Ann Coulter, the firebrand who has reinvented herself as a hard-core supporter of President Donald Trump, has become the latest right-wing Republican to clash with the University of California, Berkeley. The controversial columnist and author is the central figure in a lawsuit filed on Monday against the university for canceling and later rescheduling a speech she had been asked to deliver by the Berkeley College Republicans.
The student group and the national conservative nonprofit Young America's Foundation allege that the university's decision to move Coulter's event to May 2 — the week before final exams when no classes are held — constitutes an abridgment of her free speech rights in the context of what the plaintiffs allege is a consistent pattern of abridgment of conservative free speech.
Coulter's event was canceled and then rescheduled after the university said it had credible evidence that attendees might face violence. Several far-left "anti-fascist" groups have repeatedly threatened to utilize violence against right-wing individuals like Coulter who they see as promoting fascist politics.
Before the suit was filed, the university defended itself in a letter to the College Republicans, saying that it had taken many steps to accommodate the speakers:
This semester, UC Berkeley has dedicated more resources — in the form of staff time, administrative attention, police resources and cash outlay — to facilitating [Berkeley College Republicans'] expressive activities than have been devoted to any other student group in memory. Dedicated staff and administrators have spent countless hours, including during weekends and vacations, working to enable BCR’s planned events and to maximize the possibility that those events can occur safely for the participants, the speakers, our students and others in our campus community.
The plaintiffs have alleged, however, that the university is enforcing a policy that is "recently adopted, unwritten and unpublished" in evaluating what types of events should be subject to cancellation or rescheduling.
On Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent representing Vermont, came to Coulter's defense, saying that people trying to shout her down or threaten violence against her are damaging the progressive cause.
“What are you afraid of ― her ideas? Ask her the hard questions,” Saunders said in a speech delivered in Omaha, Nebraska. “Confront her intellectually. Booing people down or intimidating people or shutting down events — I don’t think that that works in any way.”
The senator also added that he thought Coulter's views were "outrageous."