The Muzzle Awards were inspired by noted civil-liberties lawyer and Phoenix contributor Harvey Silverglate, and are named after similar awards given by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Freedom of Expression. They were compiled by tracking freedom-of-expression stories in New England since July 4, 2006, and are based on reporting by various news organizations — including the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Providence Journal, the Portland Press Herald, and the Associated Press, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other local and national sources — and, of course, the Phoenix newspapers in Boston, Providence, and Portland.

Mitt Romney
His grandstanding nearly nixes Iranian leader’s speech

In September, the State Department asked then–Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to provide security for former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, who was speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Never mind that state-police protection is customary for visiting foreign leaders. Never mind that Khatami, regarded as a well-meaning though ineffective reformer, is a useful counterpoint to his Holocaust-denying, nuke-seeking successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Indeed, Khatami is now in trouble with Ahmadinejad and his theocratic overlord, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for shaking a woman’s hand in public.) Never mind that Romney had an opportunity to showcase his own respect for freedom of speech.

“State taxpayers should not be providing special treatment to an individual who supports violent jihad and the destruction of Israel,” the grandstanding Romney said. And when he was criticized, he responded, “It’s a ‘blame America,’ it’s a ‘hate America’ attitude on the part of some liberals that I think many people find very offensive, myself included.” Good thing the Boston Police Department stepped in, or Khatami would have had to cancel his speech. This offered precisely the kind of lesson in American hypocrisy that Khatami’s enemies in Iran would have loved to exploit.

Nor was that an isolated incident. Even though George W. Bush’s popularity has slipped to Nixon-like levels, Romney seems to think that following in Bush’s cowboy-boot prints is the surest path to the nomination.

In October, he announced that the MBTA would begin random searches of passengers for explosives — a dubious measure seemingly designed more to heighten the public’s fears than to provide any real measure of safety.

When the Republican presidential candidates were asked at a May debate what should be done about the human-rights hellhole in Guantánamo, Romney replied, “Some people have said we ought to close Guantánamo. My view is we ought to double Guantánamo.”

And late in June, a Romney aide was accused of stopping and attempting to intimidate New York Times reporter (and Phoenix alumnus) Mark Leibovich, who was driving behind Romney’s SUV in New Hampshire. The Romney campaign’s first instinct was to deny that it had happened, but the incident is now being investigated.

So now, along with former governor Paul Cellucci, Romney becomes just the second person to win three Muzzle Awards. By entering our Hall of Shame, he becomes ineligible for further consideration. (Of course, if he succeeds in his bid for the White House, there’s little doubt that he’ll earn a place of dishonor alongside Bush and Dick Cheney.)

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