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Clay Calvert Comments on Presidential Defamation and Extremist Speaker Visits to College Campuses

Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications,  was quoted in Erik Wemple’s opinion column, “Did President Trump Defame the Red Hen?,” published in The Washington Post on June 25.

Clay Calvert

Wemple recounts Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ expulsion from a Lexington, Virginia, restaurant and the ensuing negative tweets about the restaurant by President Trump.

Calvert said “if he had said there were rats in the kitchen or that the restaurant used spoiled food, that would be a very different — and likely actionable — matter.”

Calvert was also quoted in “U.S. Universities Battle ‘Exploitation’ by Extremist Speaker” published in UK newspaper The Times Higher Education section on June 20. The article focuses on white supremacist Richard Spencer’s controversial visit to speak at UF and the high cost colleges can pay to maintain a secure environment.

“Mr. Spencer definitely raises huge First Amendment-based free speech questions for public universities across the United States,” said Calvert. “Key exceptions to speech protected by the First Amendment include speech likely to incite others to violence. But Mr. Spencer is very savvy and never comes close to crossing that incitement to violence line.”

He states that public university campuses today may view free speech as more of a weapon than a tool of a democratic society. He adds that a university is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas where you can debate any topic or idea.

The article references an essay Calvert wrote for the First Amendment Law Review. In it, Calvert states “the collapse of conversations on public university campuses and the rise of attitudes in favor of stifling speakers are profoundly troubling developments, and it is equally worrisome that educational institutions are being exploited and held financially hostage in the name of the First Amendment by extremist speakers.”


Posted: July 9, 2018
Category: College News, First Amendment Project
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