Protests begin after University of Chicago invites Steve Bannon to speak

CHICAGO – A professor at the University of Chicago invited Steve Bannon, former chairman at Breitbart News and President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, to speak at the university, which has prompted backlash from students.

Luigi Zingales, a professor at the Booth School of Business, invited Bannon to speak at the school. He told the school’s newspaper, The Maroon, that Bannon could “provide some insight into the current political and economic climate in the United States.”

Thursday morning, the university, which on its website bills itself as an institution challenging conventional thinking, was the scene of protest over the unconventional thinker.

Bannon is a self-described economic nationalist. For years, Bannon has promoted anti-immigrant views and critics describe him as a Nazi sympathizer white supremacist Klan defender.

“We are taking a stand this morning because we know when Steve Bannon can saunter onto this campus and into this community unopposed that normalized white supremacy. That is a direct threat to the lives of black, brown, queer, undocumented immigrant folks on this campus and in this community,” a demonstrator said at the protest.

Zingales, who planned the Bannon event, declined a request for an interview but gave WGN the following statement:

“Whether you agree with him or not (and I personally do not), Mr. Bannon has come to interpret and represent this backlash in America. For this reason, I invited Mr. Bannon to a debate on these issues with our faculty. I firmly believe that the current problems in America cannot be solved by demonizing those who think differently, but by addressing the causes of their dissatisfaction. Hate cannot be defeated by hate, but only by reason.”

The roughly 300 demonstrators want the university to reconsider.

The University of Chicago released the following statement:

“The University of Chicago is deeply committed to upholding the values of academic freedom, the free expression of ideas, and the ability of faculty and students to invite the speakers of their choice.
“Any recognized student group, faculty group, University department or individual faculty member can invite a speaker to campus. We recognize that there will be debate and disagreement over this event; as part of our commitment to free expression, the University supports the ability of protesters and invited speakers to express a wide range of views.”

The president of the university recently told CBS News “Discomfort is an intrinsic part of an education." He said he wants the university to be a place of constant disagreement and argument.

The date and time of the event have not been released.