Sessions on Campus Free Speech: There Is a Bias Against Conservative Speech

September 27, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday on "Fox & Friends" that he believes there is a bias against conservative speech on college campuses.

"Fox & Friends" co-host Steve Doocy referred to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro's recent appearance at University of California Berkely as an example of bias on campuses. The event cost $600,000 for security related expenses, and reports leading up the event described how the university was "bracing" for Shapiro. Doocy argued that it hasn't been all sides whose free speech rights are "suffocated."

"It is just one side," that is being suffocated, Doocey said.

"Right. What we see often is the heckler's veto, we call it," Sessions responded. "That means that a group of protesters raise a ruckus before a speaker comes. Often the speech is either canceled or put in a secondary location that is not effective."

"There is a bias, I think personally, pretty clearly against conservative speech," Sessions added.

Sessions further discussed the measures Berkely took to manage the conservative event on campus. The university sent out a campus-wide email to students and staff prior to the speech, offering counseling services to those offended by Shapiro's speech.

"This is kind of ridiculous. We need robust, open, debate on college campuses," Sessions said.

Earlier in the conversation, the attorney general made it clear campus free speech is an issue he is committed to addressing.

"We want to speak out first of all and call on presidents, trustees, legislators, and donors to make sure their colleges aren't suffocating speech," Sessions said.

The attorney general said his time talking to college students informed him on the issue, and the Department of Justice will intervene as necessary.

"I truly believe in talking to a lot of young college graduates that we have drifted way too far in controlling speech. I wanted to make that point, number one. Number two, we can intervene and will intervene in various lawsuits where we believe students are being constricted in their right to speak out and express themselves."

Sessions argued it was his duty as attorney general to defend first amendment rights.

"It is a civil right. The Department of Justice has a duty to defend people's civil rights," he said.

A day earlier, at Georgetown University Law Center, Sessions lamented how colleges have been "transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos," CNN reported.

He castigated universities who give in to protestor demands on a controversial speaker as giving in to a "heckler's veto."