‘We support free press, but…’: Conservatives mutiny after neocon Heritage Foundation says Assange is ‘US enemy’ unworthy of pardon
Right-leaning pundits and social media users are sharpening their pitchforks after the Heritage Foundation, a conservative US think tank, insisted that Julian Assange is not a member of the press and should not receive clemency.
The Washington, DC-headquartered public policy institute on Friday expressed its displeasure over rumors that President Donald Trump is mulling a pardon for the WikiLeaks founder, who is fighting extradition to the US.
“We support a free and open press–but Assange is not a free speech hero,” the think tank wrote, adding that the Australian national, who has been languishing in a UK prison since April 2019 after being arrested in London, “deserves to face the full legal consequences of his actions” and “under no circumstances” is worthy of the president’s mercy.
We support a free and open press—but Assange is not a free speech hero.
He deserves to face the full legal consequences of his actions and, under no circumstances, deserves to be pardoned. https://t.co/Vrj6JHwwO2
— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) December 18, 2020
The tweet linked to a commentary published by the Heritage-funded Daily Signal, which describes Assange as “an enemy of the United States who, among other things, deliberately recruited an American soldier to illegally disclose national security secrets and who then released those secrets to the public.” The piece argues that Trump must not pardon the WikiLeaks founder, and urges the president to reconsider his position if he does intend to grant Assange clemency.
The think tank’s hardline stance on Assange was not well received by its target demographic. Conservative pundit Jack Posobiec openly mocked the organization’s position, while prominent Republican activist Daniel Bostic shot down Heritage’s take as “terribly wrong.”
You are terribly wrong.
— Daniel Bostic (@debostic) December 18, 2020
It wasn’t just popular media figures who took exception, though. Heritage’s tweet was flooded with furious replies from former supporters who vowed to never again donate to the think tank.
What??? @Heritage ? I trusted you for many years, huge let down. We are up against powerful elites that cheat, coerce and grift their way into our lives abusing their power and our Institutions. And you come down on those few heroes that dare expose them risking their lives
— Nicolas Zumino (@Nzumino) December 18, 2020
I regret ever giving y’all attention, money and respect. Bye.
— Just Human (@Jo_Kyle) December 18, 2020
Others picked apart the organization’s claim that it supports press freedom, and issued their own interpretation of Heritage’s argument.
“We support a free and open press – as long as it doesn’t report on neocon war crimes,” read one dismissive ‘translation’ of the think tank’s stance.
There was almost unanimous opposition to the conservative group’s characterization of Assange, but one Twitter user said he fully agreed that Assange should face the “consequences” of his actions.
“I agree that he deserves to face the full legal consequences of his actions, a slap on the wrist is too much. He deserves immediate release and a full pardon,” the comment read.
American authorities have accused Assange of “conspiring to commit computer intrusion” with US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010. If convicted, he faces up to 175 years in prison.
A recording of a telephone conversation between Assange and State Department lawyer Cliff Johnson, released by the conservative outlet Project Veritas earlier this week, shows that the WikiLeaks founder had warned Hillary Clinton’s State Department that a former employee of the site was preparing to release a tranche of unredacted US diplomatic cables, and offered to help the US government mitigate the potential fallout.
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told RT that the audio recording serves as “overwhelming evidence” contradicting the US charges brought against Assange.
Rumors have been circulating for the past several weeks that Trump could grant clemency to Assange, and possibly other high-profile individuals such as former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, before leaving office on January 20. However, so far there has been no confirmation from the White House.
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