Attorney General Jeff Sessions is hellbent on defending the freedom of speech ― sometimes.
Sessions, who heads the Justice Department that is prosecuting a woman for laughing at him during a congressional hearing, slammed “ridiculous” college students Wednesday for “suffocating” free speech on their campuses.
“We have drifted way too far in controlling speech,” Sessions said Wednesday on “Fox & Friends.” “The Department of Justice has a duty to defend people’s civil rights.”
Moments later, he ripped into NFL players who peacefully protest during the national anthem, appearing to suggest they have a right to free speech but not when that song is being played.
AG Jeff Sessions on anthem protests: "I believe the players should stand." pic.twitter.com/xy077lRQpQ— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 27, 2017
“They can make their protests any other place,” Sessions said. “If the owners allow them, they can speak out, I guess, on the field. But as a matter of propriety, of love of country, and decency, you should stand when the national anthem is played.”
The former Alabama senator said President Donald Trump is “exactly right” in his heated criticism of the protests, adding that the NFL should make standing during “The Star-Spangled Banner” a formal rule.
“No matter what you think of Hillary Clinton or President Trump, you should stand when the national anthem is played,” Sessions said. ”[The NFL] should be able to say to the players, ‘If you are on our field, in our game, paid by us, you should respect the flag and the national anthem.’”
Over 200 NFL players took a knee, sat or raised a fist as “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played before their games over the weekend, reported The Associated Press. The mass demonstration was in response to Trump’s tirade Friday against players who protest during the national anthem.
“That’s a total disrespect of everything we stand for,” Trump said Friday during a rally in Alabama. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired?”
Sessions also defended Trump’s right to speak out against free speech on Tuesday.
“The president has free speech rights, too,” Sessions said following a speech at Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C., where he proclaimed that “in this great land, the government does not tell you what to think or what to say.”
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.