Jonathan Turley transcended his own meticulously cultivated clown status with an epic performance yesterday. In recent years, the George Washington University Law School professor embraced the role of national joke by contradicting his own scholarship and wildly misstating basic principles of law, all in service of getting one more sweet, sweet five-minute cable news hit.
It’s a lot easier to get on TV when you’re giving voice to utter nonsense people want to hear than when you’re constrained by legal reality. But Turley upped the game like Michael Jordan playing through the flu yesterday. And, like Jordan, it was all avoidable with a vaccine.
Turley went on Fox News to talk about the Canadian truckers running an impromptu blockade of the nation’s capital because they don’t want to get vaccinated. After days of letting the toddlers cry about it, the Canadian government invoked emergency powers to clear the streets.
Fox wanted to talk to a Canadian legal expert ABOOT the decision. So they brought on… Turley?
Turley’s credentials to opine on the Canadian legal landscape run no further than mine and mine are limited to the value of tag up offsides. Can Fox News not recruit at least one Canadian professor to prostrate their academic reputation at the altar of anti-vaccination nonsense? Isn’t Jordan Peterson available? Eh?
Anyway, here’s what Turley offered by way of “cogent legal analysis”:
Wow! Imagine if overzealous law enforcement had tried to crack down the Civil Rights movement or arrested Martin Luther King? Would we even have literary classics like “Letter From Birmingham Day Spa”?
Actually, that was a popular joke construction and social media quickly flooded with references to “Birmingham Summer Camp” or “Birmingham Starbucks.” Others just wondered if Turley thought the letter was written from the visiting room.
Martin Luther King Jr was arrested 29 times. Many of those times, he entered the situation anticipating an arrest, knowing that civil disobedience would be met with charges. Southern law enforcement engaged in a lot of abuses — like arresting King for “loitering” when he would show up at a courthouse to monitor another injustice — but other times the whole point was to take actions reasonably expected to end in arrests. News of the arrests was part of the strategy to wake up the rest of the country.
But Turley and Fox want their precious anti-vaxxers to enjoy the benefits of escalating protests to the point of technical illegality with none of the costs. It’s like “Diet Protest,” to compare it to a substance that’s certainly way more dangerous than the vaccines they’re complaining about.
While it’s easy to misspeak on television, Turley can’t wipe away this error as an off-the-cuff mistake. The entire frame for his commentary involves drawing parallels to the civil rights movement. This bonkers analysis stems from his prepared remarks on the subject. His rhetorical strategy from jump is to tie anti-vax hosers to the iconography of anti-segregationism.
Or more specifically to the whitewashed iconography of “Martin Luther King,TM” the fictionalized construct of the civil rights leader based on a children’s book mythologizing where King led a march without incident and then delivered a couple cherry-picked lines about having a dream. This revisionist King is central to Fox’s editorial mission as the ever-shifting signifier that they can whip out to brand quarterbacks kneeling as “too extreme” and truckers blockading all access to a national capital as “heroic.”
But don’t mistake his willing contribution to this cynical agenda for some sort of intentional action on his part. He’s soaking up and spitting out talking points with little regard for their actual truth or falsity — he just knows it’s what the bookers on these shows want to hear and he’s more than happy to give it to them for another hit. There’s nothing calculated about Turley’s latest public depantsing.
He’s just an idiot.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.