Reporting for KUNM, part of National Public Radio, reporter Marisa DeMarco called Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro and feminist advocate Christina Hoff Sommers “far-right” speakers as she lumped them in with provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Not only that, but DeMarco insinuated that the cost of protection for conservative speakers made it problematic to host them.
That prompted Sommers to fire off a letter to NPR clarifying that she and Shapiro were nothing like “right-wing extremist” in their perspectives, adding that the story propounded the idea that free speech was simply not worth the money.
DeMarco had said:
When extremist speakers come to town, free speech advocates argue it’s their right under the First Amendment to say whatever they want. But what does it cost to have an event like that on a university campus? Ever since a Milo Yiannopoulos event in January sparked protests, we’ve been trying to find out. The New Mexico state police spent nearly $50,000 providing security when the university hosted Yiannopoulos; he presented extreme anti-immigration rhetoric, among other things, and many people say he’s racist. A couple hundred people, mostly students, turned up to protest his appearance on campus.
The New Mexico state police paid 105 officers to work the event including an emergency response team and a chopper, according to info we got through a public records request. But this is not the final total; officers from Albuquerque, UNM, Bernalillo County and a private security firm were there that night, too. We’re still waiting on how much APD spent, but so far the overall law enforcement expense is more than $64,000. UNM covered a little less than a quarter of that. The Albuquerque Journal reported UNM’s president UNM Chaouki Abdullah declined to ban two more far-right speakers from campus despite students calling for him to do so.
DeMarco was referring to a student socialist group at The University of New Mexico that attacked Shapiro and Sommers even though they had not been invited to speak. The group referred to Shapiro as a “fascist” and Sommers as a “rape apologist.”
In her letter to KUNM, Sommers wrote:
As an NPR affiliate, I think it's important for KUNM to amend the recent story by Marisa DeMarco that portrays Ben Shapiro and Me as right-wing extremists.
For the record, Ben Shapiro is an Orthodox Jew and mainstream conservative. He famously quit his job at Breitbart because of its association with the Trump campaign. He was then targeted by a virulent alt-right anti-Semitic campaign. According to a 2016 report on "The Anti-Semitic Targeting of Journalists" by the Anti-Defamation League, the biggest target by far was Ben Shapiro.
I am a registered Democrat and a feminist. I am critical of radical third-wave feminism for its carelessness with facts and it's penchant for moral panic. Other liberal feminist scholars such as Wendy Kaminer and Laura Kipnis share my view. Even the leading anti-sexual violence group RAINN has been critical of the concept of rape culture here. In all my speeches and articles I make it clear that sexual assault is a serious problem on campus. But serious problems don't get solved by hyperbole.
Your report mentions that the president of UNM Chaouki Abdullah declined to ban Ben and me "despite students calling him to do so." Which students? How many were there?
In fact, the protest was organized by a small group with an odd agenda.
What saddens me most about this news story isn't the misleading portrayal of Ben and me. The story conveys the idea that free speech is just not worth the money. That may not have been Ms. Demarco's intention. But when she updates the story again, I would suggest getting a quotation from the ACLU or FIRE about what is at stake.