Breitbart News editor inspires TN ‘free speech’ bill

Inspired by a Breitbart News editor whose speeches have spurred protests at colleges across the country, state lawmakers on Thursday touted a bill that they said would protect free speech on Tennessee campuses, reports The Tennessean.

While discussing the bill (HB739) in a news conference, sponsors Rep. Martin Daniel and Sen. Joey Hensley referenced the protests against controversial conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, who is a senior editor at Breitbart. Violence erupted at a protest against a planned Yiannopoulos speech at the University of California, Berkeley, prompting officials there to cancel the speech. The lawmakers indicated that the violence had hampered the expression of conservative ideas at Berkeley. Similar issues have cropped up in Tennessee, they said.

Daniel, R-Knoxville, called his legislation “the Milo bill,” and said it was “designed to implement oversight of administrators’ handling of free speech issues.”

Hensley, R-Hohenwald, said the bill was specifically tailored to defend students with conservative views that he said had been silenced in the past.

“We’ve heard stories from many students that are honestly on the conservative side that have those issues stifled in the classroom,” Hensley said. “We just want to ensure our public universities allow all types of speech.”

The bill said public universities “have abdicated their responsibility to uphold free speech principles, and these failures make it appropriate for all state institutions of higher education to restate and confirm their commitment in this regard.”

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