"Berkeley, you know, used to be the cradle of free speech," Bill Maher said Friday during his Real Time broadcast on HBO, "And now it's just the cradle for f***king babies." He was talking about the decision to cancel, and then reschedule, a planned speaking engagement by conservative pundit Ann Coulter. "They invite someone to speak who's not exactly what liberals want to hear and they want to shutter it," Maher said. "I feel like this is the liberal's version of book burning. And it's got to stop."
As the Washington Post notes, Maher himself was invited to speak on the Cal campus in 2014 for winter commencement, which led to a petition to disinvite him because he had been known to make "comments that are blatantly bigoted and racist" and "public statements on various religions and cultures [that] are offensive."
On Friday, Maher said, referring to the 2014 dustup, "They got their act together and I wound up doing it, and apparently that’s what’s going to happen to [Coulter], I think."
If Coulter and campus Republicans get their way, her speech is set to happen on Thursday, April 27. The university attempted to move it to a daytime slot on Tuesday, May 2, but Coulter responded angrily on Thursday that that was unacceptable because it is during a week when students are not in class. Per the Associated Press, Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks justified the move saying warning that law enforcement had "very specific intelligence" of threats "that could pose a grave danger" to Coulter and others.
Maher also slammed Howard Dean, who on Friday tweeted in reference to Coulter that "hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment." This was in response to a New York Times reporter who noted that Coulter once joked that Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the Times building.
Free Speech Defenders Don't Forget: Ann Coulter once said: My only regret w/ Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building— Steven Greenhouse (@greenhousenyt) April 20, 2017
Hate speech is not protected by the first amendment. https://t.co/DOct3xcLoY— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) April 21, 2017
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also spoke out in defense of Coulter, sort of, as the Huffington Post reports, saying, "I don’t like this. I don’t like it. Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation."
Sanders went on to say, "To me, it’s a sign of intellectual weakness. If you can’t ask Ann Coulter in a polite way questions which expose the weakness of her arguments, if all you can do is boo, or shut her down, or prevent her from coming, what does that tell the world?
What are you afraid of her ideas? Ask her the hard questions. Confront her intellectually. Booing people down, or intimidating people, or shutting down events, I don’t think that that works in any way.”