Candidate Threatens Federal Money Over Ahmadinejad Columbia Speech

By Nitya

Sep 24, 2007 9:53am

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports: Duncan Hunter, the Congressman from California, joined other Republican Presidential candidates over the weekend in condemning the upcoming address to Columbia University by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But Hunter went a step further by pledging that if the speech goes forth he will introduce legislation in Congress to cut off federal assistance from the University. All federal assistance. This would presumably include research and scientific grants for the sciences and medical school.

"If the left-wingers of academia will not support our troops, they, in the very least, should not support our adversaries," Hunter said in a statement accompanying a warning letter he wrote to Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia.

Bollinger has tried to meet the mounting criticism from Republican politicians head-on.

In a statement on the school’s website on September 19th, Bollinger announced that he would introduce the Iranian President with a rebuke to Iran’s treatment of women and its stance toward Israel and Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust.

Bollinter went on to say in the statement that hearing all ideas, no matter how "odious" is one of the basic tenets of a full education.

"I would also like to invoke a major theme in the development of freedom of speech as a central value in our society," Bollinger wrote. "It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices. To hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible."

The threat of cutting off federal funds is something the government and Congress have used before when law schools tried to keep JAG lawyers from recruiting on campuses because the military’s "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" policy discriminates against gays, violating university nondiscrimination policies.

The government won the argument in March 2005, when the Supreme Court upheld the so-called Solomon Amendment, a 1996 measure that allowed the government to tie federal funding to military and ROTC recruiting. It is unclear if that law would be applicable in the case of the Ahmadinejad speech, which has nothing to do with military recruiting.

Hunter says the speech and the recent "General Betrayus" Moveon.org ad are emblematic of the emergence of the "extreme left wing."

"Columbia University’s hosting of Ahmadinejad is a slap in the face of every one of the 165,000 U.S. troops serving in Iraq. As he speaks, his agents will be moving roadside bombs onto the battlefield to be used against America’s military men and women," Hunter wrote.

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