The Citadel issues statement on scheduled Steve Bannon speech

Concerns over Steve Bannon at The Citadel
Published: Nov. 2, 2017 at 7:14 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2017 at 8:45 PM EDT
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Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon (AP/Evan Vucci)
Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon (AP/Evan Vucci)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Citadel Thursday posted a statement over a scheduled speech from former presidential advisor Steve Bannon.

Bannon will be the keynote speaker at the Patriots Dinner, an event put on by the Citadel Republican Society. The event is scheduled for Nov. 10.

The statement, from The Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa, stated in part:

The Citadel has been, and will continue to be, a venue where ideas from many points of view are shared. Our community is a place where we discuss and debate a diversity of ideas in a civil, respectful manner. We are confident in the ability of our cadets, students, faculty, staff and community to decide for themselves if ideas presented by speakers have any merit.  We greatly value civility, and all members of the college community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect.

One of the foundational principles that we teach our cadets and students is that while we will not agree on every issue, we will respect the opinions of others, even when we strongly disagree. We believe this principle is important in any college environment—but especially one devoted to educating principled leaders. I communicated this principle to our campus community in August as the academic year was beginning, and it will remain important as we continue discussing the important, sometimes contentious issues of the day.

Rosa said The Citadel does not endorse political figures or partisan points of view.

On Wednesday afternoon, state and community leaders met with Rosa to see if there was anything he could do to stop the visit and state their position on Bannon's visit.

"We asked him if there was something he could do to stop it and he said he can't," said Elder Johnson with National Action Network."We understand the free speech, but I think he could have stopped it if he wanted to."

State Representative Wendell Gilliard wrote a letter on "thoughts for uplifting students at the Citadel", saying he opposes Bannon's visit and it would not be appropriate.

"Our position is to build bridges as we continue post Walter Scott, post Mother Emanuel that's our position," Gilliard said."By this hateful gentleman coming here, a known white supremacist, this would be what we call burning bridges."

"And then on top of that knowing that young people have asked him to come here, that's the tragedy of it all," Gilliard continued."And that's why it's very important that we have dialogues with this organization at The Citadel."

Gilliard said they plan to meet with the Republican Society after the event to further dialogue.

Bannon's speech a The Republican Society's Patriots Dinner was announced Oct. 26 and met with strong reaction from both sides of the aisle locally.

Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan issued a statement that called Bannon "an unabashed white nationalist and racist."

"The Republican Society should be ashamed for bringing this racist bigot to the Holy City," Quirk-Garvan said in the statement.

Charleston County Republican Party Chairman Larry Kobrovsky also issued a statement in which he called for people to let Bannon speak and then draw their own conclusions.

"To suggest that the guy couldn't come and speak is repulsive," Kobrovsky said in the statement. "We should hear from everybody, but I reject any kind of racial nationalism - white, black or Hispanic."

Bannon was the president's chief strategist but left the White House in August after serving for seven months.

Click here to read the full statement from Rosa.

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