Attorney General Jeff Sessions railed against college censorship of speech and defended President Donald Trump’s right to speak during a talk at the Georgetown University Law Center on Tuesday morning.
Sessions, who was met with massive protests outside the venue, declared that speech, expression, and thought were “under attack” on campuses throughout the country.
“The American university was once the center of academic freedom — a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas,” Sessions told the audience. “But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.”
He referred to a Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) survey that said, “40 percent [of 450 colleges and universities] maintain speech codes that substantially infringe on constitutionally protected speech.”
“But who decides what is offensive and what is acceptable?” Sessions continued. “The university is about the search for truth, not the imposition of truth by a government censor. Speech and civility codes violate what the late Justice Antonin Scalia rightly called ‘the first axiom of the First Amendment,’ which is that, as a general rule, the state has no power to ban speech on the basis of its content.”
“In this great land, the government does not get to tell you what to think or what to say,” Sessions iterated.
While President Donald Trump has been under fire for speaking out strongly against professional athletes who use the national anthem as a time to protest, Sessions defended the president, saying, “The president has free speech rights, too.”
“He sends soldiers out every day to defend this country under the flag of the United States, under the national anthem and the unity those symbols call on us to adhere to,” Sessions explained. “I agree that it’s a big mistake to protest in that fashion because it weakens the commitment we have to this nation.”
Georgetown Law students and faculty gathered outside the venue and voiced their frustrations over the school inviting Sessions to speak with signs that read “DEPORT HATE” and “FREE SPEECH IS NOT HATE SPEECH.” The faculty even took a knee when they arrived at the protest, acting in solidarity with the NFL protesters.
Third-year law student Ambur Smith spoke before the crowd of 1o0 protesters, accusing the school of shutting them out, saying, “We, the disinvited, find it extraordinarily hypocritical that AG Sessions would lecture future attorneys about free speech on campus while excluding the wider student body.”
Watch Sessions full speech below: