The board is a recently formed federal panel that has drawn criticism over freedom of speech implications from members of Congress and other opponents.
In a news release on Thursday evening, Paxton asserted that the board will almost certainly monitor American citizens.
“I will not allow the Biden Administration to continue to erode our democracy by silencing millions of people in defiance of our Constitution and First Amendment freedoms, and deny every American the right to be heard,” Paxton said.
“You cannot simply label as ‘disinformation’ all speech you disagree with or find politically damaging to your cause and expect the American people to tolerate the government telling them what they can think or say.”
Paxton added his name to a letter authored by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and signed by the attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia.
“Today we write you to insist that you immediately cease taking action that appears designed exclusively for the purpose of suppressing the exercise of constitutional rights,” they demanded.
Citing a quote from the late Justice Louis Brandeis encouraging free speech as a response to controversial views, they contended that Mayorkas’ efforts may backfire.
“Your censorship will not drown out misinformation; it will suppress the lawful speech of well-meaning but unpopular speakers, and it will turn bad actors into martyrs with far more influence than if you simply allowed ‘more speech’ to combat their alleged misinformation,” they contended.
Mayorkas, a former federal prosecutor, has argued that the purpose of the board is to prevent events such as the surge of tens of thousands of illegal aliens in the Del Rio area in September of last year, a disaster that was fueled in part by confusion over a deportation freeze and the extension of temporary protected status to a limited number of Haitian nationals.
The secretary has asserted that his department is duty bound to confront threats such as human smugglers lying to increase their profits or foreign governments spreading falsehoods to influence American elections.
Mayorkas has also said that the board does not have “operational authority” and would focus on disinformation coming from outside the U.S. such as by the Russian and Chinese governments.
In a recent media appearance, Mayorkas committed that the Disinformation Governance Board would not target or monitor American citizens and would respect the freedom of speech, among other civil rights.
The attorneys general are unpersuaded, contending that the mere existence of the board will deter citizens from speaking their minds for fear of reprisal.
Miyares, Paxton, and the other cosigners repeated the characterization of the board as “Orwellian” and called its creation an “unacceptable and downright alarming encroachment.”
“No statutory authority exists to support your creation of a board of government censors,” they argued.
Linking the formation of the panel to the recent purchase of Twitter by entrepreneur Elon Musk, they called the timing “highly suspect” and suggested that the federal government is seeking to retain its grip on the ability to filter unpopular points of view.
“The contemporaneous occurrence of these two events is hard to explain away as mere coincidence,” they wrote. “It instead raises serious questions about the extent of the Biden Administration’s practice of coordinating with private-sector companies to suppress disfavored speech.”
The letter also criticized the board’s executive director, Nina Jankowicz, saying, “like so many who complain about misinformation and disinformation: she is often in error but never in doubt.”
The officials noted that Jankowicz has labeled herself the “Mary Poppins of disinformation,” and referenced a tweet in which she mockingly sang about former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was one of former President Trump’s lawyers.
The signers contend Jankowicz has made other comments unfavorable to Trump, pointing to her dismissal of evidence against President Biden’s son, Hunter, as disinformation. She claims that she was merely reporting what Biden had stated about the evidence in question.
The authors also referenced Jankowicz’s early dismissal of the theory that the COVID-19 virus leaked from a Chinese lab — one that the U.S. government considers a real possibility — as a contrivance of the Trump campaign.
“It would be amusing that a self-proclaimed expert in disinformation like Ms. Jankowicz has proven to be so bad at identifying it, except that you have placed her in charge of doing so on behalf of the United States government,” the attorneys general wrote.
The letter closed by discussing what could happen next if the board is not disbanded.
The officials wrote, “This is unconstitutional, illegal, and un-American. Unless you turn back now and disband this Orwellian Disinformation Governance Board immediately, the undersigned will have no choice but to consider judicial remedies to protect the rights of their citizens.”
A copy of the letter to Mayorkas can be found below.
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- Alejandro Mayorkas
- border crisis
- Border Security
- Del Rio
- Disinformation Governance Board
- Illegal Immigration
- Joe Biden
- Ken Paxton
- Nina Jankowicz
- Rudy Giuliani
- South Carolina
- temporary protected status
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Val Verde County
- West Virginia
Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."