Will UVa Cancel Mike Pence?

by James A. Bacon

One might think that former Vice President Mike Pence would have earned a little cred for standing up to Donald Trump in overseeing the counting of electoral votes that resulted in the 2020 election of Joe Biden. So furious about this supposed betrayal is Trump that he has declared he would rule out asking Pence to join his ticket if he decides to run again for president in 2024. But in some quarters, the former VEEP is so racist, so sexist so homophobic, and his views are so reprehensible, so beyond the pale, and so hurtful, that he should be denied the opportunity to speak at the University of Virginia.

With financial support from The Jefferson Council, on whose board I serve, the Young Americans for Freedom have invited Pence to speak at UVa on April 12. Five days ago, the editorial board of the student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, expressed strong disapproval of university leadership’s decision to allow the speech to take place.

“Dangerous rhetoric is not entitled to a platform,” says the editorial headline. “Speech that threatens the lives of those on the Grounds is unjustifiable,” reads the sub-head.

Yes, you read that correctly. Not only is Pence’s speech bigoted, hurtful, and violent, it literally threatens the well-being, safety and even the very lives of UVa students!

Fortunately, the impulse to condemn thought crimes is not universal in the UVa student body. In a Cavalier Daily column today, Sarita Mehta, a fourth-year student who serves as the student representative on the Board of Visitors, defended Pence’s right to speak. She shares the opinion that Pence espouses views that are racist, bigoted and hateful, but she does recognize that nearly half the country voted for him.

“The polarization and division that asphyxiate our democracy require not a further disregard of other opinions, but the summoning of every ounce of courage to look at the world as it is,” she writes. “The duty of a university is to present the world unfiltered, allowing students to determine for themselves what is wrong and right and to engage with the discomfort of difference.”

So far, UVa leadership has remained silent on the matter, which the CD editorial staff writers interpret, probably accurately, as acquiescence to the speech.

I urge you to read the Editorial Board’s entire piece. While it may be a minority view at UVa, it is an influential one — and it is scary that people think this way. The portrayal of Pence’s opinions is so distorted as to defy belief. I find myself offended (though not triggered or needing a safe space) by nearly every sentence in the column — especially the insinuation that the former VP is only one step removed from being a White supremacist.

Referring to the 2018 Unite the Right Rally,  the writers taint Pence by association with President Trump — “the man who called those same white supremacists ‘very fine people.’ Though Pence’s language may not be as overt as the white supremacy expressed during the events of Aug. 11 and 12, we must all be concerned about the message his rhetoric could imply we accept.”

Set aside the endlessly repeated lie about “very fine people” — which referred to people on different sides of the Civil War statue debate, not to White supremacists. The writers are saying that Pence’s beliefs (or what they perceive as his beliefs based on tendentious descriptions of them) are so vile, so atrocious, that they “threaten the well-being and safety of students on the Grounds.”

This is totalitarian logic. UVa is not paying for Pence to come. No one is compelling anyone to listen to his speech. But there are students and other members of the UVa community who would like to hear what the former Vice President of the United States has to say… rather than accept distorted representations of his views from those who detest him. Those people have rights, too. But in the minds of the CD editorial writers, their rights don’t warrant consideration of any kind. The tender feelings of a minority trump (so to speak) the rights of all others to listen to speakers they would like to hear.

I shudder to think what will happen when the CD snowflakes depart their academic bubble and enter the real world, where tens of millions of grotesque people who voted for Pence insist upon saying what they please, and there are no means to deplatform them. Imagine the endless triggering that will take place. While I appreciate the fact that the UVa administration appears to be siding with free speech on this particular issue, at some point it must reckon with its failure to prepare its students for the real world.

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Wahoo74
Wahoo74
6 months ago

Agree 100% Jim. Below is a copy of my comment on the Cavalier Daily website after reading that article. By the way, the speech is April 12, not March 31.

So, Ms. Bass, you are for free speech unless the person speaking has an opinion contrary to yours that you deem is so important that he or she cannot be even allowed on Grounds. Sorry, that’s not “believing in free speech.”

Many rational, compassionate people believe in traditional marriage. Former President Obama’s 2008 Presidential platform openly rejected same sex marriage ( https://www.nytimes.com/…/01/us/politics/01marriage.html). Does that make him a homophobe or a hypocrite since his 2012 platfrom espoused gay marriage? Or was Obama just taking a politically expedient position that he and VP Biden felt was their best option to get elected? Should Obama and Biden now be banned from speaking at UVA?

I welcome former VP Pence, who has nuanced positions on many subjects. He also rightly and openly rejected then President Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results. You cannot judge anyone based upon one issue with which you disagree, unless you yourself are intolerant.

Pence is a man of principle and conviction. A huge swath of humanity and numerous religions affirm “traditional” marriage while not condemning homosexuals. That does not make them worthy of scorn and social rejection, any more than your sexual preferences should make you the object of intolerance. I personally am tolerant of same sex marriage, believeing it to be prefereable to non-monogamous multiple relationships, but understand the position of those who think traditional marriage is the bedrock of society and their religious beliefs.

Perhaps you ought to look long and hard into a mirror the next time you accuse former VP Mike Pence or anyone else of intolerance. Let him speak, attend the talk, and engage him in civil discourse during the Q&A. That is what intellectual diversity is all about. It’s what the Free Expression Committee President Ryan approved theoretically wants. We’ll see if it works.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
6 months ago

Agree 100%, Jim. Below is the comment that I left on the CD website after reading this editorial. By the way, the VP Pence talk is April 12, not March 31.

So, Ms. Bass, you are for free speech unless the person speaking has an opinion contrary to yours that you deem is so important that he or she cannot be even allowed on Grounds. Sorry, that’s not “believing in free speech.”

Many rational, compassionate people believe in traditional marriage. Former President Obama’s 2008 Presidential platform openly rejected same sex marriage ( https://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/01/us/politics/01marriage.html). Does that make him a homophobe or a hypocrite since his 2012 platform espoused gay marriage? Or was Obama just taking a politically expedient position that he and VP Biden felt was their best option to get elected? Should Obama and Biden now be banned from speaking at UVA?

I welcome former VP Pence, who has nuanced positions on many subjects. He also rightly and openly rejected then President Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results. You cannot judge anyone based upon one issue with which you disagree, unless you yourself are intolerant.

Pence is a man of principle and conviction. A huge swath of humanity and numerous religions affirm “traditional” marriage while not condemning homosexuals. That does not make them worthy of scorn and social rejection, any more than your sexual preferences should make you the object of intolerance. I personally am tolerant of same sex marriage, believing it to be preferable to non-monogamous multiple relationships, but understand the position of those who think traditional marriage is the bedrock of society and their religious beliefs.

Perhaps you ought to look long and hard into a mirror the next time you accuse former VP Mike Pence or anyone else of intolerance. Let him speak, attend the talk, and engage him in civil discourse during the Q&A. That is what intellectual diversity is all about. It’s what the Free Expression Committee President Ryan approved theoretically wants. We’ll see if it works.

Coleman Goodwin, '64
Coleman Goodwin, '64
6 months ago

Disturbing how UVA’s values have fallen since I attended 1960-1964 in the “College”. During my tenure the student body . allowed speakers such as Gus Hall-head of the American Communist Party & Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi organization to speak on the Grounds in true UVA tradition of hearing the opinions of those we dispised. The current students in control are the “truly intolerant” ones.

J Callahan
J Callahan
6 months ago

the *2018* Unite the Right Rally?
It’s sad that an organization dedicated to the University of Virginia can’t manage to keep their.facts straight regarding such a watershed event right there in Charlottesville. It speaks volumes about the level of thought put in to the piece.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
6 months ago
Reply to  J Callahan

You miss the forest for the trees. Ignore the typo, understand the larger issues.

J Callahan
J Callahan
6 months ago
Reply to  Wahoo74

I understand the larger issue. In no way would UVA be infringing on Mr. Pence’s free speech rights.

Mr. Pence doesn’t need UVA in order to be heard. He has no shortage of media access. He can get time on any of the nationally-televised Sunday morning programs. He could get a full hour on 60 minutes. He has a standing invitation to meet with the Jan 6th committee.

What Mr Pence wants is to use UVA’s platform to enhance his image. UVA is under no obligation to afford him that privilege, particularly after Mr. Pence’s milquetoast praise of Donald Trump’s handling of the aftermath of the Unite the Right Rally.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
6 months ago
Reply to  J Callahan

So you don’t want speakers who differ with your world view allowed on Grounds? I agree with Pence’s policies, as do tens of millions of US citizens. You don’t want “free speech,” you want speakers who affirm your perspective on life.

I differ strongly with the majority of speakers UVA has deemed worthy of attendance on Grounds the past decade. I didn’t object to that. I do object to not allowing conservatives being allowed equal time.

Also, Pence’s talk costs UVA nothing. YAF and The Jefferson Council are paying 100% of Pence’s fees. UVA did pay for many of the leftist speakers under the Ryan regime, coming out of parents’ tuition money, alumni/ae donations, funds that could have gone to potential scholarships for worthy UVA students.

Just thought you’d also want to know that.

J Callahan
J Callahan
6 months ago
Reply to  Wahoo74

You are extrapolating my comments about Mr. Pence and assuming they apply to all conservatives. Please do not do that.

Again this is not an issue of “free speech”.
Mr. Pence is free to say whatever he wants. People are allowed to agree or disagree with him. And UVA is free to decide whether or not to use their facilities to elevate that speech. Madating equal time is antithetical to actual freedom of speech. That is the reason the “Fairness Doctrine” was abandoned during the Reagan administration.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
6 months ago
Reply to  J Callahan

Last comment. What you just said makes no sense whatsoever.

J Callahan
J Callahan
6 months ago
Reply to  Wahoo74

I am legitimately sorry that you think so. But if may explain why you think that this is a about “free speech”.