Biden: Liberals 'hurt ourselves badly' by opposing free speech

Former Vice President Joe Biden harshly condemned liberals who oppose free speech Tuesday, arguing that shutting down the First Amendment right is “simply wrong.”

“When I was coming up through college and graduate school, free speech was a big issue,” Biden said during a joint event with Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). “But it was the opposite. It was liberals who were shouted down when they spoke. Liberals have very short memories. I mean it sincerely.”  

[RELATED: Princeton op-ed: Conservatives have no right to free speech]

Speaking before a crowd at the University of Delaware, Biden underscored the importance of the First Amendment, arguing that freedom of speech is “one of the defining features of who we are.”

“The First Amendment means what it says. You are not allowed to stand up and yell ‘fire’ in this auditorium. But you are allowed to stand up and say ‘Biden, I think you are an absolute jerk,’” he explained.

“We hurt ourselves badly when we don't allow the speech to take place,” the former vice president continued. “Now, speech can move to the point of incitement…But the truth of the matter is, the incitement that occurs before a person even speaks—that falls on those who are engaged in that violence. Not on the speaker.”

Biden also claimed that he has been criticized for his previous public statements in support of free speech, including his condemnation of riots at the University of California, Berkeley.

“If your idea is big enough, it should be able to compete,” Biden argued. “And you should be able to listen to another point of view, as virulent as it may be, and reject it, expose it.”

[RELATED: Harvard students protest free speech event as ‘hate speech’]

President Obama’s former veep did not, however, miss the opportunity to mention the current commander-in-chief, stating that liberals should not “give the [Donald] Trumps of the world the ability to compare you to the Nazis or you to the racists...because you are doing the same thing—you’re silencing.”

Citing the 22 years he spent teaching constitutional law, Biden concluded by reminding the audience that “the First Amendment is one of the defining features of who we are in the Bill of Rights, and to shut it down in the name of what is appropriate is simply wrong. It’s wrong.”

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