An expert on the First Amendment said the Obama campaign’s decision to bar a University of Florida student from attending a Michelle Obama speech smacked of viewpoint discrimination and raised questions about liberal bias in academia.
Clay Calvert, the director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida, said the incident also raises questions about the university’s involvement.
“While the university might not have done anything legally wrong in allowing Obama officials to discriminate against Republicans in terms of attendance, certainly the incident will, in the eyes of some folks, appear – rightly or wrongly – to be another indicator of liberal bias in academia,” Calvert told Fox News.
Matt Pesek, a student at the university, was denied entry to the speech even though he had a ticket for the event. He told the website Campus Reform that an Obama staffer pulled him out of line because he was wearing a John McCain t-shirt.
The First Lady’s speech, the Obama staffer allegedly told the student, was for “supporters only.”
The revelation surfaced the same day President Obama appeared on CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman and said he represented the entire country.
“If you want to be president, you have to work for everyone,” he told Letterman.
Pesek said he offered to turn his shirt inside but was still denied entry.
University of Florida spokesperson Janine Sikes told Fox News that the university had absolutely no control over the event. She said the Obama campaign paid money to rent the facility and could determine who was allowed inside.
However, that appears to contradict a stipulation in the contract between the university and the Obama campaign.
Fox News obtained a copy of that document which includes a non-discrimination clause.
“User shall not prohibit attendance at the Event by any person in violation of law,” the clause states. “In the event entrance to any person is restricted by law, User shall provide written notice of such restricted use to University’s vice president for business affairs prior to signing of the agreement.”
Sikes said the campaign did not violate the law by denying the conservative student entry into the event.
Calvert said the incident raises troubling questions about the university’s handling of the situation.
“My primary question and concern is whether university officials knew in advance about the attendance discrimination policy that the Obama officials implemented – that people with pro-Republican garb that didn’t include anything offensive about the First Lady or the President would be turned away,” he said. “If officials new that in advance, then it would be highly problematic. Second, if university officials did not know in advance, then why didn’t they know?”