Former Vice President attacked transgender athletes in women's sport during an appearance at the University of Virginia, and attacked 'woke' campus culture as he builds to 2024


Mike Pence said it was time to defend the integrity of women sports during an appearance at the University of Virginia on Tuesday, saying UVA swimmer Emma Weyant had been unfairly deprived of a title by losing to transgender athlete Lia Thomas.

The former vice president was asked about the issue at the end of speech in which he blasted ‘woke’ campus culture and spoke out against attacks on freedom of speech.  

‘Emma Weyant won that race,’ he said in response to a question about Thomas’ win in the 500-yard freestyle race at the NCAA championship last month.

Weyant, who took silver in the 400-metre Individual Medley at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, placed second. 

‘I know that in his State of the Union address President Biden promised to stand for the God given right of men to compete in women’s sports,’ said Pence, who has been quietly building a political organization for the 2024 presidential election

‘But common sense needs to reign and it will reign.’

He described women’s sports as a pathway toward achievement and excellence.

‘And we need to defend the integrity of women’s sports in America for the benefit of women everywhere,’ he said.

Former Vice President attacked transgender athletes in women's sport during an appearance at the University of Virginia, and attacked 'woke' campus culture as he builds to 2024

Former Vice President attacked transgender athletes in women’s sport during an appearance at the University of Virginia, and attacked ‘woke’ campus culture as he builds to 2024

Lia Thomas

Emma Weyant

Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer, (left) claimed first place in the 500-yard freestyle race at the NCAA championship last month. UVA’s Emma Weyant placed second, triggering anger

Pence was given a warm welcome by a largely conservative audience at UVA on Tuesday

Pence was given a warm welcome by a largely conservative audience at UVA on Tuesday

His speech was the latest in a string of campus appearance organized by the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative organization. 

And his visit had been shrouded in controversy, after liberal students demanded his invitation be revoked.

Some circulated calls to protest.

But in the end the number of attendees dwarfed the handful of protesters who gathered outside the Old Cabell Hall, at the heart of the jumbled UVA campus.

‘No one is really that interested,’ said a student posting a notice  

Pence thanked the audience for his warm welcome. 

‘I heard there was a little bit of controversy preceding my visit to University of Virginia,’ he said to laughter.

It gave him an introduction to attack creeping cancel culture. 

‘One of the most troubling developments of this past year has been the Biden administration’s wholehearted embrace of the Woke Left’s all-encompassing assault on culture and values,’ Pence said.

‘I don’t have to tell conservatives on any campus in America about the assault on free speech.’

Liberal students had asked UVA to revoke Pence's invitation. That gave him ammunition to attack the 'woke left' and its attacks on free speech

Liberal students had asked UVA to revoke Pence’s invitation. That gave him ammunition to attack the ‘woke left’ and its attacks on free speech

The controversy triggered concerns that students might protest Pence's visit. but in the event only three or four were spotted in the vicinity of Old Cabell Hall, the venue for the speech

The controversy triggered concerns that students might protest Pence’s visit. but in the event only three or four were spotted in the vicinity of Old Cabell Hall, the venue for the speech

Tickets for the event were snapped up quickly despite - or because of - the controversy

Tickets for the event were snapped up quickly despite – or because of – the controversy

Free speech was the theme of Pence's visit, and was among the stickers being handed out

Free speech was the theme of Pence’s visit, and was among the stickers being handed out

To underscore his point he used the words of Thomas Jefferson, UVA’s founder, to remind his opponents that free speech was the ‘birthright of all Americans.’ 

‘When it comes to free speech, I agree with the founder of this university, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote “as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement,”‘ he will say.

‘When he founded UVA, Jefferson declared that “This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind.” Freedom of speech is the God-given birthright of every American, and we will never let the Woke Left take it away.’

Pence cut a relaxed figure as he delivered his trademark self-deprecating jokes.

Some came with a swipe at Biden and his handling of the economy. 

‘One of the advantages of being vice president is I get to drive my own car again,’ he said. ‘One of the disadvantages is I get to pay for my own gas.’

But he was quizzed on the conservative views that had been cited as one of the reasons by liberal students for keeping him away. 

‘I’m just wondering if one of your children came out to you as gay,’ said the final student to ask a question. ‘How would you respond? What would you tell them?’

‘I’d look him in the eye and tell him I love you,’ answered Pence to applause.

Before his appearance, Pence stopped by the memorial at a spot where an anti-White Supremacist protester died in 2017. 

Protesters were outnumbers by attendees at the event at UVA campus on Tuesday

Protesters were outnumbers by attendees at the event at UVA campus on Tuesday

Attendees check out a stall of pins and stickers ahead of Pence's speech on Tuesday

Attendees check out a stall of pins and stickers ahead of Pence’s speech on Tuesday

‘Former Vice President Pence took a moment today to visit the mall where Heather Heyer was slain and to sign the public memorial in honor of her life and memory,’ said his former chief of staff Marc Short.

She died when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of people protesting a far-right rally in the city.

It turned out to be a critical moment in the Trump presidency, and he was roundly condemned for saying in the aftermath: ‘I think there is blame on both sides.’

At the time, Pence said he stood by the president, ‘and I stand by those words.’

His visit is a sign of the way Trump’s former vice president has to tread a fine line as he ponders his own presidential run. 

Pence is almost certain to be one of the contenders for the 2024 Republican nomination.

His camp will believe he can attract traditional conservatives and evangelical voters, as well as some of the Trump base who remember his close association with the former president.

However, he must overcome reservations in hardline quarters that he deserted Trump on Jan 6 last year, resisting his demands to overturn the election.

The result is a potential candidate keeping a low-profile in the belief that the power of Trump may be waning. 

He was asked about his plans for 2024 by a student during the question and answer session.

‘I’ll keep you posted,’ was his response. 

Campuses have become a testing ground of free speech and its limits.  

When details of Pence's appearance were announced last month, it triggered an angry row over whether the University of Virginia (above) should host Trump's vice president

When details of Pence’s appearance were announced last month, it triggered an angry row over whether the University of Virginia (above) should host Trump’s vice president 

When details of Pence’s appearance were announced last month, it triggered an angry row over whether the university should host Trump’s vice president.

The board of The Cavalier Daily, the university’s student newspaper published a strongly worded editorial titled ‘Dangerous rhetoric is not entitled to a platform.’  

It said that his words represented a threat to peaceful student life. 

‘For Pence, gay couples signify a “societal collapse,” Black lives do not matter, transgender individuals and immigrants do not deserve protection and the pandemic should not be taken seriously,’ the editorial read. 

Tickets for the free event at the Old Cabell Hall were snapped up quickly. 

They heard Pence say that under the Biden administration ‘woke-ism is running amok in our public schools and universities. 

‘Patriotic education has been replaced with political indoctrination,’ he is expected to say.

‘They abolished our 1776 commission and authorized the teaching of Critical Race Theory in our schools. They’ve destroyed women’s athletics in the name of extreme gender ideology. 

‘Let me say this clearly: participation in sports should be determined by one’s gender at birth as a matter of fairness and common sense.’

But he also said he tide was turning, citing Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race last year as evidence that ‘parents are beginning to take back our schools from the Woke Left.’

‘Even in San Francisco – the most liberal city in America – parents successfully recalled three woke school board members who cared more about renaming public schools than reopening them,’ he is due to say.

‘These results are sending a shockwave across the nation – and the Democrats who support cancel culture, CRT, and school closures are shaking in their boots.

‘To the Woke Left radicals who have spent years agitating for a culture war – I say congratulations, you’ve got it, and now you’re going to lose.’

The controversy at UVA over Pence's presence followed a free speech debate between conservative and progressive speakers at Yale Law last month sparked a protest by a group of angry liberal students

The controversy at UVA over Pence’s presence followed a free speech debate between conservative and progressive speakers at Yale Law last month sparked a protest by a group of angry liberal students

Earlier this month, a free speech debate between conservative and progressive speakers at Yale Law sparked a protest by a group of angry liberal students (pictured)

Yale Law School professor Kate Stith (second from the right) told students to 'grow up' and respect the university's rule on free speech. The students said their protesting was protected free speech

Yale Law School professor Kate Stith right) told students to ‘grow up’ and respect the university’s rule on free speech. The students said their protesting was protected free speech 

He called on his audience to save the nation from the ‘Woke Left.’ 

‘You will be the ones to stand on the ramparts for freedom. You will be the ones to stand proudly for the legacy of great men like Jefferson and Madison who founded this university and this nation. 

‘And you will be the ones who restore our promise and pride, and make America greater than ever before.’ 

But if The Cavalier Daily had had its way he would not have appeared at all. Its editorial condemned the university for allowing the speech to happen.

‘The university has accepted Pence’s visit as an “opportunity to hear from, and engage with, leaders and experts from a wide variety of fields and perspectives,”‘ it said.

‘So-called “perspectives” should not be welcomed when they spread rhetoric that directly threatens the presence and lives of our community members.’

It bore out the fears of organizer Nick Cabrera, UVA chairman of the conservative Young Americas Foundation.

‘The political climate at the University of Virginia has grown to become nearly inhospitable towards conservatives,’ he said when the invitation was announced.

‘Bringing the 48th Vice President Mike Pence will allow for a reinvigorated sense of intellectual diversity across Jefferson’s campus.’

But Pence’s visit had support from some faculty members. 

‘This speech-is-violence argument is not only wrong — no calls for violence will be issued April 12 — but also contradicts the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment, which generally creates space for a wide range of views to be expressed so long as the relevant speech does not incite violence,’ said a letter signed by 17 senior members of staff.

Pence's speech is part of a lecture series sponsored by Young America's Foundation, a conservative youth organization. Pictured: Pence poses with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) in Jerusalem on March 8

Pence’s speech is part of a lecture series sponsored by Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organization. Pictured: Pence poses with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) in Jerusalem on March 8  

‘It is also a disservice to those who are the victims of actual physical violence — whether those injured and killed during the many civil rights struggles in American history, those who fought and died for our constitutional rights as members of our armed services or the brave people of Ukraine who are fighting and dying for their freedoms, including free speech.’

The controversy at UVA over Pence’s presence followed a free speech debate between conservative and progressive speakers at Yale Law sparked a protest by a group of angry liberal students. 

And in February, the former VP addressed a Stanford College Republican (SCR) Forum at Stanford University with a speech titled ‘How to Save America From the Woke Left.’ 

Pence’s visit at Stanford was met with dozens of protesters, who staged a peaceful demonstration outside the venue where he spoke, chanting ‘hate should not be taught here.’ 

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