‘Alt-Right’ Leader Slated to Speak at NYU

The conservative pundit Milo Yiannopoulos will speak on issues like cultural appropriation in a class taught by “deplorable” professor Michael Rectenwald.


Conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos is scheduled to speak at a class taught by self-proclaimed “deplorable” NYU professor Michael Rectenwald on Wednesday. (Image via flickr.com; illustration by Katie Peurrung)

Sarah Jackson, News Editor

Milo Yiannopoulos is scheduled to speak at a class taught by self-proclaimed “deplorable” NYU professor Michael Rectenwald on Wednesday. 

A former senior editor at Breitbart News, Yiannopoulos is known for calling for deportations of Muslims from Western countries, condoning pedophilia and commenting that vigilante squads should shoot journalists, among other incendiary remarks. 

A copy of Yiannopoulos’s speech for Wednesday obtained by WSN shows the pundit’s derision of identity politics and people who accuse certain Halloween costume wearers of cultural appropriation. The speech also includes claims that Halloween has become boring and heavily policed, and that liberals use their bodies as costumes and are not living in the real world. It ends by encouraging people to wear offensive costumes on Halloween.

This isn’t the first time Yiannopoulos has been asked to speak at NYU. In 2016, NYU College Republicans invited Yiannopoulos to speak, although his scheduled appearance was canceled by NYU due to safety concerns.

Rectenwald, a Liberal Studies clinical professor, is a frequent critic of political correctness and social justice. He recently lost a defamation lawsuit he made against the university and four professors for remarks made in a department-wide email exchange. 

Rectenwald said he does not necessarily support Yiannopoulos’s views, emphasizing that he will be welcoming a socialist speaker to his class later in the semester. 

“This appearance does not represent an endorsement of his views,” Rectenwald said. “It is just to get some perspective, some diversity of perspective in the classroom.” 

Still, he said Yiannopoulos is better than he has been portrayed in the media. 

“He’s a genius,” Rectenwald said. “Once you hear him speak, you’ll see that he’s a genius.” 

Liberal Studies Dean Julie Mostov sent an email Monday evening to students in the school, stating that she only heard about Yiannopoulos’ appearance on Sunday morning when the New York Post broke the news and calling this “a teachable moment.”

“As long as we can ensure that the classroom visit of Mr. Yiannopoulos unfolds with everyone’s safety in mind — under the direction of NYU’s Vice President for Public Safety – the class visit will go on,” Mostov wrote. “Rest assured that the students in this class will be informed about the visit and that only students registered for the class will be able to attend.”

Richard Baum, Chief of Staff to President Andrew Hamilton, also issued a statement on Monday regarding Yiannopoulos’s scheduled appearance.

“Our Public Safety Department has evaluated the circumstances of Mr. Yiannopoulos’ appearance and believes the class can proceed safely,” he wrote.

University spokesperson John Beckman added to the statement as well.

“Mr. Yiannopoulous [sic] has espoused many ideas that are at odds with the values of the NYU community and are offensive to its members,” he wrote. “But as an invited speaker, he will be allowed to address Professor Rectenwald’s class because even in the face of controversy and profound disagreement, adherence to the principles of academic freedom is a core value.”

Rectenwald told WSN on Monday that he had been contacted by Public Safety regarding the appearance.

University spokesperson John Beckman said the university was troubled by the lack of notice for Yiannopoulos’s appearance. 

“The university only learned in the last few hours from press accounts about the possible presence in a classroom on Wednesday of Mr. Yiannopoulis [sic],” Beckman said in an email to WSN on Sunday. “Given the record of disruption that has accompanied Milo Yiannopoulis’ [sic] appearances on campuses, it is a source of concern to us that a faculty member would issue such an invitation without taking such rudimentary, common-sense steps as reaching out to our Dept of Public Safety to ensure his students’ — and other community members’ — safety.” 

Yiannopoulos’s appearance is already raising objections. 

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee at NYU spoke out against it on Twitter on Sunday.

“Milo and his fascist, white supremacist speech — which has often included calls to violence — are dangerous for many of our students,” the tweet reads. “For educational workers, this is what a workplace safety struggle looks like. He has no place in any classroom.” 

Student Senators Council senator-at-large Rose Asaf also contested Yiannopoulos’s pending speech on Twitter. 

“…[A] white nationalist/pedophile is coming to class — a few days after another white nationalist murdered 11 Jewish people,” she wrote. 

UPDATE Oct. 29: This article was updated to include statements from Liberal Studies Dean Julie Mostov and Richard Baum, Chief of Staff to President Andrew Hamilton, and an updated statement from John Beckman.

CORRECTION Oct. 29: Rectenwald confirmed to WSN on Monday evening that, despite his previous claim to have discussed the appearance with Mostov earlier in the week, he did not present it to her until Sunday.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 29 edition. Email Sarah Jackson at [email protected]