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Despite Gonzaga ban, supporters say conservative commentator Ben Shapiro could still come to Spokane

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 12, 2018, 9:51 p.m.

Controversial conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire and former editor-at-large of Breitbart News, addresses the student group Young Americans for Freedom at the University of Utah's Social and Behavioral Sciences Lecture Hall, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Salt Lake City. The Young America’s Foundation says Shapiro still is planning to speak on the Gonzaga University campus in the spring of 2019, though the university last month said he would not be allowed to speak. (Leah Hogsten / The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Controversial conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire and former editor-at-large of Breitbart News, addresses the student group Young Americans for Freedom at the University of Utah's Social and Behavioral Sciences Lecture Hall, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Salt Lake City. The Young America’s Foundation says Shapiro still is planning to speak on the Gonzaga University campus in the spring of 2019, though the university last month said he would not be allowed to speak. (Leah Hogsten / The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Undeterred by Gonzaga University officials who last month denied a request for commentator Ben Shapiro to speak on campus, the organization behind Shapiro’s six-campus lecture series and the students who invited him indicate he’s still planning to come in the spring.

While Shapiro hasn’t officially confirmed his plan to push back on Gonzaga’s decision, Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organization that sponsors Shapiro’s speeches at colleges across the country, still lists Gonzaga University as one of six destinations for the speaking tour beginning Jan. 17 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Olivia Johnston, president of Gonzaga University College Republicans, said she’s been in contact with Young America’s Foundation since the university denied the club’s request in November. She also filed an appeal with the university Monday afternoon.

She said she hasn’t heard from Shapiro directly.

“I’ve been talking to the Young Americans for Freedom team” – a nonprofit and chapter affiliate of Young America’s Foundation – “and they said that he has fully chosen to come to Gonzaga,” she said. “And I’m pretty sure that means he’s coming.”

Jason Rantz, a conservative radio host who runs the “Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH 770-AM in Seattle and 94.5-FM in Eastern Washington, posted a story early Wednesday morning reporting Young America’s Foundation’s announcement. When he tweeted the post at about 6:30 a.m., it earned a retweet from Shapiro, who has amassed close to 2 million followers on Twitter.

Shapiro, who also hosts a show on KTTH, told Rantz in late November, shortly after learning he was blocked from Gonzaga, that it was the “purist example” of a “university shutting down a speech because the hecklers veto it.”

“The idea is that a bunch of people don’t like me so they show up at my speeches and they yell at me,” he said. “So we can’t have me because we don’t want the people who are yelling at me.”

Describing their reasoning in denying the request late last month, Gonzaga officials said Shapiro’s politics and rhetoric do not align with the school’s Catholic and Jesuit mission, and that his presence would likely draw protests that “include extremely divisive and hateful speech and behavior which is offensive to many people.”

Mary Joan Hahn, Gonzaga’s senior director of community and public relations, said Wednesday that the College Republicans have been in conversation with the administration.

“I have not been informed of any resolution,” she said.

In a follow-up email statement, she said she could not confirm that an appeal had been filed.

“With respect to news coming out of the Young America’s Foundation, it is our understanding that the administration and students are still discussing the decision,” she wrote.

At the time, Gonzaga’s move to cancel the event was met with widespread condemnation from conservative voices online, including several who identified as Gonzaga alumni. Multiple people commented on Shapiro’s Twitter and Facebook and on news articles saying they would no longer donate to the university.

Johnston, speaking on behalf of the conservative club, which boasts an active membership of about 45, said last month she and others planned to push back for as long as necessary. She said Tuesday that if the university doesn’t allow Shapiro on campus, they’ll hold the event elsewhere.

“Ben Shapiro has chosen to come here,” she said. “It’s just simply a matter of the administration’s decision now.”

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