Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared on “Face the Nation” Sunday to denounce efforts by students at various universities to shut down free speech, and the violence some have resorted to in order to silence others.
Sanders has been outspoken on the issue of free speech in the wake of the attempted June 14 shooting of GOP legislators in Alexandria, Virginia, that wounded five, including Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.).
The shooter, James Hodgkinson, was a die-hard Sanders supporter who had volunteered for Sanders’ campaign during the 2016 election before he was killed by police during the shooting. Hodgkinson’s cover photo was a picture of Sanders, and was later found to have social media posts excoriating Republicans, and belonged to Facebook groups such as “Terminate the Republican Party,” “The Road To Hell Is Paved With Republicans,” and “Donald Trump is not my President.”
On the day the shooting occurred, Sanders said he was “sickened” by the fact that someone who participated in his campaign attempted to murder his colleagues. He condemned the shooting during a speech on the House floor, saying “real change can only come about through non-violent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.”
Sunday, Sanders voiced his support for free speech to “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson, and encouraged Americans to stand up against violence.
“Look, freedom of speech, the right to dissent, the right to protest, that is what America is about,” Sanders said. “And, politically, every leader in this country, every American has got to stand up against any form of violence. That is unacceptable. And I certainly hope and pray that Representative Scalise has a full recovery from the tragedy that took place.”
Dickerson asked Sanders where he comes down on the issue of campus free speech, noting the various recent protests and attempts to silence speakers students do not agree with. Sanders shook his head in disagreement before Dickerson finished asking the question.
“I think people have a right to speak,” Sanders said, “and you have a right, if you are on a college campus, not to attend. You have a right to ask hard questions about the speaker if you disagree with him or her.
“But what — why should we be afraid of somebody coming on a campus or anyplace else and speaking?” Sanders continued. “You have a right to protest. But I don’t quite understand why anybody thinks it is a good idea to deny somebody else the right to express his or her point of view.”
Sanders told Dickerson that we are in a “contentious and difficult political moment” in our country, and expressed his “grave concerns” about the Trump agenda. The Vermont senator surmised that the “vast majority” of Americans disagreed with the approach, but stated that “you don’t have to be violent about it.”
“Let’s disagree openly and honestly, but violence is not acceptable,” Sanders said.
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