(New York, NY) — Following news that CNN has cut ties with commentator Rick Santorum, PEN America issued the following statement:

“We are troubled by CNN’s termination of Rick Santorum’s contract amid a pressure campaign in protest against comments he made dismissing Native American contributions to American culture. Outrage over Santorum’s comments is legitimate and understandable; such expression is a valid exercise of free speech and comes in an important context of vital efforts to bring about essential recognition of Native American histories and influence. But without more explanation, the network’s decision to fire Santorum, apparently due to outside pressure, reinforces the power of media organizations and other institutions to police speech on the basis of viewpoint, and to penalize even isolated offensive utterances. While such punishments may seem perfectly fitting in a given instance, the precedent they set can be invoked to silence dissenting voices and perspectives as the network sees fit. While Santorum is a powerful figure who does not lack for platforms, CNN has terminated others in recent years who are not similarly situated. Much surrounding the internal processes that lead to these decisions—and more broadly the criteria for serving as a contracted CNN commentator—remains opaque. CNN would do well to clarify what policies or principles guided this decision, rather than leaving it to stand as what appears to be simply an effort to appease public calls for Santorum’s firing.”