Beck selectively quoted interview to falsely suggest Sunstein and FDR wanted to “pass” a second Bill of Rights

By selectively quoting an interview during which Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Director Cass Sunstein discussed his support for Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposed “second Bill of Rights,” Glenn Beck falsely suggested that Sunstein supported amending the U.S. Constitution to include a right to health care. However, in the interview Beck cited, Sunstein made clear that he shared Roosevelt's view that he “didn't want to change the text of the Constitution.”

Beck suggests FDR and Sunstein “are advocating” “pass[ing] a second Bill of Rights”

Beck questions the need for FDR's “second Bill of Rights,” which “neo-progressives have” revived. On the December 17 edition of his Fox News show, Beck aired audio from Roosevelt's 1944 State of the Union address -- during which Roosevelt discussed a second Bill of Rights, “so to speak” -- and said: “Why would we need a second Bill of Rights? He just said we need a second Bill of Rights, one that says that there is a right to adequate medical care.” Beck continued: “Why would we need that if you could pass just some stuff in the Congress with the original Constitution?” He later compared Roosevelt's second Bill of Rights to “the Soviet Union and China” and stated that “that's why the second Bill of Rights ended up on the scrap heap of history.” He further stated, “This new progressive, the neo-progressives have pulled it off that heap. They've dusted it off, shined it up, and put a fresh coat of lipstick on the same old disgusting pig.”

Beck contrasted constitutional volatility in several European states with the U.S. “one Constitution” to suggest Sunstein supports altering Constitution. Beck said: “You might think, oh, that second Bill of Rights, that's crazy” and asserted that “the premise is you don't need a second Bill of Rights if you can do” health care reform “constitutionally.” Beck then called Sunstein “the most dangerous man in America because no one is paying attention to him,” and stated that Sunstein “also wrote a book called The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever.” After playing a segment from Sunstein's appearance on the public television program The Open Mind where Sunstein commented that FDR's “second Bill of Rights has turned out to be one of the best American exports,” Beck stated that “in more than 200 years since ratification of this document, we have had one Constitution, one government in the United States.” He then noted the volatility in some European states, and commented: “Why would we want to covet the European example of chaos, tyranny, and instability?” Beck later said that America achieved prosperity because of the Constitution and “the original Bill of Rights.”

But Sunstein said he (and FDR) “didn't want to change the text of the Constitution”

Sunstein: “Roosevelt didn't want to change the text of the Constitution,” but to create “a declaration which isn't part of our legally binding text.” In the Open Mind interview Beck cited, Sunstein further commented: “Roosevelt didn't want to change the text of the Constitution. So he didn't want to add the right to a good education or the right to a home or the right to Social Security in the text of the Constitution.” Sunstein added: “What Roosevelt wanted to do was not to put the Second Bill in the Constitution, but to follow the model of his hero Thomas Jefferson, who was responsible for the Declaration of Independence, a declaration which isn't part of our legally binding text, but which helps animate our self understanding of the Declaration of Independence.” [The Open Mind, 9/8/04]

Sunstein said he shared Roosevelt's view and was “nervous” about altering the Constitution. Sunstein also stated that Roosevelt's “view of the Second Bill of Rights, which I share, is that what we should think of this as, is very much like Jefferson's Declaration. Part of what we're committed to, part of what defines our self-understandings, but we're going to keep the judges out of it.” Further, Sunstein commented that "[i]f, if we are excited about judicial protection of individual rights, then we might want the Second Bill of Rights in our Constitution. I, myself, am nervous about that, because I'm nervous about the judges" and that “I'd much prefer that we recover this aspect of our history.”