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Protesters hold signs at Ann Coulter's speech at Cornell Law, Myron Taylor Hall, Nov. 9, 2022.

November 13, 2022

Ann Coulter ’84 Speaking Event at Cornell a Non-Starter After Disruptions, Protest Prompt an Early Exit

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Conservative media pundit and author Ann Coulter ’84 was invited to speak at Cornell on Wednesday, Nov. 10 to talk about the midterm elections and host a Q and A. Coulter was met with a strong coalition of students standing against her with at least eight individuals being removed from the venue for disrupting her speech.

The event was hosted by the Network of Enlightened Women, a campus conservative women’s network. Members of Cornell Republicans assisted in the promotion and staffing of the event. 

The event was barely off its feet, however, before protesters interrupted. When Coulter was introduced, one student played “Entrance of the Gladiators” by Julius Fučík — commonly known as the Circus Theme — as she approached the podium. As the music reverberated throughout the silent lecture hall, the student said, “Go back to the circus Ann.” The student was escorted out without incident. 

Not more than a few minutes had gone by before other protesters began sporadically interrupting the event. Some blew raspberries and shouted their disapproval, another blew a loud whistle. 

“No KKK, no fascist USA,” said two students, before being escorted out. 

Coulter rose to fame for her criticism of the Clinton Administration in the late 1990s, but has since grown into a harsh critic of American liberalism and what she deems as the silencing of conservative values. She has also gained notoriety for her controversial and offensive statements over the course of the last two decades. 

In the past, Coulter made targeted remarks of hate against numerous marginalized groups including Muslims, Latino immigrants, Jewish people and women.

As early as Tuesday evening, pamphlets were placed throughout Goldwin Smith Hall, rallying students to protest outside Cornell Law School, where Coulter planned to speak. 

“Bigots Like Ann Coulter Aren’t Welcome at Cornell,” read one sign, “Don’t allow Ann Coulter a platform for her hate: Protest her speech at Cornell!”

The entrance to Landis Hall at the Cornell Law School was patrolled by security guards, and several were scattered throughout the hall itself. Campus police officers were also stationed, standing in the sidelines and the back of the hall, as well as three outside the Law School building. 

Outside, a few protesters gathered, but not amounting to more than 20 in total. One protester held a sign, reading, “We don’t support white supremacists.”

Bags were forbidden from the hall, as per Coulter’s team’s requests. 

Many students had booked tickets on Eventbrite, but were declined at the door after being told that only tickets reserved through Cornell’s Ticket Office website were valid. However, students with Eventbrite reservations were suddenly let in right before the event was about to begin, filling the empty seats in the left wing of the hall. 

Coulter partnered with the Leadership Institute, a non-profit organization that trains conservatives in activism and leadership, as part of her Campus Reform project. It aims to combat perceived liberal bias on college campuses across the country by publicizing such circumstances to larger conservative media outlets and the public. 

Coulter’s visit contributes to an ongoing trend of conservative personalities and members of the alt-right visiting college campuses. The events sometimes result in protests and outcry from the student bodies. In more extreme situations, the visiting speakers have sparked violence and riots from protesters. 

“As one of the most prestigious Universities in the world, Cornell students should be open to all ideas, for it will make them better citizens,” Leadership Institute Campus Events Coordinator Sarah Clark said in her introduction of Coulter. 

Soon after, Coulter began her talk by discussing the midterm election results of the day prior. She spoke of the emerging consensus that the Republican “red wave” that many polls predicted had never materialized, and that the previous night had been kind to Democrats. 

Coulter also included quips at the expense of Democratic figures, joking about Fetterman misspeaking in his debate against Republican Senate race rival Republican Mehmet Oz — Fetterman narrowly survived a stroke in May, leaving him with temporary struggles in reading, listening and speaking. Coulter also took aim at Pres. Biden (D) and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) in her opening.

The interruptions past this point, however, became more active and relentless. Coulter was barely able to recount Gov. DeSantis’ win in Florida’s gubernatorial race before gagging and raspberry blowing began from a student in the audience near her. 

Visibly frustrated, Coulter chose to rebuke the Cornell student body, comparing her alma mater with Harvard, which she deemed smart. However, the speech effectively ended at this point, where students began to yell in protest of Coulter. 

“Your words are violence! We don’t want you to speak here,” students said. “We don’t want your ideas here! Leave! Leave!” 

The event followed a domino-like pattern. Protesters were slowly ushered out by police and security, Coulter would attempt to speak again, and then would be cut-off by a different student somewhere else in the hall. 

Coulter urged her security to remove the students from the event. When another student began yelling at Coulter, and then another began blowing a whistle, Coulter left the podium and went backstage leaving the stage empty for nearly 10 minutes. A few extra security guards and police began spreading throughout the room in an effort to be closer to react to future outbursts. 

When she returned, Coulter was only able to speak one last sentence. 

“Here’s some more violence for ya,” she joked, before another student stood up and interrupted, yelling, “You’re a fucking fascist!” Coulter, stoney faced, promptly exited the hall, concluding the intended hour-long event in 20 minutes. 

From the beginning, Cornell had remained steadfast in allowing Coulter to speak, declining to cancel the event and assisting with security. With President Martha Pollack citing the value of freedom of speech on college campuses in her welcome address to the class of 2026. 

“You’re going to encounter a lot of new ideas here,” Pollack said. “Some of them will fascinate and inspire you. Some, you’re going to disagree with. And some, you might really hate. But what I want you to do — and it isn’t always going to be easy — is to listen to as many of them as you can… Put in the effort to understand their point of view.”

A spokesperson from the University gave the audience a brief restatement of such values. 

Members of the Cornell community who did not participate in the protests had similar sentiments. According to Julia Willet ’24, Coulter should have been given the opportunity to speak, letting viewers see her asinine reasoning firsthand. Willet said that interrupting her would further the idea that students at elite universities are uncompromising and are unwilling to engage with those with whom they disagree. 

Another student in attendance, Max Link ’24, voiced his disappointment that the University had to be dragged into the narrative of “conservative firebrands” visiting campuses to be met with student protesters. 

“I think she should have come to campus — I think you have every right to do so… I don’t think anyone would have been convinced by anything she had to say [and] a Q and A would have been actually interesting instead of just something to post on social media,” Link said.  

Avery Bower ’23, president of the Cornell Republicans, issued a statement on the event.

“I am disappointed in some members of the Cornell community’s attacks on free speech,” Bower said. “This is something I have been concerned about for a while, which is why our first event over the summer was a bipartisan discussion [about] academic freedom at Cornell with Professors William Jacobson and Richard Bensel.”

The protests garnered the attention of local Ithaca politicians. Republican Zachary Winn, who lost his candidacy for Ithaca mayor the day prior, posted a brief summary of what had transpired onto his Twitter. He also retweeted a comment demanding that student protesters be expelled, and non-students be prosecuted. 

Although a few students protested individually, some were organized by a coalition of Cornell campus groups and clubs, who wished to not be named. On Friday, the protesters shared a statement with The Sun, signed “Cornell students who stand against white supremacy.” 

“Ann Coulter is a racist, homophobic, White supremacist bigot who uses her platform to promote racism, abuse, and violence,” the students said in the statement. “Her rhetoric is an active denial of inclusion, diversity, and the essence of human rights and dignity. Why do we allow someone to come to speak on our campus whose rhetoric very bluntly stands in opposition to [Cornell’s motto]? Ann Coulter does not deserve a platform anywhere and that includes the Cornell campus.”

Neither the Leadership Institute nor the Network for enlightened Women chapter at Cornell responded to a request for comment.

Angela Bunay ’24 contributed reporting.

Correction, Nov. 14, 5:05 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that the Network for enlightened Women did not respond to a request for comment, however, the organization itself was not contacted for comment, but the Cornell chapter was asked for comment. The story has been corrected.