If you say dumb things and someone says they won't give you money as a result, does that violate the First Amendment?
Milwaukee radio station WTMJ reports county Sheriff David Clarke plans to sue the county executive who denied a budget increase for his office, on the grounds that it is an assault on his freedom of speech.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced on Monday he was vetoing $4 million in increased funding for the sheriff's department. Part of Abele's reasoning was he did not want to raise property taxes, but in a statement released to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, he also explained he has an issue with some of Clarke's statements.
Rather than participate in constructive ways to address real and serious issues in our community, the sheriff offers instead what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calls his 'extreme and attention grabbing comments.'
The sheriff may choose to refer to people in the Black Lives Matter movement as 'subhuman creeps.' These statements aren't just categorically untrue, they are divisive, foster anger and intolerance, and only serve to exacerbate the issues they purport to address.
In an interview with WTMJ, Clarke fired back claiming that the veto was punishing him for speaking his mind, and that he planned to take legal action against Abele.
"He's punishing me for my freedom of expression, and he's also punishing the people of Milwaukee County through their public safety," Clarke said to WTMJ. "He may not agree with my views…but I'm still entitled to express my views"
What are these controversial comments that bothered Abele enough to take $4 million off the table. Well, to say Clarke has a problem with Black Lives Matter is a bit of an understatement.
The same week as that tweet, Clarke appeared on Fox News to claim that there hasn't been any police brutality in the U.S. since the 1960s, and that "there's a new Harvard study out that shows that there is no racism in the hearts of police officers." Citation needed.
Long-time followers of Clarke on social media probably weren't surprised by any of this. His Twitter feed is about 50 percent promoting right wing causes and 50 percent promoting his frequent appearances on Fox News and other conservative media outlets.
He also has a history of clashing with Abele. The Journal-Sentinel reports the county executive has called Clarke "crazy", "bonkers" and "a childish bully." The sheriff in turn once wrote one of Abele's critiques "sounds a bit like penis envy," the way you would expect a grown-up, elected law enforcement official to do.
Clarke hasn't filed his lawsuit yet, but we're waiting with bated breath to see if it includes more photos of him holding a gun while wearing a cowboy hat. Based on history, odds are looking good.