At 3:30 Thursday afternoon President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign the executive order he promised while speaking at the far right Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) several weeks ago. The order, framed as protecting “free speech” on college and university campuses, is actually a direct threat to defund them by rescinding a wide array of federal grants for research and other programs.
Trump isn’t actually advocating for “free speech,” he’s working to make it easier for far right extremist groups and their positions to enter the marketplace of ideas – unencumbered, and without context or warning, on the nation’s colleges and universities. It is a literal attempt to move the nation to the right – or alt-right – starting with college-aged Americans.
Leading up to the push for the executive order are several years of conservative outrage that came to national attention when far right wing or extremist pundits like Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro, and Milo Yiannopoulos saw their speeches canceled at various colleges, mostly due to overwhelming outrage from students who pay thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to receive an education.
According to the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., today’s executive order is the result of a “push” from the far right wing group Turning Point USA (TPUSA), founded by conservative activist Charlie Kirk.
Kirk, perhaps best known for being a close friend of Donald Trump Jr., is also known for the embarrassingly false tweets he produces on a regular basis. Trump Jr. and TPUSA are closely aligned, as are TPUSA and the Trump campaign. Politico calls Kirk “Trump’s man on campus,” and The Weekly Standard called him “Kid Trump.” Trump last year was interviewed by Kirk at a White House event for college students hosted by an anti-gay hate group.
One year ago, almost as if publishing a prediction, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) warned of “Turning Point USA’s blooming romance with the alt-right.”
Fast forward to this past December.
Kirk and TPUSA’s Communications Director Candace Owens traveled to London to launch Turning Point in the UK, as Buzzfeed News reported last month.
Owens, in a discussion with potential recruits, brought up Hitler and, as many reports state, appeared to defend him, saying, “if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. The problem is that he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany.”
Headlines encapsulated her remarks:
“Candace Owens: Hitler Was ‘OK’ Until He Tried to Go Global” (Daily Beast)
“One of Trump’s most vocal black supporters seemed to defend Hitler in a recent speech” (Washington Post)
“Candace Owens’ Bonkers Take On Nationalism Includes A Defense Of Hitler” (Huffpost)
“Candace Owens: If Hitler Was Just a Nationalist, He’d Be Fine” (Ebony)
One year earlier, in December of 2017, the award winning journalist Jane Mayer at The New Yorker published an article on TPUSA titled, “A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity.”
That lengthy and in-depth article includes this disturbing revelation:
As Turning Point’s profile has risen, so has scrutiny of its funding and tactics. Internal documents that I obtained, as well as interviews with former employees, suggest that the group may have skirted campaign-finance laws that bar charitable organizations from participating in political activity. Former employees say that they were directed to work with prominent conservatives, including the wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in aid of Republican Presidential candidates in 2016. Perhaps most troubling for an organization that holds up conservatives as the real victims of discrimination in America, Turning Point USA is also alleged to have fostered an atmosphere that is hostile to minorities. Screenshots provided to me by a source show that Crystal Clanton, who served until last summer as the group’s national field director, sent a text message to another Turning Point employee saying, “i hate black people. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.”
This is the organization that President Trump, the Trump family, and the Trump campaign are not only intimately involved with, but now creating national policy with.
All Americans, but especially college students, educators, researchers, and actual civil rights supporters and advocates, should be extremely concerned.