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Speaker Mike Johnson Visits Columbia to Condemn Antisemitic Protests: Full Remarks

  • House Speaker Mike Johnson was drowned out by booing crowds during a speech at Columbia University where he condemned the ongoing student protests against the war in Gaza.
  • Columbia’s campus has been enveloped in student protests over the war that have garnered national attention amid reports of antisemitic speech targeting Jewish students.
  • Johnson called on the university’s president, Nemat “Minouche” Shafik, to resign if she could not restore order to the campus and said he would urge President Joe Biden to take executive action against the protesters.

These remarks were delivered by Speaker of the House Mike Johnson at Columbia University on April 24, 2024.

We’re here today at one of America’s preeminent academic institutions on a very important day in a very important time. Throughout history, Columbia students have contributed to the great storybook of America’s life and thought. Visionary American leaders like Alexander Hamilton and John Jay and the Jewish leader Gershom Seixas knew the self-evident truth that was at the heart of this country, and once, at the heart of this university. And that is that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. They should not be infringed.

The Founders and the great leaders who had come through this institution in the past believed in religious liberty. They believed in democracy. They believed in morality and virtue and the dignity of every human person. They believed in the free exchange of ideas, and they detested mob rule.

We are standing here right now in the steps of the Low Library. In this very building right behind us, Columbia University once awarded Winston Churchill in an honorary degree, and it was Churchill who said, “It is manifestly right that Jews should have a national home where they may be reunited.” We believe in that principle, and today I’m here to proclaim to all those who gnash their teeth and demand to wipe the state of Israel off the map and attack our innocent Jewish students, this simple truth: neither Israel, nor these Jewish students on this campus, will ever stand alone.

Today, Hamas issued an endorsement statement of the protestors on this campus. They called them the future leaders of America. It is detestable. All of this has to be said because the cherished traditions of this university are being overtaken right now by radical and extreme ideologies. They place a target on the backs of Jewish students in the United States, and here on this campus, a growing number of students have chanted in support of terrorists. They have chased down Jewish students. They have mocked them and reviled them. They have shouted racial epithets. They have screamed at those who bear the star of David.

They have told Jewish students who wear the star of David to leave the country and shamefully some professors and faculty have joined the mobs. Things have gotten so out of control that the school has canceled in-person classes, and now they’ve come up with this hybrid model where they will discriminate against Jewish students. They’re not allowed to come to class anymore for fear of their lives. And it’s detestable.

As Columbia has allowed these lawless agitators and radicals to take over, the virus of antisemitism is spread across other campuses. By some counts, as many as 200 universities have a similar form of protest. Right now at Yale, a Jewish student was stabbed in the eye with a Palestinian flag and 45 students were arrested. At NYU, Pro-Hamas protestors were shouting from the ‘river to the sea.’ Anti-Israel encampments are popping up at universities all across this country.

The madness has to stop. We just left a meeting with Jewish students who told us of the heinous acts of bigotry that they have experienced simply because of their faith. Their bravery is inspiring, much more inspiring than some of the activities we’re seeing here. They should never have to confront such hate on an American college campus at such a revered institution.

Antisemitism has been growing in America and it’s clear why. Powerful people have refused to condemn it, and some have even peddled it themselves. From university professors to public officials, people in positions of authority have denied the horrific facts of September 11th, 2001, the attacks on the United States. That happened right here in New York City, and they’ve attempted to excuse or to ignore the barbaric attack of Hamas in Israel on October 7th, 2023. Where Israeli women and children were savagely raped and murdered, and infants were cooked in ovens.

Crowds of radical left activists have chanted death to America, and on our own streets in this country, and some public officials have refused to condemn them. Others have openly defended these acts on campus and the harassing and the intimidation and the threatening of innocent Jewish students simply because of who they are. They’ve called that peaceful protest, and some have even gone as far as calling for the state of Israel to be eliminated. These are words we expect from Ayatollahs in Iran, not American lawmakers, and not American students. And unsurprisingly, it has given way to threats and violence in a generation of students don’t feel safe in their own classrooms or where they live or where they worship. Let me say this very simply, no American of any color or creed should ever have to live under those kinds of threats. That is not who we are in this country.

Sadly, Columbia’s administrators have chosen to let the threats, the fear, and the intimidation of the mob rule to overtake American principles like free speech and the free exchange of ideas and the free exercise of religion. They have co-opted First Amendment arguments to protect genocide and to elevate the voices of antisemitism. They have proven themselves to be incapable of achieving their basic responsibility, which is keeping students safe. We just can’t allow this kind of hatred and any antisemitism to flourish on our campuses, and it must be stopped in its tracks. Those who are perpetrating this violence should be arrested.

And I’m here today joining my colleagues in calling on President Shafik to resign if she cannot immediately bring order to this chaos. As Speaker of the House, I’m committing today that the Congress will not be silent. As Jewish students are expected to run for their lives and stay home from their classes hiding in fear. In the House of Representatives, we’ve already acted to address antisemitism on campuses. We have passed a number of statutes to address this matter, and we call upon the U.S. Senate to act upon our legislation.

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