Press Release

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Donald Trump's Executive Order on Free Speech

For Release: 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Contact:

Oriana Korin
202-374-6103
Oriana.Korin@aft.org

WASHINGTON—AFT President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after President Trump signed an executive order on free speech on college and university campuses:

“President Trump’s concept of free speech is speech that he agrees with, which is, in fact, the antithesis of what the First Amendment seeks to protect. He has repeatedly indicated his interest in ‘shutting down’ journalists and media outlets that criticize him, and he uses hateful and many times inciteful words on a daily and public basis. With a track record like this, there is no reason to believe that the speech he wants to ‘protect’ on college campuses won’t both suppress speech and enable incitement. If the framers of the Constitution were alive today, they would tell President Trump: ‘No, no, no, sir. You can’t use executive orders to suppress the speech of those with whom you disagree.’

“As educators, we are staunch supporters of a free exchange of ideas, the free expression that is crucial to intellectual discourse, and the responsibility that all speech must be coupled with an ability to reject that which will incite hatred or violence. Free and unfettered speech is supposed to be exactly that—free and unfettered—not subject to executive branch policing and interference.

“This order also sets a dangerous precedent that makes public activities at our nation’s colleges and universities susceptible to punitive action if they don’t meet a predetermined, purposefully ambiguous benchmark set by a White House with a very obvious political agenda. When schools are committed to civilized discussion and debate, we should be investing in more research to defend those democratic ideals, not denying them resources.”

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.