On Oct. 24, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s chapter of Turning Point USA hosted “alt-right” speaker Jack Posobiec in the Student Union. The controversies around him led to a notable police presence at the talk, as well as a protest outside of the Student Union.
Posobiec, formerly a host of the far-right One America News Network, currently hosts a show for Turning Point USA and is a senior editor for the conservative news site Human Events. He is classified by Southern Poverty Law Center, citing his collaborations with “white supremacists, neo-fascists and antisemites.” Posobiec was a promoter of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which emerged in 2016 and falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton led a secret child abuse ring hidden out of a pizzeria.
The controversies surrounding Posobiec led some to protest outside of the Student Union where the talk was being held. Wren, a UL Lafayette student, shared their reason for being at the protest.
“I couldn’t sit idly by as a queer student and watch campus allow this man, who is vocally anti-LGBT, anti-black, let him onto campus and not do something,” Wren said.
They added that they had tried to email the university about it, but as Posobiec was invited by a student organization that was registered with the school, the university would not prohibit him from coming.
“I think that, of course, this is extenuating circumstances and that he is literally preaching hate speech. Like it’s literally lies, like he has spread Pizzagate, he has spread antisemitic conspiracy theories,” Wren said. “To me, it is very obvious that what he is saying is actively harmful and they have good and well enough reason to not let him onto campus.”
Anthony Algeciras, the chapter president of UL Lafayette’s chapter of Turning Point USA, spoke on the protest as it was happening.
“It’s not unexpected, but it is welcome because I do believe that we have the right to disagree with each other. And if they wanna stand out there, and hold signs, and speak out against Jack Posobiec and the things he believes in, they’re free to do so because this is a free country,” Algeciras said.
Members of Turning Point eventually engaged the protestors, but were advised by police officers to move along.
Posobiec spoke broadly on a variety of topics during his talk. Most notable were his comments on the COVID-19 pandemic, where he claimed “Now we find out that the vaccines didn’t even stop the spread to begin with.” This comment comes despite evidence showing that vaccinations vastly reduced hospitalizations and deaths, and recent analysis by the Washington State Department of Health showing that in their state, unvaccinated individuals are between 1.6-1.9 times more likely to be infected than vaccinated individuals.
Posobiec shared his pride in him and his family not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
“That being said, I’m not vaccinated, my wife isn’t, my son isn’t, for COVID,” Posobiec said following immediate applause from the audience.
Posobiec further claimed that China was developing superviruses in Wuhan, and that the pandemic stemmed from that.
“This Wuhan lab in Wuhan, China that was making these superviruses, what was going on there? What’s the origin of this thing? The fact of the matter is that we had this gigantic pandemic that hit us from Wuhan, China. They tell us it comes from some bat in some market, I don’t think so,” Posobiec said.
This claim has been widely dismissed as unlikely due to the lack of any evidence supporting the theory. According to the National Library of Medicine, “There is currently no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has a laboratory origin. There is no evidence that any early cases had any connection to the WIV [Wuhan Institute of Virology], in contrast to the clear epidemiological links to animal markets in Wuhan, nor evidence that the WIV possessed or worked on a progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 prior to the pandemic.”
Posobiec spoke fondly on the oil extraction method of hydraulic fracking, which the Environmental Protection Agency has found can impact and contaminate drinking water resources in some circumstances.
Posobiec additionally spoke on his support for nuclear energy, claiming it to be his “favorite green energy.”
“My favorite green energy is something called nuclear energy, the best green energy. By the way, it’s called the original solar energy because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, the sun is nuclear-powered,” Posobiec said.
The sun generates its energy through the process of nuclear fusion, while most nuclear power plants generate electricity through the opposite process of nuclear fission. Nuclear energy has faced scrutiny due to high costs of building and operating nuclear plants, the aftermaths of the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters and the fact that there is currently no permanent disposal solution for nuclear waste.
According to UL Lafayette’s free speech policy, it is not the university’s place to prevent people from sharing their ideas and opinions.
“All members of the University community shall have the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn and it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive,” the policy reads.
This policy further provides for the protection of speech by students, employees and invited guests, as well as allowing for protests or demonstrations by anyone lawfully present on campus.