Deirdre McCloskey cancels debate against Michael Knowles at Pitt

Economist and trans-woman Deirdre McCloskey has officially backed out of the debate against Michael Knowles at the University of Pittsburgh scheduled for April 18.

McCloskey says the event ‘would be not a rational debate but a fascist rally.’

Knowles responded by saying that McClosky's cancellation shows that transgenderism is ‘indefensible.’

Economist and trans-woman Deirdre McCloskey will no longer be participating in the debate against anti-trans conservative Michael Knowles at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) on April 18.

Knowles was scheduled to participate in a debate against McCloskey hosted by the Pennsylvania public school’s chapter of the College Republicans and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute on the topic of “Transgenderism and Womanhood.” There has been significant public outcry against Knowles’ appearance along with protest against speeches from both Cabot Phillips and Riley Gaines hosted on campus in March. 

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McCloskey is a respected free-market economist and economic historian who earned a doctorate from Harvard in 1970 prior to transitioning in the 1990s. At 80 years old, McCloskey is currently a distinguished scholar at the Cato Institute.

The first record of this announcement was posted on Twitter by Charlotte Clymer, a lesbian activist, who posted on Twitter Monday evening that ISI contacted her offering $10,000 for her to replace McCloskey at the event. Clymer declined.

Knowles reacted to the announcement on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, saying that McCloskey “seems to have understood that [McCloskey’s] arguments would not have survived scrutiny.”

“I’m happy to take victory by default,” Knowles added, “[b]ut it’s telling that even a distinguished scholar with three Harvard degrees and half a dozen honorary doctorates cannot defend transgenderism. Of course: the ideology is indefensible.”

On March 11, McCloskey stated on Twitter that the over 11,000 people who signed the petition to cancel the debate “should be ashamed” of themselves. “True, Knowles is an anti-Jesus Catholic, a fascist advocating state power over ideas. But we live in a free country.”

Responding to a comment on this post asking how McCloskey could stand on a debate stage with a fascist, McCloskey responded saying “in the end it seemed irresponsible for a safely old and well positioned person like me to not reply to him. He does not believe in anyone’s liberty.”

McCloskey told Campus Reform on Tuesday that the appearance was cancelled because Knowles is “utterly uninterested in finding the truth,” unlike others McCloskey has debated on transgender issues.

“[H]e is interested in stirring up hatred and violence towards people who do not fit his extremely conservative Catholic beliefs, beliefs quite contrary to those of, for example, Pope Francis,” McCloskey continued.

“I decided not to participate in giving [Knowles] a platform,” McCloskey added.

McCloskey was “dismayed by the anti-free-speech petition against allowing him to speak,” adding that “Both are wrong, the hate-mongering Mr. Knowles and the speech-suppressing signatories of the petition. The result would be not a rational debate but a fascist rally.”

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Knowles also stated on Twitter that his “opposition to transgenderism derives, not from hatred, but from love of the truth, in this case regarding epistemology and anthropology.”

Campus Reform has requested comment from ISI, the College Republicans, and Knowles. Coverage on this developing story will be updated accordingly.

Follow Gabrielle M. Etzel on Twitter.