LARAMIE, WYO. (AP) - Ann Coulter was bringing her edgy brand of conservatism to the University of Wyoming Thursday, a year after the school drew widespread criticism for its handling of an appearance by Bill Ayers, a Vietnam-era radical who is now a professor.
Coulter is known for her biting criticism of liberals through her television appearances. Her speech topic Thursday night: “Why the liberals are wrong about everything!”
An anonymous donor upset with Ayers’ April 2010 appearance in Laramie paid for half of Coulter’s $20,000 speaking fee. UW’s College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation, a Virginia-based group that promotes conservative ideas on college campuses, were paying the remainder and other expenses.
The university’s handling of the visit by Ayers, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, generated criticism from all sides. The university invited him, then canceled his speech because many residents and UW alumni threatened to withhold contributions to the school.
Ayers co-founded the Weather Underground, an anti-war group that claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, including nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.
He was a fugitive for years but surrendered in 1980. Charges were dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct.
In Casper, U.S. District Chief Judge William Downes ordered the university to let Ayers speak. As a Vietnam veteran, Downes said he could “scarcely swallow the bile” of his contempt for the Weather Underground, but added a free society must guarantee free speech.
Ayers ultimately dealt mostly with education issues in his speech.
His past briefly became an issue during the 2008 presidential race because he once served with Barack Obama on the board of a Chicago charity. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists.”
UW students opposed to Coulter’s views were holding a fundraiser Thursday for gays, lesbians and advocates of people with alternative lifestyles. Pledge amounts were being taken on a per-minute basis based on the length of Coulter’s talk.
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