Bernie Sanders, Bill Maher Defend Ann Coulter's Freedom to Speak at Berkeley

Berkeley riots
Demonstrators for (R) and against (L) U.S. President Donald Trump push a garbage container toward each other during a rally in Berkeley, California in Berkeley, California, U.S., April 15, 2017. |

A number of liberal voices, including Democrat Bernie Sanders and HBO host Bill Maher, have backed conservative pundit Ann Coulter's free speech rights, after she was threatened for wanting to speak at the University of California at Berkeley.

As The Washington Post reported on Saturday, Coulter was originally scheduled to deliver a speech there on April 27, but "security concerns" forced the university last week to cancel her event.

Ann Coulter
Commentator Ann Coulter delivers remarks to the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 12, 2011. |

Coulter was later invited to speak on campus on May 2, but she turned down the offer, vowing to speak on the original date.

Although both Sanders and Maher separately said that they do not agree with Coulter's conservative views, they both condemned threats against her safety, and attempts to censor her free speech rights.

Sen. Sanders, I-Vt., who was a Democratic candidate for president in 2016, told The Huffington Post last week in regard to the story: "I don't like this. I don't like it."

He added: "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."

The campus protesters showed signs of "intellectual weakness," Sanders noted. 

"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?"

Maher commented on Friday night on his "Real Time with Bill Maher" show:

"I like her [Coulter] as a person. I've never agreed with one thing she ever said."

Maher, whose criticism of radical Islam also moved Berkeley students to petition against him back in 2014 as the university's commencement speaker, said that although he expects the university to do the right thing and allow her to speak, the controversy shows that such freedoms are under attack.

"Berkeley, you know, used to be the cradle of free speech, and now it's just the cradle for [expletive] babies."

Maher further compared the university's original cancellation of Coulter's speech to "the liberals' version of book burning."

"And I feel like this goes on all over the country on campuses," he continued. "They invite someone to speak who's not exactly what liberals want to hear, and they want to shutter it. ... And it's got to stop."

Coulter explained in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News last week that the university is denying that it is trying to censor free speech, and has insisted that it simply needs more time to prepare to host her event.

"We will find out if they arrest me when I show up to give my speech" on April 27, Coulter said, noting that Berkley is a tax-payer funded institution, with a number of students receiving federal help to be there.

Conservative radio talk show host Ben Shapiro, meanwhile, showed clips from a self-proclaimed anti-fascist group participating in violent clashes at Berkley earlier in April against a march in support for President Donald Trump.

"There are pictures of people who are super bloody, there are pictures of people being hit across the face," Shapiro said, and claimed that it wasn't the Trump supporters who started the fight, but the ANTIFA group.

Shapiro blasted the police for not intervening in the fight, with reports coming out that a person was stabbed in the clashes, while others were injured.

Lauren Southern, a Canadian conservative and libertarian activist, who said that she witnessed the ANTIFA clashes first hand, told Shapiro that conservatives are tired of being "shut down by military leftists."

Southern explained that the Trump supporters were told by authorities not to bring any kind of weapons to defend themselves at the rally, but police stood down as soon as the ANTIFA group arrived and started physically attacking the conservatives.

"We were left in this area surrounded by ANTIFA totally disarmed, and things just turned into chaos. It was fists flying everywhere."

Southern further accused the ANTIFA members of "lacking any morals," covering their faces with masks so that police can't identify them, and hurling "bricks and rocks into the crowd," in a "literal attempt at murder."

Other conservatives, such as former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, have also been threatened and prevented from speaking at Berkeley.

Yiannopoulos, whose planned speaking event in February was canceled after protesters threw rocks, broke windows and started fires, announced on Friday that he will be returning to the university later this year for a multi-day free speech event.

"I intend to return Berkeley to its rightful place as the home of free speech — whether university administrators and violent far-left ANTIFA thugs like it or not," he said on Facebook.

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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