During a speech this Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions lamented free speech at universities coming “under attack” along with the safe spaces provided for students with “fragile egos” — an interesting take considering that it came from a man whose Justice Department plans to retry a woman who laughed him during his Senate confirmation hearing this January.
“The American university was once the center of academic freedom ― a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas,” Sessions told an audience at Georgetown University’s law school. “But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.”
In the run-up to Sessions’ speech, a group of 30 academics at Georgetown signed an open letter addressed to the AG, slamming his planned talk about free speech as “hypocritical” and “troubling.”
Another protester escorted out of Sessions hearing. Her original offense appeared to be simply laughing. pic.twitter.com/p6lWzBVFRW
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) January 10, 2017
“We, the undersigned, condemn the hypocrisy of Attorney General Sessions speaking about free speech,” the signatories wrote in the letter released Monday night. “Sessions is a key cabinet member in an administration headed by a President who spent last weekend denouncing athletes engaging in free expression and calling for them to be fired.”
Sessions’ speech was delivered as his Justice Department gears up to retry Desiree Fairooz, who was mentioned by the letter’s signatories:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ own is currently prosecuting Desiree Fairooz for unlawful conduct; her alleged crime is laughing for a few seconds during Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearings last January and then loudly protesting her unlawful arrest.
In addition to the attacks by President Trump on professional athletes taking a knee during the National Anthem, the letter targets other examples of the Justice Department’s efforts to clamp down on free speech, including the continued prosecution of Fairooz, who was arrested for laughing during Sessions’ confirmation hearing in January. The letter also mentioned the DOJ’s attempts to identify people organizing a protest of Trump’s inauguration.
“This kind of government chilling of speech is precisely what the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is meant to prevent,” the letter reads. “A man who fails to recognize paradigmatic violations of the First Amendment is a poor choice to speak about free speech on campuses.”