Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said Americans should reject the “hate speech” against Jewish people being witnessed on college campuses around the United States, which he branded as his version of an “America First” message.
The declaration was made during a speech Christie gave to a conference held by the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas on Saturday, responding to anti-Israel demonstrations at U.S. universities as Israeli forces battling Hamas in the Gaza Strip following Hamas’ deadly terrorist attacks on Israel earlier this month.
“Our problem is much, much bigger, much bigger than the war that is going on in Israel. It is an American problem, a significant American problem, and it’s a problem that has existed now for decades but that people have been either unwilling to confront or are willingly ignoring,” Christie said.
“The anti-Semitism we see on American college campuses, for those of you who have been paying attention — and I am one of them, is not new. This did not happen in the last three weeks. This did not happen in the last three months or the last three years,” he added. “This has been going on for decades. And while it’s been going on, people have been willingly standing by and turning a blind eye to it.”
There is a big difference between free speech and hate speech. There is a difference between free speech and violence. There is a difference between incitement and free speech. And we must call out that difference.
What is happening on our college campuses today is not free… pic.twitter.com/NMG4PXDQ1y
— Chris Christie (@GovChristie) October 28, 2023
Some have sought to “hide” behind the “falsity of free speech,” Christie said.
“There is a difference, everyone, between free speech and hate speech. There is a difference between free speech and violence. There is a difference between incitement and free speech. And what is going on on our college campuses today is not free speech. It is hate speech,” he continued. “What’s going on our campuses today is inciting violence — is inciting fear. And we now know the impact it’s having on our children.”
The comments, which Christie promoted in a post to X, received some pushback.
“Chris Christie on C-Span: ‘There’s a difference between free speech and hate speech.’ NO, THERE ISN’T,” said conservative commentator Ann Coulter. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that there is no First Amendment exception for ‘hate speech,'” said a Community Note applied to Christie’s post. “Further, incitement is free speech until it is inciting imminent lawless action where such action is likely, an extremely narrow standard.”
Christie went on to say Jewish people should not have to worry about openly celebrating their religious holidays or have to hide “because of fear of their safety or fear of ridicule.” But, he said, university leaders have allowed the intimidation of Jews on campuses throughout the country.
“We have been here before,” Christie said. He harkened back to the “isolationism” in the 1930s, which he said led to “excuses” that allowed the “atrocities” that became part of the Holocaust.
Christie proposed a twist on “America First” — a mantra adopted by his top 2024 GOP rival, former President Donald Trump — which he said starts with fixing “our own problems” within the borders of the United States.
“Everyone has a different definition of America First. My definition of it in this context is this: America must first fix the problem of anti-Semitism by standing up and saying, ‘Absolutely not. Not on our campuses, not in our country, never, never again,'” Christie said to a round of applause.