WATCH: NYT Made 'Right Call' Not to Print Charlie Hebdo Cartoons, Says David Brooks

On the PBS News Hour, the New York Times columnist explained that when it comes to free speech 'we should have certain social standards.'

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David Brooks on the PBS News Hour, January 16th, 2015.
David Brooks on the PBS News Hour, January 16th, 2015. Credit: Screen grab


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JUDY WOODRUFF: So, one other thing I want to ask the two of you about.

This week, the NewsHour announced and said on the air we have made a decision not to air the pictures, the cover of Charlie Hebdo, the French newsweekly, of course, the genesis of the tragic attack in Paris last week.

There’s been a lot of viewer comment about it, the majority of it negative, some of it positive.

But I’m just curious to know from the two of you, how do you think about this? I mean, our explanation is that we believe the offense that it could cause outweighs the news value. But there’s a big debate about it. So I wanted to hear from the two of you.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I agree with the viewers, whatever they say.


DAVID BROOKS: But, you know, I have changed my mind about this. My newspaper, The New York Times, made the exact same decision.

And I thought, no, the news value, you have got the show what — the subject of what all this fuss is all about. But as I thought about it more, when you actually look at the actual cartoons, some of them involve sodomy, some of them involve things that violate every standard of decency which we have.

And so my view is that our standards of what represents decent behavior and civic conversation are more important in this case. And if people want to see the cartoons, they can go online, they can go somewhere else.

And my basic attitude is that, when it comes to speech, is that we should almost, almost never invite somebody off campus, we should almost, almost never pass a law, but we should have certain social standards, what’s polite, what’s acceptable, what gets you respect, what doesn’t. And maintaining standards of just decency, we don’t curse on the air.

And that’s just — it’s a way of behaving respectfully, and that encourages conversation. So, I think the call is ultimately the right one.