Donald Trump

Donald Trump Calls the Campus Free Speech Crisis 'Highly Overblown'

"I think the numbers are actually much different than people think."


Oliver Contreras/Sipa USA/Newscom

President Donald Trump stunned many in the media yesterday when he opined that the so-called campus free speech crisis is "highly overblown"—and he has a point, though I ultimately think he's wrong.

Trump probably doesn't realize it, but this actually puts him in the same category as left-of-center pundits like Matt Yglesias and Noah Berlatsky, who have long argued that these campus controversies do not reflect a systemic and increasing leftist hostility to free speech.

Trump's comment came while fielding a question from Charlie Kirk, the president of Turning Point USA, during a White House forum on millennial Republican issues. Kirk, whose group is a major player in the campus speech battles, asked Trump, "What advice do you have for young patriots and conservatives on campus that support your agenda that are being ridiculed and silenced because of administrations that are clamping down on free speech?"

Trump responded:

I think the numbers are actually much different than people think. I think we have a lot of support. If they have one campus or two campuses, and we know what they are, it gets all the publicity. We have campuses where you have a vast majority of people that are perhaps like many of the people in this room, you could call it conservative, you call it whatever you want, but there are people that want free speech.

If you look [at] what's going on with free speech, with the super-left, with Antifa, with all of these characters—I'll tell you what, they get a lot of publicity, but you go to the real campuses and you go all over the country, you go out to the Middle West, you go out even to the coast in many cases, we have tremendous support. I would say we have majority support. I think it's highly overblown. Highly overblown.

If Kirk was surprised by this remark, he didn't show it, instead volunteering that he "completely agreed" with the president.

ThinkProgress had some fun with this turn of events. "Trump attends event about campus political correctness crisis, accidentally admits it doesn't exist" was the headline.

Trump, of course, made political correctness a central issue during the campaign—which arguably played a role in his victory—so it may seem a little weird for him to pull his punches now.

But let's not forget that Trump is really bad at acknowledging how many people dislike him. He has claimed, for instance, that he would have won the popular vote (despite losing it by nearly 3 million votes) if illegal immigrants' votes were discounted. I suspect that Kirk's framing of the question put political correctness in tension with Trump's ego; unsurprisingly, ego won out.

That said, Trump is right that many college campuses across the country are home to students whose politics are far less radical than the activists of Reed, Middlebury, Oberlin, Yale, Berkeley, etc. And even the most radical campuses include thousands of students with no interest in disinviting or shouting down speakers.

As I wrote in my recent piece explaining why I think there is a campus speech problem—if not a full blown crisis—the real question is whether the small subset of speech-hostile students have been more successful at enforcing their agenda over the course of the past few years. There's some reason to think that this is the case: Illiberal students have gained power relative to the faculty, and administrators are increasingly eager to meet their demands. The myriad reasons for this include compliance culture, a broadening understanding of what safety entails, and explicit guidance from the Department of Education, among other things.

NEXT: The Intellectual Poverty of the Southern Poverty Law Center

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  1. A White House forum on millennial republican issues?

    End it all.

    1. It’s a ruse to get them all in one place.

      1. Shouldn’t be too hard to get both of them in the same room.

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    2. Or just neo-con brainstorming.

    3. This is the Nikki of I-hate-everyone-in-this-story stories.

      1. Aww, Nikki. Nobody rocked anti-natalism like Nikki.

        1. I wonder what she’s up to? Burning down fertility clinics, probably.

      2. It’s like if Bill Kristol and Karl Rove shared a slice of avocado toast.

        1. Sean Hannity gives and old fashion to Rush L.

        2. In the nude.

          1. Being lewd with the food.

            1. That’s OK, I didn’t want to eat this week anyway.

              1. Come on, Eddie. You know avocado would make a great lube.

                1. Um … I prefer synthetic lube. It is less like to harbor microbes.

    4. “Millennial Republican Issues” are AKA “alt-right”.

      1. What is the alt-right again?

        Are they people who want the rights granted in the bill of rights?

        1. Republicans in skinny jeans, I think…

        2. I’m still trying to figure out what alt-text is…

      2. The funny thing is, the Alt-Right is really just pre 1970s conservatives coming back around. They say fuck all this PC bullshit, they mostly want to go back to constitutionally limited government, and they want to stop letting in hordes of immigrants.

        There are crazies who consider themselves Alt-Right, like actual Nazis, but everybody else pretty much looks at them as just as big of douches as the rest of the country. They’re more just militant “Fuck you pussies, I’m speaking my mind commie!” conservatives who don’t feel the need to pander to the left. That’s why they’re growing. I’m tired of pandering to leftist idiots too. The left has been aggressive, cruel, and unfair to the right for decades… It’s time they get hit back.

  2. …he would have won the popular vote (despite losing it by nearly 3 million votes) if illegal immigrants’ votes were discounted.

    Prove him wrong. BUZZZZZ. Too late. Didn’t think so. Now, let’s talk about crowd sizes.

    1. What is the correct opinion on the number of illegal immigrant voters?

      Few? Negligible? Many? Unknown?

      1. The correct answer is “*scoff*”.

      2. tough number to call.

        Kind of like the cost benefit ratio of a publicly funded stadium.

      3. The PC answer is that it is so close to nil that it warrants no concern.

      4. In our highly bureaucratized system, I’m sure a few have slipped through. But any more than a dozen in my populous county would surprise the shit out of me. I’m confident that there are more dead registered voters who voted than illegal immigrant registered voters who voted.

        1. I dunno man. I grew up in California. You know how many illegals have real drivers licenses and shit? Like all of them. They apply for all kinds of other state benefits too. In some places they automatically register you to vote when you get licenses even!

          So I think it’s a small problem in saaay Kansas, but in Cali or Texas? It’s probably a lot bigger than many would think. Not likely millions though.

          1. Could free staters take over a rural county in northern New Hampshire and turn it into a sanctuary for illegal immigrants? They don’t get to vote, but the county gets representation in congress based on their presence.

            1. Well, that’s how the whole country currently works! I don’t think it would do any good for anybody though… All the illegals would make quality of life go to shit in New Hampshire as well. I think most of the people who have bleeding heart sympathies towards these people have never actually lived in areas taken over by them. My hometown is basically a godforsaken 3rd world shithole now. It didn’t used to be.

            2. Some malcontents tried that in Alpine County in the 70s or 80sb and it went pear shaped on them

      5. That depends on the available evidence. Care to share any, Tulpa?

  3. He was talking about Bill Clinton, hey-o!

    1. Too retro? Too tasteless? Both?

        1. Premature, even?

  4. Even when Trump is right, he’s usually right for the wrong reasons.

  5. The college campus is no different than the beer hall putsch.

    And it damn sure is something to be concerned about. Anytime you get a bunch of ignorant immature dopes together and give them something to complain about, you usually get some form of violence or otherwise violation of liberty.

    college campus antifa
    black lives matter
    SJW antifa
    skinhead Nazis
    religious zealots – i.e. muslims or Christians

    1. The college campus is no different from the beer hall putsch.

      They are literally the same.

      1. Please. College kids know that beer is best served COLD.

    2. climate alarmists.

    3. Wasn’t the famous beer hall putsch a gun battle and failed coup attempt involving locking up high level government people. It really doesn’t seem the same at all to me.

  6. Damn, I wouldn’t fuck with the Super Left.

  7. “Overblown” has never been my nickname, sadly.

  8. “Middle West”?

  9. Haha. He blew his chance to play the right-wing victim of evil liberal censors because his ego wouldn’t let him see his supporters as a fringe element.

    1. Hey, are you on drums in our new band?

      1. I’m a violinist. We don’t learn other, lesser, instruments.

        1. That’s a dildo, not a violin. Your step dad’s violin lessons weren’t what you think they were.

        2. It’s true; other instruments are too hard.

        3. Drummers aren’t actually classified as musicians. They are lesser beings.

          1. Oh sure.

            The cello and violin version of Led Zeppelin’s “whole lotta love” just sends chills down my spine.

            If there are no drums it may still be music. Kinda like chamomile tea is still a drink.

            We drummers might be primitive beings but chicks like that.

  10. Are you really this stupid?

    Trump said that the majority don’t agree with the violent leftists–that their influence is way overblown. That they are given too much credit.

    He wasn’t saying that they don’t exist.

  11. “this actually puts him in the same category as left-of-center pundits like Matt Yglesias and Noah Berlatsky,”

    I believe the category is called, “Idiot”

  12. “CORRECTION: the president’s quotes were later determined to have been muddled by journalists; the president in fact said, “He thought it would be great if some college kids would blow him, for free

  13. It can’t be bad, because he’s president, you see, and everyone secretly loves him.

  14. These campuses are modern day brown-shirt factories. These tankers on college campuses are just bottom feeders and should be shunned by any civilized person.

  15. “I think the numbers are actually much different than people think.[…] but there are people that want free speech.
    If you look [at] what’s going on with free speech, with the super-left, with Antifa, with all of these characters?I’ll tell you what, they get a lot of publicity, but you go to the real campuses and you go all over the country, you go out to the Middle West, you go out even to the coast in many cases, we have tremendous support. I would say we have majority support. I think it’s highly overblown. Highly overblown.”

    I have a hard time arguing with that statement.
    We get the legacy media reports of lefty thugs at “Your Fav State U” shutting down a proposed visit by Milo (or some other righty), but of course he’s not about to go to George Mason, so we get the reports of the thugs at Cal Berkeley.
    I doubt Trump has the data to support the claim, but I also doubt Robbie has the data to support the opposite claim.
    The “silent majority” claimed by Nixon may not have be a majority, but until he was shown to a fool, there may well have been enough to support him.
    There was (and perhaps is) sufficient support to get Trump elected over that hag, and the left has not yet shed denial.

  16. I think he’s right and wrong. I think the lefties at colleges have had their power exaggerated… BUT it’s still a pretty major problem, and trending in the wrong direction.

    Either way, as per usual, he could have expressed things a lot better.

  17. So why did Charlie Kirk say “I totally agree”? I think someone is trying to sow division here where none exists.

  18. The executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) was at that White House forum, and he thought Trump was saying something much different:

    “But having been in the audience, it was clear to me that he was saying that the idea that young people on campuses are overwhelmingly opposed to *him* was ‘highly overblown.'” [Emphasis in original]…..on-campus/

  19. Overblown.

    Here’s how this works.

    20 screaming protesters manage to shut down a speech that 300 people want to see.

    Who’s got the majority? The protesters? Or the speechmaker?

    Threats of violence are really good at shutting things down–especially these days. And they let you appear to be a larger, stronger, and more dangerous organization than you are.


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