First Amendment Defender Award

This award is presented to an individual or organization who takes a public stand in support of press freedom.

Representative Eric Swalwell
U.S. House of Representatives, CA-15

Acceptance Remarks

Thank you very much. Thank you Vince, and thank you RTDNF, and also thank you to other defenders of the First Amendment who are just as deserving of this award: the men and women in our armed services who were here earlier this evening. I want to thank my wife Brittany who is here with me tonight as well. Thank you for joining me. Now, I’ve been working for a free press since I was about ten years old.

My first job was as a newspaper delivery man. I rode a bicycle in my neighborhood and I would sit on the porch folding up the papers, putting the rubber bands on them and my mom would always say to me, “You know, that paper ain’t gonna deliver itself. You better get it out before sunset,” otherwise she was gonna have to drive me. And the reason I was so interested in reading the paper was because I wanted to know what was going on.

And that’s what you do in your mediums every day. You tell people what was going on. 5th grade I ran for student body president on a platform of sodas in the, you know, foyer, and a school newspaper. And, to my surprise, I won. To my parents’ surprise, I won, and they had to buy me a typewriter so I had to write a student newspaper every month.

I’ve seen the importance of what you do and why you do it. I wrote the Journalist Protection Act to make it a federal crime for any person who commits an act of violence or intimidates a journalist from doing their job. Now I want to assure you – I know there’s some anxiety – there’s a journalist exception for any journalist-on-journalist crime that may occur in a press scrum outside the House gallery or the White House briefing room.

I’ve seen the importance of what you do and why you do it.

And I also want to address the elephant in the room. I’ve heard some of the criticism of this bill, some of it from voices in the media. I want to make it absolutely clear: I did not write this bill just to protect my friend Tucker Carlson from his guests. Tucker can protect himself. But in all seriousness, we’ve seen the attacks on the media and we’ve seen that in recent years, those attacks have been emboldened by a president who has called you the ‘enemy of the American people.’

But hostility towards the media began before the election of Donald Trump, and it won’t go away when he does. This is something I saw firsthand when I was a prosecutor in Alameda County back in 2007. And I have to credit Josh Richmond, my communications director on our staff, for helping me with this bill. Josh was a reporter for the Oakland Tribune, and he saw a fellow journalist in our community murdered when he was covering a crime family, and assassinated and had other members of his family intimidated. Chauncey Bailey was the journalist. We’ve seen firsthand how dangerous it is for you to report.

We’ve seen the attacks on the media and we’ve seen that in recent years, those attacks have been emboldened by a president who has called you the ‘enemy of the American people.’

And this bill would make sure that if a crime is not prosecuted locally because there is no courage or a lack of will or because of politics, that in every corner of America, there’s a federal protection – a federal jurisdiction.

That’s how important your work is, and that’s how the freedom of press is to our democracy.

So thank you for fighting for it.

I hope this finds more Republican and Democratic supporters so that you can keep doing your good work.

Thank you so much.


Rep. Eric Swalwell was elected in 2012 to represent California’s Fifteenth Congressional District, which includes a large part of the East Bay, and is now in his third term.

Swalwell, from California’s 15th Congressional District, introduced the Journalist Protection Act in February. The proposed bill would make it a “federal crime to intentionally cause bodily injury to a journalist affecting interstate or foreign commerce in the course of reporting or in a manner designed to intimidate him or her from newsgathering for a media organization.”

In a news release announcing the legislation, which was filed with 12 co-sponsors, Swalwell said the bill is a direct result of what he characterized as President Trump’s creation of “a climate of extreme hostility to the press by describing mainstream media outlets as ‘a stain on America,’ ‘trying to take away our history and our heritage,’ and ‘the enemy of the American People.’”

Congressman Swalwell serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; the Subcommittee on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), responsible for the oversight, policy, activities, and budget of the CIA; and the House Judiciary Committee.

He is co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and chairs the Future Forum.

In his first term, Congressman Swalwell co-founded the bipartisan United Solutions Caucus to bring new Members together. In his second term, Swalwell cofounded the bipartisan Sharing Economy Caucus.

First Amendment Defender Award 2018

Updated on 2019-02-13T19:40:14+00:00, by firstawards.