Berkeley, on defense after Trump speech, blames media for 'distorted' coverage

UC-Berkeley says it will take "very specific actions" to support free speech on campus.

The statement comes after President Donald Trump said he plans to sign an executive order tying federal funds to free speech.

After Leadership Institute Field Representative Hayden Williams was assaulted at the University of California-Berkeley, President Donald Trump announced plans to sign an executive order denying federal funding to universities that fail to protect freedom of expression on campus. 

Now, Berkeley, the school at the center of the impassioned free speech controversy, is defending itself against a barrage of accusations, including the allegation that it doesn’t do enough to protect conservative viewpoints on campus.

”Today I’m proud to announce that I will be personally signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars,” Trump said after inviting Williams on stage at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Williams, an employee of Campus Reform’s parent organization, was assaulted at Berkeley while helping conservative groups recruit new members. 

”If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many other young people and old people to speak. And if they don’t it will be very costly,” Trump added during his speech at CPAC.

[RELATED: Trump to require colleges to support free speech if they want federal funds]

When asked Monday if the university plans on taking precautions to avoid the possibility of losing any federal funding, UC-Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogoluf told Campus Reform that Berkeley will “continue to take the very specific actions” to support freedom of expression on campus.  

“In other words, we will continue to support and assist conservative student groups who wish to host speakers of their choice on the UC Berkeley campus,” he explained.  “We will continue to prohibit bias or discrimination based on viewpoint or perspective. We will continue to impose consequences when rules protecting free speech are violated.”

Berkeley reported $422.1 million in federal research support during the 2017-2018 school year, meaning that the school known as the birthplace of the free speech movement could stand to lose nearly 60 percent of its total research funding should it fail to convince Trump and his administration of its support for free speech from people of all perspectives.

In a statement addressing media coverage of the Feb. 19 campus assault, the University doubled down on its claimed commitment to freedom of expression and blamed “distorted” news coverage for misrepresenting the university. 

Campus Reform published multiple statements from the university in full during the course of our reporting.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Conservative suffers blow to the face at Berkeley (UPDATE: Police ID suspect)]

“Although we made every effort to inform the media, not a single outlet reported on the incontestable fact that these conservative student groups hosted a large number of conservative speakers, including Charlie Kirk (founder of Turning Point USA), Rick Santorum, Dennis Prager, Heather MacDonald, Candace Owens, Dave Rubin, Steve Simpson, Antonia Okafor, and Allie Stuckey. Not a single disruption. No opposition. No protest. No coverage,” the statement read.

While Berkeley and many other schools across the country have hosted these conservative speakers and others in recent years, Berkeley has repeatedly made headlines for instances of alleged political intolerance and its handling of violence from the Left. Berkeley insists its “commitment to freedom of speech and belief is unwavering” and “no amount of incomplete, distorted news coverage is going to change that.”

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