The following is a press release from the Pennsylvania Family Institute:
(HARRISBURG, PA) Following significant media attention, public criticism and an appeal by Pennsylvania Family Institute, YouTube has reversed its shocking decision to remove the video of the Institute’s Gubernatorial Candidate Forum. As of last night, YouTube reinstated the video, emailed a brief apology, and stated they had made a “mistake” in blocking the video.
YouTube had notified Pennsylvania Family Institute on Sunday, March 27th that it had removed the entire video of the March 24th PA Family Gubernatorial Forum event, which was moderated by PA Family Institute President Michael Geer, and WPHT-Philadelphia radio host Rich Zeoli. No specifics were provided as to why the video was removed – other than stating it somehow violated YouTube’s “misinformation policy,” and that “Content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches changed the outcome of the U.S. 2020 presidential election is not allowed on YouTube.”
The public criticism of YouTube’s censorship of the forum was significant with several of the candidates that participated issuing statements in press releases or social media decrying the video’s removal. Numerous news outlets and commentators in Pennsylvania and beyond also reacted to the video takedown.
Pennsylvania Family Institute filed an appeal with YouTube (using its online form which only allows 800 characters in the appeal), the text of which is as follows:
The video is a 2-hr forum with 7 PA governor candidates on the PA primary ballot. 2 moderators asked them 11 questions on a range of issues. No question mentioned the 2020 US Pres. election, which YT says is the issue causing the removal. Candidates were given 75-seconds per question to answer, & full freedom to say what they wished in response. It’s not our job as neutral moderators to restrict candidates from answering the questions as they wish. To do so would deny the voters of PA the right to hear directly what the candidates think about specific issues, & put us at risk of charges of favoritism. We ask YT to restore the video. Otherwise, it’s an assault on our democracy, the freedom of candidates to state their views, & the right of voters to hear the views of the candidates.
Late Tuesday, Pennsylvania Family Institute received an email from YouTube indicating that the video had been restored, thanking us for our “patience,” and apologizing for wrongly removing the video. Said YouTube, “After taking another look, we can confirm that your content does not violate our Community Guidelines.”
“While we are glad that the video has been reinstated, that does not lessen our serious concern that YouTube and other social media platforms have the ability, with the flip of a switch, to turn off access to political speech they don’t like, hereby tilting the scales in our elections and the free flow of ideas crucial to a free and flourishing democratic process,” said Michael Geer, Pennsylvania Family Institute President. “Our thanks to all who spoke up and spoke out on YouTube’s censorship of the Forum video, and for the right of citizens to freely view it.”
You can view the entire livestream at pafamily.org/forumlivestream, where not only the YouTube video may be found, but also the livestream that was posted on Facebook and the full audio from the broadcast on WPHT 1210 AM.
The following is a rush transcript from The Todd Starnes Radio Show. Listen to the program live Monday – Friday from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m. Click here to listen to the full interview.
TODD STARNES: [01:00:44] I want to go to the Patriot Mobile Newsmaker Line. Michael Geer, the president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, joins us. Michael, welcome to the show. [01:00:52][7.8]
MICHAEL GEER: [01:00:53] Thank you, Todd. Great to be on with you [01:00:54][0.9]
TODD: [01:00:54] All right. Well, first of all, give us a rundown of what happened at this forum? [01:00:59][5.0]
MICHAEL: [01:01:00] Well, sir, we had seven of the nine GOP gubernatorial candidates join us for a two hour wide ranging forum. We had a radio talk show host from Philadelphia-Rizzoli and I moderated the forum. We had a list of questions that we were going to ask each of the candidates. All of them asked the very same questions. We ended up getting a total of 11 questions in the two hours. Each candidate had about a minute and 15 seconds to answer the questions as they saw fit. And we asked a range of questions that are on the minds of Pennsylvania voters, things like crime and things like the prices at the gas pump and energy that’s under our feet in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with Marcellus Shale, we talked about the sanctity of life. We talked about the whole issue of male swimming on the women’s swim team, kind of situations that we see happening in and so on and so forth. One of the questions we asked was about election integrity specifically asking about, you know, the law in Pennsylvania that allows for free mail in ballot voting in Pennsylvania’s elections and the questions that voters have about election integrity. And just ask the candidates, what would you do to restore faith in elections in Pennsylvania? Those were some of the questions we asked and it went wonderfully. We got great reviews and comments. The candidates said it was one of the best forums they attended throughout the whole season. People who reviewed it on the listen to it on the radio or viewed the live stream. Great comments coming across the board, A.P. wrote about it, so on and so forth. And then suddenly we got an email from YouTube yesterday morning saying that it violated their community standards and their policy against misinformation. [01:02:40][99.6]
TODD: [01:02:41] All right, let me jump in here. Let me jump in here because there’s a lot to unpack. Again, Michael Geer with the Pennsylvania Family Institute. Michael, you mentioned a couple of the issues you talked about. And I’m wondering if if it is about voter integrity that that really caused YouTube some problems or if it was the transgender issues because a lot of people have been getting whacked for both of those. [01:03:04][23.5]
MICHAEL: [01:03:05] Well, you know, when I first saw the email come in initially, I thought it was the discussion that we had on the the swimmer there at the University of Pennsylvania and what’s going on in classrooms with the teaching of inappropriate sexual material and promotion of the transgender agenda. We asked questions about those sorts of things. So that was sort of the conclusion I jumped to. Now YouTube says that they do not permit any discussion or statements suggesting that the 2020 U.S. presidential election was somehow fraught with fraud or wrongdoing, or that the results were not as reported. We didn’t ask a question specific about that, but some of the candidates did mention the 2020 presidential election. But then you think about some of the other issues like we talked about crime in Philadelphia. Well, YouTube might not want it to broadcast that the Democrats in Philadelphia are having a hard time dealing with the crime issue, you know, so. Who knows what triggers YouTube these days, because they don’t really tell you. And I just went online to file an appeal with YouTube, wrote a lengthy kind of statement in terms of why I thought they were wrong. We tried to post the appeal and they only allow you 800 characters, including spaces. It’s harder to even make your case. [01:04:16][70.7]
TODD: [01:04:17] Dear fascist, you can start that way, Michael. This is troubling because again, it was not some sort of a, you know, and it was not some sort of an attack on anybody. This was gubernatorial candidates having discussions about the issues of the day. And yet YouTube doesn’t want people to know that there are conservatives out there and they don’t want them to know about their campaigns. [01:04:42][24.7]
MICHAEL: [01:04:43] Yeah, it really worries me Todd to contemplate what may be coming in this 2022 election season. It’s very significant because so many people get their information from, you know, online sources. You know, the Big Tech and all that stuff is still where a lot of people find out about these sorts of things and to see them pull the trigger this early on, something as neutral as the candidate form that we held makes me wonder, will candidates, especially conservative candidates, be able to get their message out to the people? [01:05:11][27.9]
TODD: [01:05:12] All right. So you guys have filed your appeal? Have you have you been hearing from other people? I mean, you’re rare. You’re in a rare group here, which is a very large, rare group. Tucker Carlson Babylon Bee. They pulled my CPAC speech last week. So you’ve got a lot of conservatives that are becoming victims of this YouTube censorship. [01:05:32][19.9]
MICHAEL: [01:05:33] Yeah, we’re starting to hear from folks. You know, we sent the release, which you said you saw yesterday, and we’re thankful for that Sunday afternoon. Sending out a press release is not, you know, prime time to get in front of people. But yes, we’re hearing about it because ultimately it comes down to restricting political speech when you think about the First Amendment and specifically freedom of speech. A key component is making sure that we have free expression of ideas related to who we elect and who leads our country, what we can say about our government. And this is a direct assault on that, which is why it’s so seriously troubling about what YouTube has done here. [01:06:10][36.1]
TODD: [01:06:10] It is incredibly troubling. And you’re right. For candidates heading into the midterms and then beyond this is very dangerous because social media can can basically disappear you without you doing a single thing or without you being able to do anything about it. [01:06:25][15.2]
MICHAEL: [01:06:26] And it makes us wonder. I mean, I’ve had people call us and say, they wonder, you know, did someone report this video is, you know, there’s someone with a different political agenda or something flagging YouTube and saying, Hey, this, this was a successful forum, the ideas that are presented. There are ones that resonate with lots of Pennsylvanians across the political spectrum. Maybe, you know, there was someone who reported it to try to get that taken down so that those positive ideas are not heard by the voters. [01:06:54][27.8]
TODD: [01:06:54] Well, that could very well be. I mean, that is a possibility. Well, Michael, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to be posting a story about this up on our website, toddstarnes.com. We will get the information out and it will try to put a little bit of pressure on YouTube. Hopefully they’ll do the right thing and put that video back up. [01:07:11][16.1]
MICHAEL: [01:07:11] And we hope so, too, and that’s what our appeal is asking them to do. We also have it on our Pennsylvania Family Institute website, which is pafamily.org. There’s a link there as well, so they haven’t completely suppressed it. But YouTube is a big channel where a lot of people, you know, do a Google search. Google owns YouTube, and they may not find this then, and that’s a real troubling thing. [01:07:30][18.6]
TODD: [01:07:30] All right. We’re going to leave it there, Michael. Good luck to you. Michael Geer, everybody from Pennsylvania Family Institute[01:07:38][7.6]