In an effort to capitalize on the current political fights by flexing his power as a state governor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced that state colleges in Florida would be decertifying student groups on their campuses that show support for Hamas, the brutally violent terror group that controls Gaza.
The move shocked many on the right and left, as it seemed inimical to the value of free speech that conservatives have now championed for years and used to push against anti-conservative censorship on college campuses.
So, DeSantis took to the media to defend the move. Appearing on NBC’s’ “Meet the Press,” he argued that he had to make the move to defend his state’s residents and Americans generally, as allowing student groups to support “brutal terrorist organizations” like Hamas is like committing “suicide as a country.”
Speaking on the issue, the Florida Governor first tried to distance his move from “cancel culture,” saying, “This is not cancel culture, this group, they themselves said in the aftermath of the Hamas attack that they don’t just stand in solidarity, that they are part of this Hamas movement.”
Continuing, he claimed that the groups were providing “material support to terrorism,” which implies that they were acting in a treasonous manner, saying, “And so, yeah, you have a right to go out and demonstrate, but you can’t provide material support to terrorism. They’ve linked themselves to Hamas, and so we absolutely decertified them.”
Justifying that claim about the groups, Gov. DeSantis said, “Their own words are saying they’re part of this organization, that they don’t just stand in solidarity, that they don’t just support what they did, but that this is their movement, too. So once you hitch your wagon to a group like Hamas, that takes you out of the realm of normal activity, and that’s something that we’re going to take action against.”
He then argued that not treating the groups in such a manner would equate to America committing suicide as a country, saying, “Are we just going to commit suicide as a country and let groups metastasize who are openly siding with brutal terrorist organizations? I don’t think that’s a recipe for a successful country. I want to have a country where we’re protected from that stuff. So I think we made the right decision. I stand by it 100%.”
The move DeSantis made is different from what his GOP colleagues have called for in that it applies to American citizens and foreign students alike, whereas other Republicans have dodged the crackdown on free speech issue by declaring that it is foreign nationals, particularly foreign students, who support Hamas who should be deported, not that there should be a general crackdown on pro-Palestine speech.
President Trump, for example, said that he would implement “strong ideological screening of all immigrants to the United States,” screening meant to ensure that there is no way for “dangerous lunatics, haters, bigots and maniacs to get residency in our country.”
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