Can a foreign-born political commentator be deported for making political comments? That's the question — and the goal — of more than 60,000 Americans who have signed a petition to deport British journalist Piers Morgan for his outspoken views on gun control. On a recent episode of his CNN series Piers Morgan Tonight, Morgan called guest Larry Pratt, the executive director of Guns Owners for America, "dangerous" and "an unbelievably stupid man" for arguing that the U.S. needs more guns to fight gun violence. Pratt responded by calling Morgan "morally obtuse." (Watch a video of the heated exchange below.) The subsequent petition to get Morgan deported, which was started by "Kurt N" from Austin, Texas, argues that Morgan is "engaged in a hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment" and "[demands] that Mr. Morgan be deported immediately."
The irony, of course, is that deporting Morgan for his "hostile attack" on the Constitution would be a violation of the constitutional right to free speech. Even as a British national, Morgan is "afforded various rights under national security law and due process," says immigration attorney Mark Schifanelli at ABC News. Morgan's comments are protected unless they present "immediate danger" to the United States, and his opinion on gun control isn't likely to meet that requirement.
So the government is very unlikely to take action against Morgan — but what about CNN, which airs Piers Morgan Tonight? "His bosses have every right to fire him if they want: That's not a breach of First Amendment rights," says Tim Worstall at Forbes. But there's no indication that Morgan's job is on the line, and given that he was hired as a political commentator, he's not likely to land in hot water for making political comments. In fact, the controversy may end up proving to be a ratings boost, offering a life raft to the relatively low-rated show.
Getting past the fairly ludicrous question of deportation, there's a much more serious issue at hand: Is Morgan doing damage to the gun control movement? "He's certainly given conservatives a gift by allowing them to portray gun control as the issue of choice of foreign liberals," says Tim Stanley at The Telegraph. "And, frankly, asking an interviewee 'You're an incredibly stupid idiot, aren't you?' fosters the impression that liberals are engaging not in constructive debate but an assault on the character of their opponents."
Morgan, for his part, remains unrepentant:
I don't care about petition to deport me. I do care about poor NY firefighters murdered/injured with an assault weapon today. #GunControlNow
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 24, 2012