A federal appeals judge appointed by Donald Trump has demanded an apology from Stanford Law School after he was invited to speak, only to be berated by a pious dean while woke students shouted abuse at him.
Judge Kyle Duncan, from the fifth circuit of appeals, was ambushed by associate dean of equity, diversity and inclusion Tirien Steinbach during a discussion Thursday night.
Steinbach – a former ACLU lawyer who previously defended free speech – initially claimed Duncan had a right to express his views.
But she then launched into an impassioned six minute speech – which she had written down – condemning his life’s work.
Duncan looked on bemused as Steinbach stood at the lectern and told the law students she ‘had to write something down because I am so uncomfortable up here.’
She continued: ‘For many people at the law school who work here, who study here, and who live here, your advocacy – your opinions from the bench – land as absolute disenfranchisement of their rights.’
Judge Kyle Duncan looks on in baffled, barely-disguised anger as Tirien Steinbach, the associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, berates him in front of the class
Duncan said he was unable to deliver his prepared remarks because he was immediately ambushed by students, and then the dean
Judge Kyle Duncan (left) was challenged by the associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at Stanford Law School, Tirien Steinbach (right)
Woke students clicked their fingers in support – after progressive colleges warned handclapping can cause offense – and cried ‘Yes’ in agreement.
‘They feel harmed not just by your speech – because if it was just words that would be one thing. You have authority and power to make decisions that impact the lives of millions,’ Steinbach continued.
Her voice could be heard trembling at certain points, although it’s unclear whether she was upset at Duncan, or just excited at having the chance to perform.
She said she hoped Duncan could ‘listen through your partisan lens.’
Steinbach added: ‘It’s uncomfortable to say this to you as a person. It’s uncomfortable to say that for many people here, your work has caused harm … and I know that must be uncomfortable to hear. It must be.
‘I’m also uncomfortable because many of the people in the room here I have come to care for.’
Duncan stood and shook his head in amazement. Steinbach also voiced her support for free speech.
But she did an apparent volte face just seconds later, when she suggested hate speech should be banned, and that her students could advocate for those very laws after graduating.
Duncan, a 51-year-old Louisiana-born lawyer, known for challenging LGBTQ+ rights, was appointed a federal judge in 2018 by then-President Trump.
Prior to that he represented Christian company Hobby Lobby in their case against providing contraception on health insurance plans to their staff – a case that Duncan successfully argued before the Supreme Court.
The LGBTQ+ advocacy group Lambda Legal said Duncan had ‘spent his whole career working to annihilate civil rights progress.’
Duncan was invited to Thursday’s on-campus event by the Stanford chapter of conservative group The Federalist Society.
He was tasked with discussing laws related to guns, COVID mandates, guns and Twitter.
‘So, you’ve invited me to speak here, and I’ve been heckled non-stop,’ said Duncan.
Steinbach then took the lectern, and, her voice quavering, said Duncan’s remarks were ‘tearing at the fabric of this community that I am here to support.’
Duncan was invited by the Stanford chapter of the Federalist Society to speak at the university
The 51-year-old Louisiana-born lawyer found himself laughing at the absurdity of the situation
She asked him: ‘Is the juice worth the squeeze?’
When Duncan tried to reply, students screamed: ‘Let her finish!’ They remained hushed and polite while the woke dean espoused her beliefs, but offered Duncan no such courtesy.
‘For many people here, your work has caused harm,’ Steinbach told Duncan.
‘In my role at this university, my job is to create a sense of belonging for all students.
‘And that is hard and messy and not easy, and the answers are not black or white, or right or wrong. This is part of the creation of belonging.
‘And it doesn’t feel comfortable and it doesn’t always feel safe, but there are always places of safety and there is always an intention to make sure you all feel in a space where you can feel fully.’
Steinbach said that Duncan was ‘absolutely welcome’ – leading him to raise an eyebrow.
She said she wanted ‘more speech, not less’ – but appeared happy to let students heckle someone whose views were different to hers.
She accused Duncan of fostering ‘division’ that upset the students.
‘I hope you can look through the spectacle and noise, to the people holding these signs,’ she said, pointing out one person holding aloft a ‘Trans Lives Matter’ placard.
She then invited any students who felt threatened to leave, telling them ‘many who go before Judge Duncan do not have a choice. You have a choice.’
Dozens stood and filed out, as Duncan looked on in shock and distain.
Steinbach, who worked as an attorney for the NAACP before joining Stanford, condemned Duncan for his work
Duncan on Friday told Reuters he felt ambushed.
‘In my view, this was a setup, she was working with students on this,’ he said.
Prior to the event, Steinbach sent out an email parroting the same woke points, sparking speculation she’d been circling the wagons prior to the ambush.
He said he was ‘offended’ and ‘disturbed’ by the ‘deeply uncivil behavior’ of the students and Steinbach.
‘It would be nice if they reached out to me and said, ‘Gee, we’re sorry,’ he said.
In an message to students on Friday, Stanford Law dean Jenny Martinez said preventing a speaker from presenting through heckling or other means violates the school’s policies.
‘However well-intentioned, attempts at managing the room in this instance went awry,’ she wrote.
‘The way this event unfolded was not aligned with our institutional commitment to freedom of speech.’
Duncan compared the protest to incidents at other law schools, including Yale and Georgetown, where student-led protests of conservative speakers prompted discussion about whether law schools are living up to their ideals as bastions of open debate and free speech.
Some federal court judges have said they’ll no longer hire clerks from Yale, over fears they’ll end up with a woke social justice warrior unable to represent someone whose views they find offensive.
Stanford law students could now find themselves shunned too. The school is one of the wokest and most prestigious colleges in the United States.
Last year, it sparked uproar after publishing a ‘harmful language guide,’ which claimed words including ‘American’ and ‘brave’ were offensive – and that the phrase ‘give it a go’ glorified violent imagery.
‘I told [students] this is not going to work in a courtroom, this way of disagreement,’ Duncan said of the tussle.
‘Maybe that’s where we are going as a society, but that doesn’t work in my courtroom.’
Law student Tessa Silverman, who attended the protest, told Reuters that Duncan himself appeared angry and called some students ‘idiots.’
Duncan confirmed it.
‘They are idiots,’ he said. ‘They are hypocrites and they are bullies.’