ORONO – The University of Maine College Republicans invited a conservative speaker to come speak in Portland and it has stirred up controversy.
It cost them their standing as an official college organization in Orono, at least for now.
The venue was changed for conservative speaker Michelle Malkin after the Portland Sheraton canceled.
Malkin was invited by the UMaine College Republicans, who originally wanted to bring her to Orono but said they didn’t get a response from UMaine officials.
“We’re not going to be silenced,” said Jeremiah Childs, vice president of UMaine College Republicans.
“People are just going after her for guilt of association and they’re doing that to us as well. We do not support Holocaust denialism.”
Malkin has come under fire for voicing support for alt-right activist Nick Fuentes.
Amy Fried, the now former advisor for UMaine College Republicans, said she stepped down because of Malkin’s tie to the Holocaust denier.
And without an advisor, the political club is no longer an official UMaine organization.
“The University of Maine strongly supports free expression, free assembly for all of its students,” said UMaine spokesman Dan Demeritt.
UMaine officials deny the club’s claim that school administration pressured the hotel to cancel the event.
The school said they got calls from concerned students this week about the speaker.
Demeritt said that in response to those calls, “staff at student life called the hotel in Portland … importantly the University of Maine never asked or urged the hotel to cancel the event.”
He said they called to clarify that while these are UMaine students, the talk is not being hosted or paid for by the university.
The event has since been moved to Lewiston’s Franco American Heritage Center, where it is set for Friday.
“UMaine College Republicans always stands up for freedom of speech … we always believe everyone should have a platform regardless of what they say because that’s their god given right,” said Demeritt.
UMaine officials have said clubs can share their views but those views don’t reflect the university’s.
The school and the club’s vice president said they are working together to re-establish the group as an official school club.
The Portland Sheraton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.