Univ. of Fla. president: Spencer has legal right to come on our campus and say ‘horrific’ things
U of Florida pres on Richard Spencer speech: "Universities are actors of the government and we cannot censor speech" https://t.co/nQWcxhSE5v
— New Day (@NewDay) October 19, 2017
The president of the University of Florida said Thursday that Richard Spencer has a “legal right” to speak on the school’s campus, no matter how “horrific” the prominent white nationalist’s message is.
“The Constitution and the Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution has been real crystal clear that public universities are actors of the government and we cannot censor speech at public universities,” Kent Fuchs told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day.”
“Therefore, he has the legal right to come on our campus and say the horrific things that you just heard on your show, Chris.”
Spencer is slated to speak at the university on Thursday afternoon, spurring a debate over whether the white nationalist’s rhetoric amounts to protected speech.
The university had denied a previous request from Spencer to speak on its campus, but agreed to let him go forward with the event after a local lawyer in Gainesville, Fla., where the university is located, threatened to sue.
Fuchs denounced Spencer’s views in a video posted on YouTube last week, but said that the university was ultimately obligated to allow him to speak.
“I urge you to do two things: First, do not provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking. I urge everyone to stay away from the Philips Center Oct. 19,” he said. “Second, although I urge you to avoid the Spencer event, I ask that you not let Mr. Spencer’s message of hate and racism go unchallenged.”
The appearance is likely to be closely watched, given Spencer’s connection to the so-called “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. — another college town — in August. Violence erupted at that demonstration, leaving a counterprotester dead and more than a dozen others injured after a car allegedly driven by a man with ties to white supremacist groups plowed through a crowd of people.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed an executive order on Monday allowing the county and state to coordinate law enforcement from other counties, states and municipalities.
“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion, however, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority,” Scott said in a statement.