Will we stay silent while a public university assaults the First Amendment?
Conservative commentator and author Michelle Malkin’s right to free speech has been under consistent vicious attack — most recently at the publicly funded University of Maine. The College Republicans student group at the university, which had invited Ms. Malkin to speak, was forced to scurry around at the last minute to find a suitable forum outside the university campus for her talk. This was all set into motion when the University of Maine stripped the College Republicans of their status as an official student organization after their “faculty adviser”, political science professor Amy Fried, quit because she disapproved of Michelle Malkin’s conservative views. As a result, the College Republicans could no longer use the campus facilities to host the speech. No official recognition means no student government funding and no complimentary rooms or meeting spaces on campus, which the College Democrats continue to enjoy without interruption during this presidential election year.
Three off campus venues then proceeded to reverse their agreements to let the University of Maine College Republicans use their facilities for Michelle Malkin’s delivery of her speech. First, Portland Sheraton at Sable Oaks in South Portland cancelled, after being informed by the university that the University of Maine College Republicans were not an official student group on campus. Then the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston and Martindale Country Club in Auburn followed suit, succumbing to pressure from self-appointed censors of free speech. Ms. Malkin was finally able to speak last Friday night to a standing-room-only crowd at Sabattus Town Hall. “It’s flabbergasting,” Ms. Malkin said, “that it took four different venues to find a place for peace-loving patriots to gather.”
Jeremiah Childs, vice president of the University of Maine College Republicans, pointed out what was at stake in standing up to the Left and exercising the right of free speech in the face of their bullying. “The Left intended to shut down the State of Maine,” he said. “I think we all proved that they can’t do that. We will not be silenced.”
Michelle Malkin provided Breitbart News a statement prior to her Friday night appearance, which included the following: “It is especially important to support young people defying university bullies and political mafia bosses. They have the most at stake.”
It would do well to note that even the leftist ACLU has declared on its website that,
Restrictions on speech by public colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. Such restrictions deprive students of their right to invite speech they wish to hear, debate speech with which they disagree, and protest speech they find bigoted or offensive.
These are nice words, but one can’t help from wondering: Where was the ACLU when the University of Maine took away the College Republicans’ official student club status at the university after their faculty adviser resigned her position because she did not like the views of the speaker the College Republicans group chose to invite?
Amy Fried, the faculty adviser-turned censor, is a leftist columnist as well as a professor. She tweeted recently that the indicted Lev Parnas’s interview with Rachel Maddow supplied a “smoking gun” against President Trump. Ms. Fried was not exactly objective when serving as the College Republicans’ faculty adviser. Her pretext for resigning was apparently Michelle Malkin’s refusal to explicitly disavow a group of America First nationalists led by the controversial far-right activist Nick Fuentes. Professor Fried tweeted: “Reality: I didn’t want to be associated with a group that invited a speaker who a conservative group took off their speakers bureau due to her praise of Holocaust denier.”
Nick Fuentes and his American First nationalist group have indeed engaged in despicable anti-Semitic tropes and Holocaust “revisionism” that deserve nothing but condemnation. Ms. Malkin has tried to walk a fine line, neither wholeheartedly embracing their views nor denouncing them in unambiguous terms as other conservative thinkers have done.
“I do not agree with every last thing they’ve said or written or published or tweeted or thought with their inside or outside voices,” Michelle Malkin told an audience at UCLA last November, referring to the America First nationalists. “But I will not disavow any of them and I will not join the de-platforming witch hunters who hypocritically call themselves free speech and culture warriors.”
Malkin’s ambiguous stance towards Nick Fuentes and his America First group has drawn criticism not only from the Left, but also from some of her admirers. For example, in “A Letter to Michelle Malkin,” published in the pages of this magazine last December, one such admirer, Vanessa Jones, urged Ms. Malkin to “stand up to Nick Fuentes” as much as she has stood up against Fuentes’ critics in mainstream conservative circles for being too soft on immigration.
Jones’ article was full of praise for Malkin and for all her great work. It simply asked her to distance herself from Fuentes, for whom it appears she has a serious blind spot. But the answer to such a blind spot must not be censorship.
Writing an open letter to Michelle Malkin for the purpose of trying to persuade her with well-reasoned arguments is one thing. Shutting down her right to free speech is quite another. And this Stalinist act affects not only Malkin, but all of us.
The University of Maine, a public university, violated Ms. Malkin’s First Amendment right of free speech and the students’ First Amendment right to hear her speak on campus. The university administration should have immediately appointed a replacement faculty adviser, which would have permitted the College Republicans to host Ms. Malkin on campus. If that was not possible to accomplish in time, the administration should have made up for the disruption that the politically biased faculty adviser’s sudden resignation caused by at least working with the College Republicans to find a suitable off-campus site for the event. Instead, it informed one facility that had originally agreed to host the event, the Portland Sheraton at Sable Oaks, that the University of Maine College Republicans were not an officially recognized student group at the university, causing the hotel to cancel.
“As a Nation we have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a decision involving the protection of speech of an extremely offensive and hateful nature (Snyder V. Phelps, 131 S. Ct. 1207 (2011)). The Supreme Court has also made it clear that the First Amendment precludes adoption of content-based regulations or viewpoint-based restrictions.
The publicly-funded University of Maine blatantly violated the Supreme Court’s most fundamental edicts protecting First Amendment rights. There should be consequences so that this does not happen again. And all Americans who care about the right to free speech must stand up for Michelle Malkin in this narrative, confront the totalitarians who are shutting her down, and call out the weak-kneed conservatives who are cowardly standing on the sidelines in silence.