Ex-ACLU head Ira Glasser slams organization’s new agenda

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Ex-ACLU head Ira Glasser slams organization's new agenda

The former head of the American Civil Liberties Union has ripped the group for no longer defending all free speech — claiming it now cherry-picks cases that fit a new “progressive” agenda.

Ira Glasser, the ACLU’s executive director from 1978 to 2001, bemoaned the group for recently changing its guidelines to limit the rights it fights to uphold.

“There is a requirement now for ACLU lawyers that before they take a case defending someone’s free speech, they have to make sure that the speech doesn’t offend or threaten other civil liberties values,” he told Bill Maher Friday.

After pausing to make a confused expression, he continued, “In other words, before they’re gonna defend your free speech, they want to see what you say.”

“That’s the ACLU? No, that’s the government!” he insisted.

“The ACLU has become … more of a political partisan, what they call ‘progressive’ organization,” he said.

Ira Glasser.
Ira Glasser was the ACLU’s executive director from 1978 to 2001.
Real Time with Bill Maher/HBO

While he defended the right for an organization to change, he warned, “But the problem is, there isn’t any other ACLU.”

“And if there isn’t somebody who’s prepared to defend what you say … Then the government gets to decide who can speak. And that’s the most dangerous thing all,” he said.

Maher noted how Glasser famously defended the right for a group of Neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, in 1977, asking his guest, “I’m guessing the Nazis did not reflect your values?”

Ira Glasser and Bill Maher.
“The ACLU has become … more of a political partisan,” Ira Glasser told Bill Maher.
Real Time with Bill Maher/HBO

“That’s a good guess,” Glasser replied to laughter in the audience.

“Actually, most of the speech we defended didn’t reflect our values. That’s the point,” he stressed.

“Everybody’s in favor of free speech … as long as it’s theirs,” Glasser said, agreeing with Maher when he said that the principle “doesn’t work if there’s an exception.”

Ira Glasser.
Ira Glasser claimed the ACLU now cherry-picks cases that fit a new “progressive” agenda.
Real Time with Bill Maher/HBO

Maher told Glasser that he was one of the guests on his “Real Time” show who he would most like to hug because his work had “affected my life,” saying that free speech was the outspoken host’s “business.”

“I am very aware — always have been — that I’ve been able to really enjoy free speech especially here on HBO, and at ABC before they fired me,” he quipped.

He was referring to his previous show, “Politically Incorrect,” which was axed by ABC in 2002 following a series of controversies that even had then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer warning Maher to watch himself, saying Americans “need to watch what they say.”

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