CNN's Pereira, Stelter Cheer Left-Wing Activists That Pushed Out Commencement Speakers

On Monday's noontime EDT This Hour, CNN's Michaela Pereira acted as an apologist for the student and/or faculty-led protests in recent weeks that forced out several high-profile speakers from participating in commencement ceremonies: "Isn't it a rite of passage to question authority and to question things and protest things in college? Isn't that what those college years are about – to take a stand?"

Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter also specifically lauded the Haverford College students whose protest led to the withdrawal of their commencement speaker: [MP3 audio available here; video below]

BRIAN STELTER: ...I get excited when I see students protesting and trying to figure out what the boundaries of free speech are. These are students that have grown up in the 9/11 age and in the Occupy age. And I understand, for example, on that campus where they were upset about how those students were treated on – was it U.C. Davis? Where those kids were sprayed – that was disgusting! And I like that those students stood up against it.

CNN political commentator Will Cain was the sole conservative in the panel discussion segment with Pereira, co-anchor John Berman, Stelter, and left-of-center CNN commentator Sally Kohn. Pereira led the segment by noting that "at least three prominent leaders – former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine LaGarde; and former U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau – cancelled – flat-out cancelled their commencement speeches after students protested."

Berman added that "students wanted him [Birgeneau] to apologize for how he treated some Occupy Wall Street protesters three years ago, and said he didn't speak at all. And instead, someone else came – former Princeton President William Bowen, who said this about it – let's listen if we can. We don't have the sound. Bowen said it was a bad idea. He called the students 'immature and arrogant.'"

The two anchors first turned to Cain for his take on the recent protests. The conservative writer bemoaned the poor state of debate on college campuses:

CAIN: I think – I wouldn't call these kids arrogant. I would call them insecure and entitled. They've been protected their entire life. Look, we raised an entire generation of kids who we pick up when they fall down; we tell them they're special their entire lives; everything they say is unique and smart. They can't be exposed to disagreement, and this is what you get.

And I'm not just pontificating. The Wall Street Journal wrote about this – I just want to share this with you: from 1987 to 2008, there were 48 protests that resulted in 21 cancellations; since 2009, 95 protests that resulted in 39 cancellations. Something has changed. We are not capable of hearing disagreement.

Pereira then turned to Kohn and asked her beyond sympathetic question about the protesters. The CNN commentator commended the activists, but also gave them some mild criticism from the left:

SALLY KOHN: ...I was a student protester. I love students protesting. Part of the problem is, it would be nice if students were actually protesting things that mattered – which is to say, if the Iraq war were still happening, protest that. You're not going to protest and change Condoleezza Rice's hearts (sic) and mind about things, so – and there are other things you can go do – go protest; go join the fast-food workers who are striking in your community. Do something that matters.

CAIN: But Sally, this can't mean (holds up fist) – this should mean I oppose you; I disagree with you – not shut up. It has turned into shut up-

KOHN: No, right. Will, I exactly agree, and look – you know, protest outside of the commencement speech; don't applaud in the commencement speech if you don't agree. But look, part of the other side here is, I don't agree with the way that Will kind of denigrated a whole generation. But I do think is, as a country – as a country, we're not good at listening to people we don't agree with anymore

Later in the segment, Stelter gave his own compliment of the campus demonstrators. When Pereira pointed out that the speakers "should stand up and take a stand," Cain pointed out the leftist ideology guiding all of these activists (which no one had mentioned previously) and their censorship of opposing views. Kohn took issue with his point, and the two sparred until the end of the segment:

CAIN: The adults have shown no backbone to the children – to the students of these universities. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was given a commencement honorary degree and then rescinded because the students protested.

And the other thing is – Brian, I do appreciate you suggesting that you see student activism as a good thing, and certainly, in some instances. We have to recognize that there is a consistency, and it's in this liberal orthodoxy P.C. that they can't hear opposite opinions-

KOHN: Well – whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! I don't see-

CAIN: Christine LaGarde, from the IMF, can't speak because the IMF put strings attached to their nation bailouts?

KOHN: Listen, wait a second – here we go. Having a conversation in academia about the critiques of IMF policies and how they hurt poor countries is appropriate. And what we should be doing in our universities, left and right-

CAIN: Right, but that's not what happened-

KOHN: Is having those debates. And, by the way, conservative-

CAIN: That's not what happened. She was told she shouldn't come to campus and speak.

KOHN: I don't see conservative colleges inviting liberal speakers there either – right? So there is a larger problem in our country that we've become polarized, and we need – look, if we want young people to sharpen their ideas and sharpen their minds, they do that not by holding opposing opinions at bay, but by inviting them in and engaging with them.

CAIN: But it's also – but state flagship universities, like Rutgers, are now liberal universities.

KOHN: Listen, if the facts and truth and information tend to lean liberal, that's not those universities- (Cain laughs)

PEREIRA: There it is-

CAIN: We just turned it into a 30-minute segment-

BERMAN: Brian Stelter, Sally Kohn, Will Cain, great to have you here with us.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.