For Our Lives — a campus group advocating for increased “gun sense” on the local and national levels — has released a statement expressing its concern about the upcoming master class with the National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch hosted by the Yale Politics Initiative.
The group posted a statement on its Facebook page on Thursday afternoon, one year after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Loesch, a current NRA spokeswoman, is a conservative political commentator and author. Her past work includes writing and editing for Breitbart News as well as hosting both a nationally syndicated daily radio show and a program on TheBlaze TV. She is slated to come to campus on Saturday as a guest for one of YPI’s “Off the Record” master classes — the latest in a nonpartisan series that brings experts in political practice to campus to share their experiences and knowledge with students in a small-group setting.
For Our Lives’ statement questions the YPI’s choice to give Loesch a platform to teach college students and recommends that students attending her class keep in mind Loesch’s history, citing incidents in which she attacked racial diversity and used threatening language toward journalists.
“For Our Lives is not asking YPI to sacrifice its mission of political diversity,” the statement reads. “Rather, we ask that students have a full understanding of any person who is provided a platform to speak and teach here at Yale and believe that our student body deserves to know that Loesch is a speaker who supports institutions of oppression, violence, and hatred and uses the tactics of claiming ‘fake news’ and threatening violence to forward her cause.”
The statement states that Loesch has “implicitly condoned white supremacy” and refers to a segment on NRATV that Loesch hosted last September depicting characters from “Thomas & Friends” — a popular children’s show — wearing Ku Klux Klan hoods as a parody on the show’s new commitment to ethnic diversity.
The group’s statement also points to negative rhetoric Loesch has used against mainstream media outlets, noting that Loesch has referred to them as “propaganda” and said that she would be “happy frankly to see them curb stomped.”
When the 2016 clip of Loesch’s “curb stomp” comments resurfaced following a June 2018 shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, Loesch took to Twitter to defend her statements, writing that the quote had been taken out of context and that it was the journalists’ stories, not journalists themselves, which she would have liked to see “curb stomped.”
The statement adds that “inviting Loesch may have the unintended effect of creating hurtful and irresponsible citizens modeled in her image.”
YPI co-directors Paul Gross ’20 and Michael Michaelson ’20 wrote in a joint statement to the News that they “appreciate” the For Our Lives’ statement and plan to meet with the group to further discuss Loesch’s visit.
“We invite guests to Yale who have been effective change-makers in politics,” they wrote in an email to the News. “Our focus is on political practice — not policy or philosophy — and we work closely with our guests to make sure their classes are practice-focused. We aim to invite folks with a wide range of political and personal perspectives because we think there’s value to taking classes from guests with whom we disagree.”
Gross and Michaelson added that they take care to always admit students to the classes who they believe will “challenge” guests and ask them difficult questions.
They emphasized that the decision to bring Loesch “wasn’t easy,” but they are “convinced” that it can be beneficial to students of all political beliefs to learn about “how she operates.”
“For better or worse, she’s a prominent influencer in politics,” they said.
Grant Richardson ’19 noted that Loesch is “merely the latest in a long line of distinguished guests the YPI has brought to campus,” adding that he thinks students have the potential to learn from her regardless of whether their political views align with hers.
He added that even if one does not agree with NRA’s politics, Yalies could learn “lessons applicable to political lobbying in general” from Loesch.
“I expect that Mrs. Loesch has valuable insights, as she serves as the public face of one of the most polarizing, and successful, special interest groups in American politics,” Richardson said.
Still, For Our Lives leaders said that they believe that Loesch’s political views affect the strategy she employs. Jacob Hutt ’21, the group’s co-president and a staff columnist for the News, said that Loesch’s tactics have been “particularly concerning,” and that there is “certainly a question of whether students should be learning to use that kind of methodology.”
Carson Macik ’22 told the News that he thinks the “commentary on [Loesch’s] comments themselves ignores the larger problem.” He explained that he thinks that Loesch draws criticism from Yalies simply because she is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
“The attacks on Loesch have nothing to do with her character or comments; they have everything to do with demolishing the constitutional amendment to keep and bear arms, and Dana is standing in their way,” Macik said. “There would be backlash regardless of the character of the speaker, and Dana’s expertise and experience on the subject make that clear.”
Still, For Our Lives co-president Carrie Mannino ’20, a former WKND editor for the News, stressed that For Our Lives does not want to prevent Loesch from speaking on campus.
Mannino said that the group does not intend the statement to be an attack on the YPI. Rather, the group simply felt the need to further inform students about Loesch and her past tactics, which the board felt were not fully conveyed in the advertisement of the event, Mannino said.
“Obviously, she’s coming,” Mannino said. “We’re not trying to keep her from being there. I just think that students should be notified of her background.”
Loesch studied journalism at Webster University.
Asha Prihar | firstname.lastname@example.org