All-Star Panel: Fights over commencement speakers heat up

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 7, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SMITH: The left claims to be the side of tolerance and of diversity, but this demonstrates that they don't want the dialogue and they're not interested in it. I mean, for example, Rutgers paid over $32,000 to hear from Snooki, but they'll deny their students the opportunity to hear from Dr. Condoleezza Rice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you think of a commencement speaker, you think of someone who you can look up to. This woman has committed so many crimes.


BAIER: Talking about Rutgers there, essentially encouraging Condoleezza Rice not to speak at commencement, and she released a statement, "As a professor for 30 years at Stanford University and as its former provost and chief academic officer, I understand and embrace the purpose of the commencement ceremony and I am simply unwilling to detract from it in any way." She won't speak obviously, at Rutgers. This is not the only university. We're back with the panel. Kirsten, this is interesting. Every time this time of year comes around, there are these dustups. This year, it seems like there are a few more.

POWERS: I think this is becoming more and more a part of our culture, unfortunately. If you look at not just at universities, but the situation with the Mozilla executive who has to basically either recant his beliefs or leave his job of a company that he's founded for something he thought and didn't even really say to anybody. So I think that there's this growing intolerance of being around people who disagree with you.

So first of all, I don't know what crimes Condoleezza Rice has committed, as that girl said. You know, I didn't support the Iraq war. But I also -- and I frankly didn't support a lot of the foreign policy of President Bush, but I certainly respect Condoleezza Rice and I could certainly listen to her speak. And I think that's the problem that people now are basically saying. I disagree with you on something, so therefore, I'm going to silence you. I don't even want to hear you.

BAIER: I think what most people are curious about is how the university allows this process to go forward to get to this point, and then they lose a speaker like Dr. Rice, and it's not the only university.

HAYES: No, it's weak leadership. This is what happens when you have the morons in charge. I think we shouldn't sort of be polite about what that young woman said. Condoleezza Rice has committed no crimes. Anybody who thinks she has committed crimes doesn't know what they're talking about.  She's an idiot. That girl is an idiot, and the idiots are in charge in too many of these places.

And you have basically administrations one after another, after another who are willing to say, you know what, they're making an argument, they're making an argument. I'm not going to judge who is right or who is wrong, but certainly the loudest voice is going to be the final voice.

And that's we're not just seeing it at Rutgers. We're seeing it in the Mozilla case. We're seeing it at universities across the country. We saw it with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. These are tremendously respected people. Think about Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state, one of the most accomplished women in America today, and because you have a few punks on a university campus who don't know what they're talking about the administration just caves? It's really a pathetic statement about the state of higher learning in America today.

BAIER: Strong letter to follow?

HAYES: Strong letter to follow.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I won't pass judgment on the punk idiot theory, although it is attractive in some ways. I have a different theory, which is that the universities which used to teach tolerance now teach sensitivity. So the students learn from the first day that if somebody says anything that makes you uncomfortable, you can then complain. You might get them in trouble. You might have them in a kind of reeducation camp where they have to recant. I think we've seen, you know, whatever it is, you get sensitivity training, I think is the word, but it's what the Chinese do without the batons and the starvation, so it has less effect. But this is what the kids are taught, that people should not be hurting other people in any way by saying anything uncomfortable. So if that becomes the norm and the overriding principle. Then, if you have somebody who speaks who says anything you don't like, then you feel empowered. I think that's the word that's used.  You shut them down.


BAIER: Is it a cultural change? Last word, Kirsten. Is it a cultural change? As a country are we getting softer?

POWERS: Well, see, I wouldn't consider it softer. I would say more intolerant, more able to deal with people who think differently than we are. And I think it is more of a younger generation type of thing that seems to be --

BAIER: More one side of the ideology than others?

POWERS: I would say liberals are doing it a lot more than conservative are doing it. If you look at the examples, there was another example of a professor out at the University of Santa Barbara who physically attacked a pro- life student for holding up a sign that she found offensive and that she actually considered an attack on herself, and she still has a job. So we can imagine what would happen to the conservative professor who attacked the pro-choice activist. So it does seem to be happening much more on the left, which is, of course, ironic because they're supposed to be tolerant.

BAIER: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned to see what happens when the questions turn personal for one potential 2016 candidate.

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