The Corner

Bill Ayers and Free Speech

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been as critical as anyone of Bill Ayers. Not only do I disagree with his ideas, but as I show in some detail in Radical-in-Chief, neither Ayers nor President Obama have been truthful about the nature of their political partnership (which was anything but a side-show in Obama’s life). Even former Weather Underground terrorists who have trouble telling the truth are entitled to free speech, however.

That’s why I’m delighted to see that FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has successfully defended [link fixed] Ayers’ ability to address the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at Montclair State University. It seems that Montclair State adopted a tactic sometimes deployed to keep controversial speakers off campus. They tried to assess the SDS a special fee to pay for security during Ayers’ speech. This tactic has been used to discourage conservative and libertarian speakers form appearing on campuses, and FIRE has intervened in those cases as well.

I personally wouldn’t invite Bill Ayers to speak to students. But a university SDS chapter did, and their rights ought to be protected. As Bill Ayers himself once put it: “Guilty as hell, free as a bird — America is a great country.” Actually, it is.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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