SMR WIlliams
Does 'cancel culture' stifle free speech and debate?
05:12 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

In a Friday edition of her White House briefing, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany declared that children’s activities are being policed as a result of “cancel culture.”

“We saw a few weeks ago that PAW Patrol, a cartoon show about cops, was canceled,” McEnany said, after noting that President Donald Trump is “appalled by cancel culture and cancel culture specifically as it pertains to cops.”

Later, she added, “The show ‘Cops’ was canceled, ‘Live PD’ was canceled. Lego halted the sales of their Lego City Police Station. It’s really unfortunate.”

Facts First: While both ‘Cops’ and ‘Live PD’ were actually canceled, PAW Patrol was not. Lego has also not stopped selling its police toy sets, though they temporarily stopped marketing them. And although the President has recently railed against “cancel culture,” he himself has explicitly advocated for cancellations or boycotts on numerous occasions.

“Cancel culture” and “cancellation” are vague terms used in different ways by different people, but McEnany listed PAW Patrol along with things that were literally canceled, making it sound like it was literally canceled too.

TV shows

As protests erupted nationwide after George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans who died at the hands of police, it fueled debate over the future of cop shows, on the basis that decades of TV crime may have skewed public perceptions of police.

After 30 years on air, the ride-along show “Cops” was canceled. Later that week, so was the police reality series “Live PD.” After canceling “Live PD,” A&E said in a statement to CNN that “going forward, we will determine if there is a clear pathway to tell the stories of both the community and the police officers whose role it is to serve them.”

In the wake of these cancellations, a critic for the New York Times claimed, “It was only a matter of time before the protests came for ‘PAW Patrol.’” The animated kids show includes Chase, a dog who is also a police officer. After a tweet from the show’s account announcing they would be temporarily muting their content “to give access for Black voices to be heard,” commenters called for Chase to be fired and abolished. In case the status of the show wasn’t clear, a Nickelodeon spokesperson told CNN on Friday that PAW Patrol has not been canceled.


The LEGO police station that McEnany specifically referenced is still available for sale on the LEGO website as of Friday afternoon, along with at least three other items in the LEGO City Police toy set.

It’s possible McEnany based her statement off an email sent on behalf of the LEGO Group to affiliate marketers in early June, which did request certain police related products, including the police station, be removed from sites and marketing. The email was published online by a trade publication called The Toy Book on June 2.

However, a spokesperson for the LEGO Group later clarified to The Toy Book that they only “requested that our affiliate partners refrain from posting promotional LEGO content as part of our decision to respect #BlackOutTuesday and pause posting content on our social media channels in response to the tragic events in the US. We regret any misunderstanding and will ensure that we are clearer about our intentions in the future.”

Days after the email began circulating, the claim also drew significant attention on Twitter. Former Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale even tweeted on June 4 that LEGO was “erasing cops,” to which LEGO responded directly telling him the assertion was inaccurate.

The company offered a similar response Friday to McEnany’s claim, telling CNN, “We did not halt sales of any LEGO sets, and any reports otherwise are false.”