act out of malice.

Barrett declined to answer whether she would support the precedent or agreed with Thomas, citing her refusal to comment on cases that might come before the court.

Trump nominated Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court last month, prompting criticism from Democrats who argued the Senate should wait to consider her confirmation until after the presidential election is decided.


Klobuchar asked about respecting First Amendment protections on the third day of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee is expected to approve Barrett’s nomination and sent it to the full Senate for a vote.

Republicans control the Senate majority with 53 seats and are expected to approve the nomination.