At a private dinner reception following his controversial event at Rockerfeller Hall on Tuesday, Tea Party leader Michael Johns defended his stances against protesters who disrupted him earlier that evening.
Protesters, who were not allowed to enter the lecture, argued that Johns’ lecture was “hate speech,” calling him a fascist and claiming that he legitimized harmful beliefs.
“I would have had answers to every single issue that [the protesters] brought up, but their goals was to ostracize alternative political thinking. That’s dangerous and undemocratic,” Johns said. “If you think of the definition of fascism, one of the primary tenets is shutting down political speech from opponents. The precise people doing that are those on the far-left who are trying to disrupt speeches by those who they ironically call fascists.”
Johns also criticized the University for failing to provide security for what he alleged were political reasons. Cornell Political Union, the student organization that hosted his talk, closed the event to the public after Cornell Police told the union it either had to pay $2,000 in security fees, cancel the event or make it private because of security concerns, according to Troy LeCaire ’17, the group’s president.
“The burden should never fall on a [student] organization” to maintain security, said Johns.
“Any other event on campus, that behavior would never have been tolerated,” he added. “Only as it relates to conservative political speech does the university not feel the obligation to maintain security at a peaceful event. This is happening at other universities too. Essentially, they found a process to shut down conservative thinking. … It is ultimately designed to shut down free speech.”
Johns said he spoke at Cornell with the aims of improving the reputation of conservatism in a place where it is often misread.
“My belief is that we have messages that should be carried everywhere, particularly in the areas where populist Tea-Partyism and Trumpism is misunderstood,” he said. “Hopefully for the 75 people here tonight, they saw that there is a leader of the Tea Party movement who is sincere about making the country better again.”
When asked about the partisan division within the United States, Johns answered that the key to national healing is listening to each other.
“I think there were some common denominator between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street,” Johns said. “We are not going to get anywhere if we don’t communicate.”
A former speechwriter for former President George H.W. Bush, Johns said he supported President Donald Trump early in the presidential race because he was attracted to Trump’s outsider candidacy and unique policy stance.
“I defended Trump since very early on,” Johns said. “First, I find it difficult that insider problems can be resolved by insiders. So the fact that he was an outsider was appealing. Second, he very clearly identified key issues that Republicans usually never touched, like trade agreement and illegal immigration, into tenants of his candidacy.”
Johns ended an interview with The Sun by reaffirming his faith in the Trump presidency.
“I believe very strongly that the programs put forth by Trump will, in fact, will make America great again,” he said.