Human rights groups criticize Burr after report he called for assassinating American from Texas


What’s the jurisdiction on publicly calling for somebody’s assassination in the US?

Does that fall under free speech?
Or is it legal to say it, but you can be sued/prosecuted if someone follows your call?
Or is it illegal and politicians are just protected by the usual double standard?

Here in Austria, that’s one of the agreed-upon limits to free speech. If someone were to publicly state that I should be killed, I’d go straight to the police, and he’d be in trouble (maximum penalty: 2 years in prison). But I have no idea whether there are double-standard exceptions for politicians in this case, our politicians haven’t stooped that low in recent memory.

The oath that man took

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

  • except the 6th amendment of course

The double-standard exception for Congressmen is the Speech Or Debate Clause of the Constitution, which says they can’t be arrested or questioned for anything they say on the floor or in committee. However, the exceptions to the exception are in cases of “Treason, Felony, or Breach of Peace,” the latter two of which would seem to cover an awful lot of ground (and why is Treason mentioned separately even though it’s a subset of Felony?) but investigations of Congressional speech, much less prosecutions, are extremely rare.

In any case, Burr’s statements were apparently made in private so none of the above should be relevant. IANAL but I think the line for free speech is where you actively tell someone to do something. “This guy ought to be killed” is protected, “Go kill this guy” is not.


Thanks for your answer, seems to make sense.
And private statements that were just reported by someone present are yet another matter.

I just felt reminded of the several occasions where US Senators and Congressmen who are otherwise completely unknown at least on my side of the Atlantic made the news here in Austria because they publicly stated that somebody should be assassinated. The intended victims ranged from terrorist leaders, to “dissidents” like Assange or Snowden, to foreign heads of government. And I’ve always wondered how that is even legal, or if it is, how it can be even remotely acceptable for a politician outside the Islamic Republic of Iran to say things like that.

P.S.: And as usual, the nice, friendly, human-rights-aware segment of America is upset because they considered violating the human rights of a CITIZEN rather than the human rights of somebody else. This dual standard is mildly disgusting.

1 Like

It’s the odd case of an understated headline. I came here thinking, “they’d damn well better do more than just criticize.” His words are unconscionable and anti-American.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.