Conservative firebrand author Ann Coulter was set to speak at the University of California in Berkeley this week, sponsored by a Republican student group on campus. Leading up to the date, numerous threats of violence were received and threats of a riot caused the university to cancel the event citing public safety concerns. Coulter is widely disdained on the left, but she did receive support for her right to speak at a public facility from some unlikely allies.
The HuffPost reports on Bernie Sanders’ decision to voice support for Coulter’s right to speak, though he completely disagrees with everything she’ll say:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) criticized the security threats to a speaking event by conservative pundit Ann Coulter at the University of California, Berkeley that prompted the school to postpone the talk.
“I don’t like this. I don’t like it,” Sanders told The Huffington Post after speaking at a rally for Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello on Thursday night. “Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous ? to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.”
University officials on Tuesday night informed Berkeley’s College Republicans, who invited Coulter to speak, that the April 27 event would need to be rescheduled due to concerns that her speech would set off violent protests and make it difficult to maintain campus security.
Campus police have learned that groups responsible for recent clashes during demonstrations on campus and throughout the city planned to target Coulter’s event, according to the university.
Support wasn’t limited to Sanders. The liberal firebrand of the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, also offered support for Coulter’s right to attend and speak at the campus:
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren voiced her opinion on the controversy behind conservative pundit Ann Coulter’s visit to the University of California, Berkeley.
“Ann Coulter has just gotten a much bigger platform because someone tried to deny her a chance to speak,” Warren told CNN host Jake Tapper in an interview Monday night.
“My view is, let her speak and don’t show up. If you don’t like it, don’t show up,” Warren told Tapper, who asked her opinion as a law professor and someone who has been at Harvard a long time.
Sanders and Warren are on the right side of this matter as defenders of free speech. Bernie knows firsthand what it means to speak your mind and challenge conventional norms, having spent months battling Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016.
Elizabeth Warren pointed out the ultimate truth, which is that by threatening the speech and with the campus ultimately asking her not to come, Coulter received national media recognition and more publicity than she would have gotten simply by allowing the speech to go on as planned.
However, even with some growing support, Coulter canceled her appearance and says she won’t be speaking due to serious safety concerns:
UPDATE: Conservative commentator Ann Coulter says she has canceled her speech planned for this week at UC Berkeley
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) April 26, 2017
As Bernie said, trying to quell speech that you disagree with makes your position look fairly weak. If you’re unable to hear dissension and counter it with your own opinions and beliefs, then where does the problem truly reside?