During Wednesday night’s national address, President Joe Biden repeated his oft-debunked claim that that “no amendment to the Constitution is absolute” while making an argument against gun rights, and went to lie about the Supreme Court’s stance on free speech, claiming “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater.”
“No amendment to the constitution is absolute,” Biden said after making an appeal to restrict gun rights. “You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. From the very beginning, there were certain guns, weapons, that could not be owned by Americans.”
Biden is not only incorrect about firearms restrictions, which did not exist even for military cannon and warships at the country’s founding, but the “fire in a crowded theater” metaphor he invokes so often is also completely false.
The saying comes from remarks made over a hundred years ago in 1919 by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the case Schenk v. United States, during which the court incorrectly ruled that advocating against the draft was not free speech.
The Court’s ruling is widely interpreted as one of the worst ever in U.S. history, and was effectively overturned in the landmark 1969 case Brandenburg v. Ohio.
Yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater has been ruled protected speech for over half a century, but that has not prevented Biden from repeating the false claim on many occasions.