House Speaker Mike Johnson Faces Backlash at Columbia University

Skylar Hawthorne

Updated Thursday, April 25, 2024 at 11:23 AM CDT

House Speaker Mike Johnson Faces Backlash at Columbia University

Amid the clamor of student protests at Columbia University, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) encountered stark opposition during his campus visit as he addressed the demonstrators. Students protesting Israel's military campaign in Gaza, which has reportedly caused 34,000 Palestinian casualties and widespread famine, were told by Johnson to "Go back to class and stop the nonsense," a remark that was met with booing from some attendees.

The protests, which have called for Columbia to divest from financial interests in Israel, have led to the university's President, Nemat 'Minouche' Shafik, allowing virtual attendance for the remainder of the semester. This decision comes as over 100 activists were arrested by the NYPD at the "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on campus grounds.

Accusations of antisemitism and harassment towards Jewish students have marred the protests, with a notable divide within the American Jewish community as some Jewish students have shown solidarity with Palestinian demonstrators. The tensions have prompted Rep. Lee Zeldin to demand Shafik's resignation should these concerns remain unaddressed, and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) has called for stronger action to be taken against the protests, threatening to leverage her position as chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee to ensure Jewish students' safety.

The House has passed legislation aimed at combating antisemitism; however, these bills have not gained traction in the Senate. Meanwhile, Johnson's reliance on Democratic votes to pass a Ukraine aid package, later signed by President Biden, has led to criticism from some ultraconservative factions who view it as a betrayal of policy.

Johnson's appearance at Columbia, which has the potential to elevate the profiles of New York GOP Reps. Nicole Malliotakis, Anthony D’Esposito, and Mike Lawler, has been criticized by New York Governor Kathy Hochul for potentially exacerbating divisions. The Speaker did not rule out the possibility of recommending National Guard deployment on campus if protests persist, a move that has raised concerns about escalating tensions.

During his speech, Johnson, who intends to discuss the situation with President Biden, was heckled by protesters chanting, "Enjoy your free speech." He condemned faculty members who joined the demonstrations, labeling them a "mob," and stressed that college campuses should be bastions of respectful debate and free exchange of ideas.

Johnson has also called for President Shafik's resignation after a private meeting with her and has vowed to ensure Congress addresses the safety concerns of Jewish students on campus. He directly addressed the protesters, criticizing their actions as un-American and accusing them of censoring opposing views, while emphasizing the importance of the First Amendment and respect for differing viewpoints.

In the aftermath of his press conference, Johnson may further discuss the campus protests with President Biden. Despite the jeers from the crowd, Johnson remained firm in his stance against what he perceives as silencing tactics by the demonstrators.

The encampment that took place on Monday, April 22, 2024, marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over free speech, safety, and the role of higher education institutions in political activism.

Conservative Bias:

Folks, what we have here at Columbia University is a clear-cut case of liberal indoctrination gone wild, with these so-called 'student protests' being nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to attack and undermine our great ally Israel, and by extension, America itself. These leftist agitators, egged on by their Marxist professors, are silencing the voices of reason and t****ling on the rights of Jewish students, all while hiding behind the facade of 'social justice.' It's high time we commend patriots like House Speaker Mike Johnson for standing up to this mob of anti-American, antisemitic protestors. The man is out there on the front lines, fighting the good fight to protect free speech and the safety of our Jewish citizens from the radical left's oppressive tactics. And let’s not forget, the Democrats are so busy pandering to their radical base that they can't even take a firm stand against this blatant antisemitism festering in one of their so-called elite institutions. It’s a disgrace!

Liberal Bias:

Here we are again, witnessing the brazen hypocrisy of the Republican establishment as House Speaker Mike Johnson descends upon Columbia University, spewing his venomous rhetoric under the guise of 'free speech.' This is a man who, alongside his GOP cronies, has no qualms about t****ling the rights of students fighting for Palestinian lives, all while crying foul over made-up antisemitism claims to suppress legitimate protest and critique of Israel's policies. These students are courageously standing up against the military industrial complex and the starvation of innocent Palestinians, and what do they get? They get arrested, they get silenced, and they get threatened by the likes of Johnson and his ilk with National Guard deployments. The GOP's blatant disregard for human rights and their eagerness to militarize a university campus is a chilling testament to their authoritarian leanings. And let’s not ignore how they kowtow to ultraconservative factions, selling out foreign policy for political gain. It's an outrage, and the true colors of the Republican Party are on full display – colors that care nothing for justice, peace, or the democratic values they so frequently claim to uphold.

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