What's really protected under the first amendment?

Created: 05/23/2014 11:17 PM WHEC.com

After controversial remarks about the transgender community, talk show hosts Kimberley Ray and Barry Beck were suspended and subsequently fired. Friday, the pair issued an apology -- saying "our attempt was to discuss a controversial healthcare issue; however our lack of sensitivity and understanding of the transgender people and their plight created 12 minutes of radio that we wish we could take back."

Many have argued that their comments are protected by the constitution, even if they do offend some people. So News10NBC took quandary to a civil liberties attorney.

While talk show hosts may have the right under the constitution to express themselves and not fear government intervention. That right doesn't necessarily protect them in the private sector. Entercom Media, the company that employed them, determined their words were "hateful" and crossed the line.

Paul Polyak was born in the Ukraine where people could speak freely, but even as an American, with the protections of the constitution, he says people should be careful.

Polyak tells us, "I think you do have the right to say whatever you want to say, but you are held accountable for your words.so if you're saying something in the public domain, there are repercussions for what you say."

Rochester resident Latrice Halter agrees. Especially in situations where people are speaking publicly.

Halter says, "I believe they should be held accountable for what they say, because what you say can hurt other people even though you have the right or the freedom to say it."

But what does the constitution guarantee all americans? We turned to civil liberties lawyer Scott Forsyth.

He says, "People many times confuse the right to speak out and with the first amendment and the limitations of the first amendment."

Forsyth says the first amendment embodies the principal that free speech allows the free flow of ideas and we benefit from that. But he says there are limits.

"The first amendment does protect you from certain government reaction to your speech, but it doesn't protect you from private responses to your speech."

Mary Anne MacDonald worries our freedoms are being eroded.

She says, "What makes America is that we are able to say what we want when we want, but now we have to be careful because somebody's offended and that's wrong."

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