I absolutely and unequivocally defend Ann Coulter’s right to speak at Berkeley. I also think she’s absolutely and unequivocally wrong to throw the Young America’s Foundation under the bus after she decided to cancel today’s planned public appearance on campus. Yesterday she tweeted that she was “so sorry Berkeley canceled my speech. I’m so sorry YAF acquiesced in the cancelation. And I’m so sorry for free speech crushed by thugs.”
This is wrong. YAF didn’t acquiesce. It sued the university. In essence, she’s condemning YAF for making exactly the same choice that she did – to not walk, unarmed, onto campus and confront a violent mob when the campus and city police had repeatedly proven that they were unwilling to protect innocent citizens from terrifying beatings.
YAF staffers and students are not cowards. Far from it. They’re among the bravest and best conservative ideological warriors on campus, but to ask them to face bike locks, baseball bats, and tear gas without the means to defend themselves and without the support of a police department that stands down more than it stands up is a bridge too far. The law still offers a solution to the crisis at Berkeley, and it is to the law that YAF has rightly turned.
The conservative movement (including conservatives in Congress and the White House) have barely begun to fight for free speech. We do not need to ask young students to bleed on the quad for their fundamental freedoms – not while a functioning government exists. If anyone needs to “man up” it’s the judges and legislators who’ve failed thus far in their duty to protect the First Amendment.
YAF has posted an FAQ on its website addressing Coulter’s claims. After noting that YAF has in the past directly defied protesters, it says this:
Berkeley presents a new situation. No venue or event time was ever approved by the school. There was no event to cancel, since no event in final form ever existed. On her own and without student involvement, Ann started telling people she would appear at an off-campus event. We told her she should feel free to do so, and we would still pay her for her time, but we were unwilling to put students’ physical safety at risk by sponsoring an open air event where violence was expected. Earlier this week, we hired and flew in three security detail personnel to Berkeley. They confirmed other intelligence we received that there was a heavy domestic terrorist presence and violence should be expected.
We also discovered that the University of California Police Department at Berkeley has an official “stand-down” policy for any situation that develops on campus as long as the situation doesn’t involve the imminent loss of life, allowing the leftist thugs who have terrorized Berkeley’s campus to do so without consequence.
This is an absurd position for the administration to take. Berkeley is a campus with a history of violence. Not an ancient history of violence, but a recent history. It threatens the safety and security of their own students. It runs counter to all free speech law and precedent. And these are not conditions under which YAF would agree to proceed with an event.
Coulter chose not face possible death or injury at Berkeley. So did YAF. They both made the right call. It’s disappointing though not entirely surprising to see her turn on her friend and ally. It’s time for her attacks to stop. I’ve spoken at YAF events at campuses across the country — at events paid and unpaid — and its staff and students have been unfailingly dedicated, courageous, and professional. Free speech has no better friend on campus than the Young America’s Foundation.