Campus Censorship Attempts Targeted Michael Knowles More Than Any Speaker In 2023

The cancel campaigns, which also targeted Matt Walsh, were all in reaction to the hosts' views on transgender ideology.
Young America's Foundation/Michael Knowles
Young America’s Foundation

Students and faculty at American universities attempted to censor Daily Wire host Michael Knowles more than any other campus speaker in 2023, according to a database compiled by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

Knowles appeared three times in the free speech organization’s “Campus Disinvitation Database” last year as students and faculty at the University of Buffalo, the University of Pittsburgh, and Purdue University all tried to get the Daily Wire host’s speaking events canceled. The three cancel campaigns against Knowles were all in reaction to his views on transgender ideology. 

None of the censorship attempts against Knowles were successful, however, and the podcast host spoke at all three universities even as protesters stood outside of his events, calling him a “transphobe.” 

Daily Wire host Matt Walsh, women’s sports advocate Riley Gaines, and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk each appeared twice in FIRE’s “Campus Disinvitation Database” for 2023. None of the censorship attempts against Walsh, Gaines, or Kirk were successful either. 

Knowles’ speech at Buffalo in March caused a stir as he came to the campus for the event shortly after stating that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” LGBTQ activists took Knowles’ comment — where he simply called for the culture to reject trans “ideology” — as a genocidal threat. 

“No even mildly reasonable person could have interpreted my words as insinuating any sort of violence,” he said at the time, responding to the Left-wing outrage over his remark. 

The speech took place despite the calls for the University of Buffalo to cancel it after the university’s president said it couldn’t stop the student group from inviting Knowles since the group was abiding by university guidelines and state laws. 

Shortly after the Buffalo speech, Knowles attended an event at the University of Pittsburgh, resulting in more backlash. Within a month of Knowles’ speech, Gaines and Daily Wire Senior Editor Cabot Phillips also spoke at events on campus, which upset some students and faculty who circulated a petition calling for the university to prohibit them from speaking. But Knowles’ speech, as well as Gaines’ and Phillips’ events at Pitt, went on as planned. 


Knowles then spoke at Purdue University, where the commentator again addressed transgenderism. Some students at Purdue organized a protest against Knowles while others hosted a block party “to eradicate transphobia,” which included a drag show.

While FIRE does not claim that its database is exhaustive, the list showed that all but one of the 27 censorship campaigns against speakers on campuses were attempts from the Left to silence Right-leaning speakers. Other notable speakers whose events were targeted by leftists include Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, author James Lindsay, and conservative commentator Liz Wheeler. 

The FIRE list also included federal judge Kyle Duncan, whose speech at Stanford University last March was disrupted by students who shouted at him while he tried to present his prepared remarks. When Duncan asked for an administrator to get the situation under control, DEI administrator Tirien Steinbach defended the disruption, telling the judge that “for many people here, your work has caused harm.” 

In another instance of campus disinvites documented by FIRE, an event featuring Rep. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and State Rep. Dave Murphy in May was canceled after petitions from students and faculty at the Medical College of Wisconsin. 

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