The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


Bernie Sanders defends Ann Coulter's right to speak


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) addresses an audience during a rally in Boston on March 31. (Steven Senne/Associated Press)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) defended Ann Coulter's right to speak without disruption or intimidation and criticized those who seek to prevent controversial speakers from being heard on college campuses. As the the Huffington Post reports:

"I don't like this. I don't like it," Sanders told The Huffington Post after speaking at a rally . . . "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." . . .

"To me, it's a sign of intellectual weakness," he said. "If you can't ask Ann Coulter in a polite way questions which expose the weakness of her arguments, if all you can do is boo, or shut her down, or prevent her from coming, what does that tell the world?"

"What are you afraid of ― her ideas? Ask her the hard questions," he concluded. "Confront her intellectually. Booing people down, or intimidating people, or shutting down events, I don't think that that works in any way."

The article also similar, though slightly less emphatic, comments by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

Sanders's comments stand in marked contrast to the anti-free-speech sentiments expressed by former governor Howard Dean. As Eugene Volokh noted in an earlier post, Dean's remarks also showed little understanding of the First Amendment.