Confusion is brewing at the University of California, Berkeley — once again about planned speeches by a number of controversial right-wing commentators.
On Tuesday, a statement issued by MILO, Inc., a nonprofit headed by former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, began making the rounds on the Internet. It confirmed that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon will attend Free Speech Week, organized by student group, Berkeley Patriot, between Sept. 24 and 27. Ann Coulter has also been invited.
“Berkeley Free Speech Week is attracting speakers of the highest caliber,” the statement said, noting that Bannon’s appearance is slated for the final day of the four-day event.
University officials, however, had a different take on the invitations issued — and apparently confirmed — by Berkeley Patriot.
“The University cannot yet confirm exactly when or if they will be here, nor can it confirm a list of speakers," spokesman Dan Mogulof said.
Repeated requests for Berkeley Patriot to inform the university if and when contracts are signed with speakers and venues have gone unheeded, he added.
Making matters worse, “the tentative information the student group has shared with us about the scheduling of the proposed speakers conflicts with information that has been shared publicly by Mr. Yiannopoulos,” Mogulof said.
The events in question are expected to be held indoors with “specific security and procedural requirements,” and the deadlines to meet those stipulations are quickly approaching, Mogulof said.
“Simply put, the University cannot provide the security and support the student organization has requested, and the campus wants to provide, if we do not receive the essential information,” he wrote. “Not a single speaker has connected with the campus or our police department to discuss security arrangements, as is required.”
Mogulof also accused Berkeley Patriot of failing to pay fees and sign contracts with venues. While university officials are making every effort to support Berkeley Patriot, “the group’s failure to meet important deadlines is making it increasingly difficult to ensure a safe and secure program,” he concluded.
But representatives with Berkeley Patriot, which describes itself as a nonpartisan student publication, say that they have been forthcoming with the campus and with UCPD officials.
Pranav Jandhyala, a student representative for the group, said they were never told about the need to show certain information, including contracts with speakers, to the university officials. He conceded that a full list of speakers has been withheld from the university due to leaks in the past, but claims they have been complying with all requests for information from UCPD.
When asked about the venue contracts, Jandhyala said they were working on it.
“We are working diligently to answer any questions that the university might have,” he said. “We aren’t sure specifically what paperwork they are referring to, but we will work to get all of this clarified in a good-faith and collaborative manner.”
Jandhyala also claimed that speakers, including Yiannopoulos, had tried to reach out the campus.
“We’re making an effort,” Jandhyala said. “We’re already fighting a kind of losing battle here, with the campus that doesn’t support our efforts and an administration that doesn’t seem to support our efforts, either. We thought we had been complying with administrative policy to a T.”
Jandhyala added that his group has yet to publicize the event and were instead hoping to wait until plans had been finalized. The confirmation that Bannon would be appearing on campus — an appearance that has been rumored for months — came from Yiannopoulos, who has been more forthcoming with details.
“If Milo wants to go ahead and jump the gun on promotion, that’s his prerogative,” Jandhyala said.
MILO, Inc.'s statement was released earlier Tuesday. It credited Bannon with being the “architect” of President Donald Trump’s policies.
“Uncle Steve was the force behind Trump’s election victory and much of his initial policymaking,” Yiannopoulos said in the statement. “Nothing could be better for the leftists who oppose Trump so vehemently than a lesson in the logic behind Trump’s actions, direct from the architect of his policies.”
More than 20 other speakers are slated to appear during Free Speech Week, although the full roster has yet to be unveiled.
Yiannopoulos, who weathered criticism earlier this year for seemingly condoning sexual relationships between minors and older men, also announced that he would be giving out a new award on the final day of the Free Speech Week.
Called the Mario Savio Award for Free Speech, it is named after the student activist at UC Berkeley who helped the school secure its reputation as the birthplace of the free speech movement in the 1960s.
The award will be presented to a person who “best exemplifies courageous free expression in American public life," MILO, Inc. said.
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro is expected to speak at UC Berkeley on Thursday. Counter protests to his appearance are also planned.