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D’Souza speaks to packed house at Gonzaga University

Dinesh D’Souza, commentator, best-selling author and documentary filmmaker, speaks at Gonzaga University on Wednesday,  Feb. 24, 2016. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Dinesh D’Souza, commentator, best-selling author and documentary filmmaker, speaks at Gonzaga University on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Controversial conservative author Dinesh D’Souza gave a wide-ranging talk at Gonzaga University on Wednesday that repeatedly took aim at Democrats and those who opposed opening his talk to the public.

The Hemmingson Center Ballroom was packed to capacity as D’Souza said he was glad to see members of the community there in addition to students and staff.

“I realize there was a little controversy,” he said, referring to Gonzaga administrators’ initial decision to bar members of the public from the talk. That decision was reversed earlier this month.

A group of professors from the university’s Women’s and Gender Studies and English departments organized a poetry and prose reading Wednesday night in the Hemmingson Center to “highlight the dignity of the human person” and counter D’Souza’s message, they said.

The goal was to celebrate the values on which Gonzaga is based and encourage civil discourse, said professor Patsy Fowler.

In the days before his visit, D’Souza used Twitter to repeatedly poke fun at the poetry-reading event. “Gonzaga has poems for wimpy safe-space seekers and my lecture for people who aren’t afraid to hear provocative ideas,” he wrote in one tweet.

“I think it’s part of who he is,” Fowler said of the tweets. “I don’t think it shows respect for those who have a different opinion.”

D’Souza’s talk appeared to be well-received, with laughter and bursts of applause throughout. At one point, he spoke about racial justice and said that while Democrats claim to support justice they invented slavery, segregation and the Ku Klux Klan.

“What we have is an ugly, vile history of a party in bed with slavery,” he said. “This is our irrefutable history.”

Republicans voted for fair housing, voting rights and emancipation, which Democrats opposed, D’Souza said.

“Republicans are the only ones in this country who have nothing to be ashamed of on the civil rights issue,” he said.

D’Souza said many students in the room had probably never heard his arguments before.

“Why haven’t your professors told you any of this?” he said. “They don’t want you to know.”

He lambasted Democratic plans to provide free college and expanded access to health care, arguing that they were increasing the national debt to do so.

“We’re in an argument, in a fight, about the meaning of justice,” he said. “Isn’t it part of your education to hear it?”