Former vice-president Joe Biden delivered a passionate defense of the First Amendment during an event at the University of Delaware on Tuesday, hitting back at people — mainly liberals — who he said try to restrict free speech on college campuses.
Biden’s comments came after an audience member asked how people can be encouraged to be “more accepting of opposing viewpoints,” to which the politician offered up a lens into his own past experience.
“When I was coming up through college and graduate school free speech was the big issue but it was the opposite,” Biden said. “It was liberals [who] were shouted down when they spoke and liberals have very short memories.”
From there, he launched into a staunch defense of free speech. While he said that people aren’t free to yell fire in a crowded auditorium, he said they are free to criticize people like him as a “jerk” or to share their views on what they believe to be America’s biggest problems.
In sum: Biden urged that speech actually be free in America.
“The First Amendment means what it says,” he said. “I mean, look, what we do is we hurt ourselves badly when we don’t allow the speech to take place.”
Watch his remarks below:
Biden also went after claims that speech can lead to incitement — one of the reasons some college campuses have cited for cracking down on certain speakers of late.
“Now, speech can move to the point of incitement; inciting riots … but the truth of the matter is: The incitement that occurs before the person even speaks, that falls on those who are engaged in that violence, not on the speaker,” he said.
In the end, Biden argued that ideas should be able to compete with one another. He encouraged people to listen to other points of view, even if those perspective are “virulent.” Then, he said people can be free to reject or expose those ideas.
“The best thing to do is let this stuff be exposed. Don’t be like these other people,” he continued. “Don’t give the Trumps of the world the ability to compare you to the Nazis, or you to the racists, or you to — because you’re doing the same thing. You’re silencing. That we mean what we say.”
And he wasn’t done there, either.
“The First Amendment is one of the defining features of who we are in the Bill of Rights,” he said. “And to shut it down in the name of what is appropriate is simply wrong. It’s wrong.”
Biden made his remarks during a joint appearance at the University of Delaware with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
The two discussed a variety of political issues, though Kasich, a Republican, defended the rights of at least one college president to crack down on campus speakers who tout “hate speech.”
(H/T: The Fire)