‘There Need to be Consequences’: Rep. Mike Lawler Introduces Bill Cutting Funding for Colleges that Host Antisemitic Events
Congressman Mike Lawler (R-NY) on Thursday introduced legislation to cut off federal loans and grants for colleges that host antisemitic events after a City University of New York (CUNY) law graduate’s 13-minute commencement speech denouncing Zionism and supporting convicted Hamas-affiliated terrorism financiers.
Lawler told The Algemeiner in an interview that he first started considering the bill during his election campaign in response to UC Berkeley’s ban on Zionist speakers, but was further spurred to action after the CUNY commencement speech.
“I am of the mindset that people certainly have the right to say what they want to say, but you don’t have the right to hate speech,” Lawler said. “And the federal government should not be using taxpayer dollars to support it… But this most recent incident at CUNY really just made it all the more important to get this legislation filed. Taxpayer money should not be used to support this type of rhetoric or conduct — people who support the BDS movement, which is antisemitic.”
Lawler added that his legislation would strip universities and college institutions of “any federal dollars that support what they’re doing.”
CUNY’s chancellor and board of trustees in a statement on Tuesday condemned Fatima Mohammed’s commencement address as hate speech.
“The remarks by a student-selected speaker at the CUNY Law School graduation, unfortunately, fall into the category of hate speech as they were a public expression of hate toward people and communities based on their religion, race or political affiliation,” their statement said. “The Board of Trustees of the City University of New York condemns such hate speech.”
In her speech on May 12, Mohammed called for “the rage that fills this auditorium” to be “the fuel for the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism, and Zionism,” described the New York Police Department as “fascist”, said that law itself was a “manifestation of white supremacy” and accused Israel of “indiscriminately” bombing worshippers and “murdering the old [and] the young.” She also expressed her support for the Holy Land Foundation, whose founders were convicted of financing the terrorist organization Hamas, and described them as “Palestinian political prisoners” held in the US.
Lawler said he found the speech to be “repugnant and disgraceful.”
“You know, I spoke at my college graduation,” Lawler said. “I was the valedictorian of my class. And my message was hopeful, it was optimistic, it was focused on the future, and what all of my fellow graduates could do to contribute to the betterment of society. What she did was fuel a diatribe of nonsense and hatred. And it’s unfortunate CUNY allowed that to occur.”
Lawler’s legislation, titled the “Stop Anti-Semitism on College Campuses Act” would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to prohibit institutions of higher education from participating in student loan and grant programs if they ”authorize, facilitate, provide funding for, or otherwise support any event promoting Anti-Semitism on campus.”
The act further defines antisemitism according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition.
Lawler said it was clear that current legislation, including New York’s existing anti-BDS measures, were not enough to prevent hate speech from being given a platform at public educational institutions, which he said have become “breeding grounds” for anti-American sentiment, anti-Israel bias, and antisemitism.
“We’ve seen in New York and places across the country a dramatic rise in antisemitism and antisemitic hate crimes and a failure on the part of states like New York to do anything about it,” he said. “At the end of the day, money talks. A lot of these institutions rely heavily on the use of federal dollars. And if there is a consequence in terms of their ability to use these dollars, I do think a lot of them will think long and hard about the type of events that they allow to occur on their campuses.”
“There need to be consequences for people’s words, their actions, and the conduct of these institutions,” he added.
The bill currently has 8 co-sponsors, all Republicans, and Lawler said that he was pushing to get bipartisan support for the legislation.