JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Nearly a month after Michael Knowles was allegedly assaulted during an event at the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC), the conservative author and commentator was back in the Show-Me State.
At the invitation of Republican Sen. Eric Burlison, Knowles met with a group of Republican lawmakers Thursday morning and addressed a few dozen supporters in the Capitol Rotunda. Burlison had invited Knowles to the Capitol following a public controversy last month.
Knowles was asked to give a speech at UMKC by the public school’s Young Americans for Freedom student group. One UMKC student was arrested for allegedly assaulting Knowles, a controversial speaker, by spraying him with a liquid substance, and the chancellor came under fire for his response.
UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal initially praised the students who demonstrated against the guest speaker, saying the “UMKC community responded in the best way — by organizing and conducting a counter-event across campus … that focused on positive messages about diversity and inclusion.”
Agrawal has since apologized for any misconceptions from his initial remarks and reaffirmed the university’s commitment to “support freedom of expression for all” and “to rise to the higher principle of promoting a respectful exchange of ideas for our students to form their own views and engage in critical thinking.”
“I think it’s really important that we make up for the embarrassment that happened at the University of Missouri – Kansas City,” Burlison told The Missouri Times. “With that in mind, I think we accomplished that mission.”
Although it wasn’t his first time back in Missouri since the on-campus altercation, Knowles — a host and author for The Daily Wire who is based in Los Angeles — said he wanted to meet with lawmakers to advocate for a “robust liberal education system.” His meetings, he said, were “tremendously encouraging.”
After the UMKC event, “I flew back to Los Angeles, but the conservative students at that university stayed here, and they got a message from their administration that their views were not welcome on campus, and that they were not encouraged on campus,” Knowles, 29, told The Missouri Times.
It was an honor to welcome @michaeljknowles to the Missouri Senate. He deserves our respect at every University in Missouri. Thank you to @EricBurlison for inviting him back to our state! #moleg #conservative6 #MAGA #1stAmendment #FreedomOfSpeech @MissouriGOP @DLHoskins pic.twitter.com/XnkWq2AuoO
— Bob Onder (@BobOnderMO) May 9, 2019
“I felt it was important to come here … to defend liberal education, to defend the values that undergird liberal education, and to remind us that what’s happening on campuses is a preview of what’s going to happen in our country 20 years from now,” Knowles continued. “A free, self-governing republic cannot exist without a robust liberal education system. And if that has been hollowed out, and if bedrock principles of our country are not only not being defended, but are being dismissed and negated, we’re not going to have a recognizable country in the future.”
Knowles decried the state of the country’s public education system, particularly a perceived lack of accountability.
“It’s very hard to fire bad administrators. It’s very hard to stop the crazy administrative bloat that has caused so many of the problems in the universities, and so I think it’s incumbent on us not just to talk to legislators and say, ‘Fix our problems for us,’ but it’s incumbent on us who are the voters, who are the taxpayers, who are complicit in this issue of rotten education systems to vote with our purse strings and force a change at the universities.”
After the debacle, multiple Republicans in the Missouri legislator publicly offered support for the political commentator. Sen. David Sater suggested the chancellor step down from his position, and Rep. Justin Hill introduced a House resolution calling for his removal. No action has been taken on the resolution.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.