Adam Carolla, Ben Shapiro to Testify in Congressional Hearing on Free Speech at Colleges

Adam Carolla and Ben Shapiro - Getty - H 2017

The two will address a dozen or so congress members on July 27 in Washington.

Members of Congress are curious about the riots that ensue at U.C. Berkeley and other universities seemingly whenever a conservative is scheduled to deliver a speech. A hearing has been scheduled on the matter, and among those invited to testify is comedian Adam Carolla, The Hollywood Reporter learned Friday.

Insiders say Carolla has accepted the invitation and will address a dozen or so congressmembers in a joint hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules and the Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs for up to two hours on July 27 in Washington.

Others planning to testify include conservative author and pundit Ben Shapiro and Nadine Strossen, the former president of the ACLU and a founder of Feminists for Free Expression. The topic of the congressional hearing is: “Challenges to Freedom of Speech on College Campuses.”

Some of the members of Congress in those committees are Republicans Darrell Issa, Mark Sanford and Paul Mitchell and Democrats Eleanor Holmes Norton and Jim Cooper. For the majority Republicans, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio will lead the questioning.

Carolla was invited because he has teamed with radio host Dennis Prager to make No Safe Spaces, a documentary movie about political correctness on college campuses. The name derives from the term “safe spaces,” which refers to rooms where university students may retreat to rather than listen to political opinions they find disturbing.

Shapiro was invited because his appearances at universities are often accompanied by riots (when they aren’t canceled by administrators who fear his appearance will incite violence). A group that invited Shapiro to speak sued California State University, Los Angeles claiming administrators failed to stop disruptors, and at DePaul University in Chicago police threatened to arrest Shapiro when he showed up to talk on the topic of free speech. 

Perhaps the most famous example of rioting that prevented a conservative from speaking occurred in April when a planned appearance by Ann Coulter was canceled because police and college administrators could not guarantee her safety. A lawsuit is still pending in that matter.

A few months earlier when Milo Yiannopoulos attempted to speak at Berkeley, demonstrators broke windows, threw Molotov cocktails and set fires. When he tried speaking at UCLA, a bomb threat ended the event.

Coulter, Yiannopoulos and Shapiro all plan on speaking at Berkeley (not necessarily simultaneously) in the near future. Shapiro is set to speak there Sep. 14 and issued the following statement: “I expect that the administration will not hide behind the heckler’s veto of despicable groups like Antifa to prevent this event from moving forward. The home of the free speech movement has an obligation to protect free speech.”

As for Carolla, the production of his movie got off to a rocky start when California State University, Northridge in Southern California canceled a joint appearance of him and Prager because, the duo say, administrators feared the politically incorrect nature of the planned discussion would lead to a public disturbance. The two threatened legal action and the college rebooked them for a different time.

"I'm looking forward to informing Congress of the challenges of free speech at colleges, especially from Democrats," Shapiro told THR on Friday. "I'll be curious to see if any Democrats even show up at the hearing and, if they do, if they'll take an adversarial position or present a united front."

UPDATED July 15, 2017 at 12:34 p.m. to clarify the timing of the lawsuit involving CSULA.