WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump shared some of his pet peeves — academic speech codes, social-media giants, and the “fake news” media — with a sympathetic audience of conservative teens and young adults at the Turning Point USA teen summit in Washington Tuesday.
“The voices of political correctness want to silence conservative students and make them feel alone, marginalized and afraid,” Trump told the cheering crowd dotted with MAGA hats.
Turning Point USA has sparked controversy. In March, prosecutors charged a 28-year-old software engineer with three felony counts after he allegedly punched the face of Hayden Williams, who was trying to recruit students at the University of California Berkeley for the group, which focuses on fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.
For this younger crowd, Trump called to the stage three teens who discussed being targeted for their beliefs. Hunter Richard of San Antonio, Texas was enjoying a cheeseburger with friends when someone threw a drink in his face and stole his MAGA hat.
Trump invited Richard to the stage, where he told Trump he had one complaint, “Mr. President, I only get to have you as my president for six more years.”
When Connecticut students tried to open a Turning Point chapter at their high school, a school board member charged they were “racist, sexist bullies who are brainwashed by their Republican parents,” the Hartford Courant reported.
Standing for their beliefs
Wearing a jacket, tie and MAGA hat, the high school chapter’s Dan Gallipoli stood by Trump and declared, “No matter the teacher, no matter the student, no matter the faculty, we will stand up for what we believe in.”
Someone released pepper spray at a Park City, Utah high school ahead of a Turning Point USA meeting. Club president Ryan Zink told the room of about 1,500: “I do believe the free speech in our schools is currently at stake. Us conservative students — there are many cases: myself, some other people that I’ve met here, and across the country — are being silenced, are being shut down by — whether it be their schools, teachers, friends. We’re not being listened to properly.”
Trump, who has 62 million Twitter followers, repeated his claim that supporters frequently tell him that Twitter makes it difficult for them to follow him.
Earlier in the month, Politifact checked into Trump’s claim that people have “been blocked” from following him on Twitter.
“We were able to search for, find and follow the president’s profile in a matter of seconds. The White House did not provide any evidence for his claim. We found no evidence that suggested Twitter made it harder to follow him,” wrote Politfact, which rated the statement false.
Trump criticized social-media giants when he said, “Massive multi-national tech companies have gained enormous power to censor opinions, shape public perception and really to decide what information citizens are going to be given. I see it all the time.”
Turning Point Chief Creative Officer Benny Johnson told the Review-Journal, “This is the way these kids digest information. So when they start to see their favorite people get censored, it’s a big deal for them, it means that someone’s choking out their access point to the world.”
Trump criticizes reporters
Las Vegan Alexys Nassiri, 19, who attends Utah Valley University, said that she supported Trump in 2016. “I like to speak my mind,” she said, adding that she respects informed opinions.
Trump frequently turned his gaze toward the “fake news” media and called out both the Washington Post and New York Times.
His most controversial statements concerned four first-term progressive Democratic congresswomen who are known as “the squad” which he referred to as “AOC plus three.” AOC is the shorthand name for squad member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY — but Trump said that he preferred something shorter so he calls her “Cortez.”
Trump also referred to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., as “vicious” and “a crazed lunatic” — in light of a video first released by the Daily Mail that showed a vocal Tlaib being escorted out of a 2016 Trump rally by security officials.
“Every day I go to school, I always wear a red MAGA hoodie. If you follow my Instagram, you’ll definitely see it all the time. I proudly wear my Make America Great Again hat every time I go out of my house. Although, I will say this, Mr. President, I do have one problem with you, and that’s that I only get to have you as my President for six more years.”
-Hunter Richard of San Antonio, Texas