Jeh Johnson Withdraws as Vassar Commencement Speaker After Protests

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has withdrawn from being the next commencement speaker at Vassar College following protests over his enforcement of border laws under former President Barack Obama. It is only the latest example of rising intolerance on our campuses. This commencement was particularly poignant because his father, Jeh Vincent Johnson, (who passed away last January) taught at the college from 1964 to 2002 and designed buildings on campus. Indeed, a building designed by his father is supposed to be dedicated as the Jeh Vincent Johnson ALANA Cultural Center.  That is amazing family connection to Vassar and a wonderful moment of celebration. Moreover, Secretary Johnson is widely respected in Washington as a moderate figure, who is one of the few leaders who has been able to bridge our political divisions.

Instead, the predictable cancel campaign was launched. Vassar’s campus newspaper, The Miscellany News, declared on Feb. 16 that “For many students—particularly the graduating class—the selection of Johnson as this year’s commencement speaker was perceived as a strikingly tone-deaf blow to Vassar’s integrity and community values.” It added that  “students of color feel especially impacted by Johnson’s policies.”

A partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York, Johnson opted out in the face of the rising anger. In a statement, he declared that he would not be able to celebrate his father and the close connection to Vassar: “In my public life I managed many difficult and contentious issues. In my private life I do not seek to be the object of controversy or speak at a commencement where students will object to me.”

We have previously seen similar efforts to cancel speeches by former government leaders ranging from James Comey to Jeff Sessions to Michael Pence.

This is a huge loss for Vassar not just in the cancelling of an important address (and the celebration of an incredible African American family tied to Vassar) but also for the exercise of free speech on campus. It shows the same intolerance for dissenting views that has narrowed the range of acceptable speakers across the country.


116 thoughts on “Jeh Johnson Withdraws as Vassar Commencement Speaker After Protests”

  1. Turley,

    I admire your stance on free speech.
    Looking at the posters here… many are off topic, or are juvenile at best.

    You are right the cancel culture is an issue. But its not just the students, but the administration are to blame.
    Students don’t want Jeh to be their speaker? Then they can choose not to attend. Or the administration can choose not to have a commencement ceremony. Just mail out the diplomas and ignore the fan fare.

    Congrats… you just spent $200K or some other huge amount for a worthless degree in Art History or some other non-STEM degree. So to attached to this email is a .pdf of your diploma along with this digital certificate to show that you actually went here. We are adding you to our Alumni list in the hopes that if you happen to earn enough that you consider donating to the school, but somehow we doubt that… good luck in your next endeavor.

    I wonder what would happen if the Universities were to enforce their policies and started to expel student who rioted or shout down speakers and events? Have discipline hearings of course, warning of course… due process.

    Allow the students to decide if shouting down a speaker who has a different opinion from theirs is worth being told to leave the University.

    Actions have consequences. The sooner these spoiled kids learn that… the better.


    1. Ian Michael Gumby,

      Like everyone else here you’re missing the biggest problem with Turley’s argument. Vassar is a private college and the students are the ones paying Vassar for their education. The president of the school chose the speaker for the commencement ceremony THEIR ceremony, not the the schools’ it wasn’t just a small vocal minority that did not want Jeh Johnson to be speaker of THEIR commencement ceremony it was a majority of the graduating class. This wasn’t about preventing free speech or an attack on free speech or cancel culture. It was about students objecting to the choice of speaker for THEIR commencement ceremony. They paid a lot of money for their education and rightfully they should have a say in what they want for this event. Both the president of the school and Johnson acknowledged that basic point. Both correctly and gracefully agreed to abide by the students objections and concerns. This is exactly how it’s supposed go work. This wasn’t what Turley’s narrative wants it to be.

      Theses “kids” are college graduates who fully understand exactly what what they are objecting to. They are not “spoiled”. They are demonstrating the independent thinking they learned from their studies.

      1. “Independent thinking that they learned from their studies”. Did they study critical reasoning, normative reasoning, or did they study autonomous individual reasoning or Saul Alinsky political action reasoning.

  2. It’s imperative for the sake of the human race that the Democrats , who represent the globohomo empire, be repudiated and Rooted out of our society,….ROOT & STEM!
    Humanity’s future depends on it.
    This is a spiritual War!

    1. Now it’s “humanity vs. the Democrats”. The blind ignorance and devotion of the alt-right disciples is nothing short of amazing. It needs to be studied, just like Hitler’s rise to power has been studied to determine how can so many people can be so gullible and motivated to hate other people and fall for a phony loser like Trump. Jimmy: you don’t speak for “our society”. Most Americans: 1. didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 or 2020; 2. did not approve of him in 4 years’ time; and 3. want him to shut up and go away and let Biden do the job for which he was elected without interference. Your hero’s ego can’t handle the fact that he is a loser. He can’t stand the fact that he’s not in power. He refuses to abide by the “unwritten rule” that former presidents never: 1. criticize the leadership of the candidate who beat them; 2. get involved in current political issues; and 3. refuse to abide by the will of the American people, shown by conceding graciously and attending their successor’s inauguration. Instead, Trump incited a riot to try to prevent Biden’s victory from being acknowledged. Not only that, Trump’s praise of Putin is being used as propaganda in Russia. And yet, the disciples keep on worshipping this creature. It absolutely must be a form of serious mental illness.

      1. Why not, instead, focus on the topic at hand? Most Americans would be happy to let Biden do the job for which he was elected, without interference. But, some evil people are stopping him from keeping his oath, defending the constitution, securing the border, uniting the country. It’s as though he badly wants to do this but cannot bring himself to overcome the formidable obstacles of…oh, wait. There is nothing in his way…he’s just the worst. president. ever. And we’re not even half way through this clown show.

        1. What, exactly, has Biden failed to do? HOW has he failed to defend the Constitution, secure the border or unite the country? More importantly: how can Biden unite this country when the predecessor he beat constantly criticizes him, claims that foreign aggression is his fault, and is still at large despite starting a riot to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, and who just won’t shut up and go away? No prior POTUS has ever had a plethora of alt-right media constantly lying about them 24 hours a day, attacking them and members of their party, constantly and falsely spinning the facts and insulting them at every turn. For example, last night I caught a brief snippet of Laura Ingraham reporting that Kamala Harris had gone to Poland, and this sick excuse for a person reverted to the usual eye-rolling racist trope that Harris is incompetent and not worthy of respect: it was a big joke that Harris went to Poland because “we all know” she’s ignorant and worthless. It is disgusting to a degree that is shocking, but worse than that, the efforts of alt-right media to keep on preaching lies and pandering to divisions make America weaker. All of this for the ego of someone who cheated to get into office and who is a sore loser. Only those of you whose daily affirmation requires vigilant viewing of alt-right media fail to see how Trump continues to poison America with his lies and efforts to undermine Biden’s success.

          1. Natacha, you keep posting arguments, but you never can follow up after your word salad is shown to be tainted. What is wrong with my history of the law that involves the Country of Israel? You keep running away, producing additional word salads that are meaningless as the previous ones.

      2. The United States Supreme Court Justice who presided over the Nuremberg trials concluded that the legal theory of “Positivism” led the German people’s atrocities (i was just following the law). In the past Historicalism was the basis(this was the law for my father,grandfather, etc) and then our founders chose Naturalism(all men are created equal with inalienable rights given by GOD with equal standing before the law. It takes a diligent internet search to find this judges conclusion, it’s been suppressed by phony political scientists and replaced with propaganda.

  3. Why do Putin fanboys try to come across as the holy ones while their hero is causing so much death and destruction in Ukraine?

    1. This story has nothing to do with Putin or Ukraine. Tell your handlers you’ve been sent to the wrong story.

      1. DEMS new tactic: EVERYTHING is the fault of Russia and Putin. Even stuff in the past. That’s why on every forum the conversations ends up the same. Sadly, no one even remembers Hillary giving the red reset button to the Russian Ambassador (inspired by Biden’s comments on “reset.”). It’s as though nothing ever happened before Trump was elected. Remember Steve Job’s purported “magical reality distortion field?” Well, the Dems have it now.

  4. Where was Nancy Pelosi?

    “Homeland Security had intelligence regarding Jan. 6 but didn’t notify until 2 days later: report
    While warnings were emailed to local law enforcement “this information was not as widely disseminated as I&A’s typical intelligence products,” the IG wrote.”

  5. Thank God for affirmative action!

    Whatever would the communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) do without their unconstitutional political emulsifiers?

    Answer: “Earn it” on merit.

    Alternatively, one might consider relocating to one’s “native clime” for accommodation and facilitation, gratis.

      1. The “pursuit of happiness” and creation of wealth is absolutely constitutional.

        Understanding that citizens, Americans, candidates, officers, and people referenced by fundamental law in America are undifferentiated, imposing bias, favor and affirmative action are absolutely antithetical and unconstitutional.

        Understanding that the highest and best qualified candidate cannot possibly be obtained from a pool of candidates engendered by merely 12% of the population, the malevolence of the imposition of bias, favor and affirmative action is flagrant and glaring.

  6. Jonathan: Enough of Jeh Johnson. Let’s move on to really important news you have conveniently omitted. Like Trump’s weekend speech to big GOP donors in New Orleans. Trump made it clear what he expects the GOP to do to ensure victory in the mid-terms and in 2024. All but declaring himself a candidate Trump said to his audience: “The vote counter is often more important than the candidate”. Trump said he got this phrase from Mark Levin, the right-wing talk radio host that backs Trump’s false claims of “massive election fraud” in 2020. Levin probably got the phrase from someone else. Could have been Putin, Erdogan in Turkey or Janos Ader in Hungary–or even Kim Jong-Un in North Korea. During his rambling (nothing unusual) speech Trump heaped praise on Un marveling at how general’s and aides “cowered” when the North Korean leader speaks. Trump said “I looked at my people and said I want my people to act like that”. The audience laughed nervously but Trump was serious.

    When Trump says the “vote counter” is more important than the candidate or the voter his edict is actually being implemented in GOP controlled states. In Georgia and elsewhere laws have been implemented to remove local election officials and select alternative electors if the vote does not favor Trump’s candidates. Under any definition this is autocracy where one man selects the winners in an election. If, as you say, Putin is a “tyrant” what does that make Trump?

    1. Interesting how often Trump refers to “my people”, as though he owns them – but in his and their case, it does ring true.

    2. Dennis my friend prayerfully you are not really as ignorant as this willfully erroneous condemnation suggest.

      1. I wish once and for all that Turley would remove blog posts from people who have no way of disagreeing with someone’s viewpoint without using the word “retarded”. That word is offensive to intellectually-handicapped people, and it’s just as insulting and degrading as using the “N” word is to black people. It adds nothing of substance to a debate, and anyone who lacks the ability to express their disagreement with someone else’s viewpoint without resort to this word should be denied a place on this platform.

        1. Natacha,

          I agree, the term ‘retard’ is hurtful and derisive. It is more socially acceptable to refer to the mentally challenged as being ‘special’.

          For an example of how this would be used in a sentence; “Don’t make fun of Natacha, she tries hard but she is a ‘special’ child, bless her little heart.”

          Now that this is settled, don’t you have an orange moose and squirrel to catch?

    3. We have seen repeated examples of lefties who cannot understand sarcasm, irony, hyperbole, and parody. Dennis is another one. No fun at all.

    4. thanks for the laughs Denny,…..”Trump’s false claims of “massive election fraud” in 2020″
      you demonstrate you’re not a serious person, not someone to be concerned with, or listen to

    5. “Let’s move on to really important news”
      Stop stealing the good Prof’s band width. Thankfully Prof, Turley’s intellect guides him. While TDS drives you.

    6. The person who I heard it from is occupying the White House. Biden. He almost screamed the phrase 3 times in a row.

  7. Jonathan: Jeh Johnson carries a sad legacy that still haunts him. As HSS under Obama he carried out the cruel policy of setting up inhumane detention facilities along the border to house immigrants, mostly women and children, seeking asylum from violence in Central America. These policies were continued under Trump turning asylum seekers into “criminals” and separating children from their parents. Sexual abuse, lack of adequate medical care and other violations of basic human rights in detention facilities are well documented. So it should have been anticipated that Vassar students would object to Johnson’s presence on campus. In spite of Johnson’s close ties to Vassar it is counter intuitive the administration would invite someone to give the commencement speech with so much baggage. It was probably prudent Johnson decided to bow out rather than face protests and be reminded of the role he played in violating international humanitarian law. If we treated Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war in their country like we did/do Central American asylum seekers would we approve of the policies implemented by Johnson? I think I know the answer. We would be outraged!

    1. Good point. The “asylees” should have been housed in Vassar student facilities pending disposition of their applications.

      And by your standard roughly 7 Billion humans on Earth qualify to apply for asylum. Unfortunately, this number exceeds the available facilities in residential post-secondary educational institutions in the U.S. Where do you propose that we house these people pending disposition of their applications?


        El Cid is today’s featured puppet of the Blog Stooge.

        El Cid is also Margot Ballhere, Mistress Addams, James, Giocon, Ralph, Feldman, Old Man, Old Guy, Hullbobby and many, many more.

      2. I was born with Asperger syndrome and yes every single person except possibly babies is insane.

    2. , seeking asylum from violence in Central America

      95% of those asylum seekers, failed to meet the minimum international standards for asylum seekers. The also failed to seek asylum at the first contiguous nation they entered.

  8. (OT)

    Enrique Tarrio of the Proud Boys was arrested this morning, and he and Pezzola have been added to a new superceding indictment that charges several Proud Boys with conspiracy, obstruction, destruction of property, assault, and theft related to the Jan. 6 attack in the Capitol:

    Turley will ignore it, as he has ignored all of the Jan. 6 cases, including Joshua James recently pleading guilty to seditious conspiracy and entering into a cooperation agreement (which bodes poorly for the others charged with seditious conspiracy and for Roger Stone, who was with them) and Guy Reffitt having just been found guilty on all counts (including obstruction and entering Capitol grounds with firearm) in the first trial of a Jan. 6 insurrectionist.

  9. Another nothingburger column. The students at Vassar merely objected to Jeh Johnson because of his position on an issue important to them, so Johnson himself decided not to speak. Big deal. If he was “cancelled”, it was by his choice–Vassar didn’t dis-invite him. But that doesn’t stop Turley from carrying out one of his assignments, which is to complain about the alleged “cancel culture”: Turley says: “Instead, the predictable cancel campaign was launched.” Why should graduating seniors be forced to applaud or even listen to a speaker with whom they strongly disagree? You only have one college graduation ceremony. Why should there be a speaker whose values a substantial number of students oppose?

    1. I like how you pretend in the first half of your comment that Johnson’s act was volitional and not coerced by an organized, impending storm. Yes, Natacha, when a Mob Boss says “wouldn’t it be a shame if something were to happen to ______,” it’s reasonable to construe that as a threat. In the second half of your comment, you write that Johnson should of course expect some of the students to enforce their ideological hygiene by making Johnson withdraw because the people who can’t stand that Johnson as HHS Secretary *checks notes* engaged in the enforcement of long-standing Federal law might have their day ruined. (Of course, we – yourself included – all know that they’re exercising a heckler’s veto by threatening to make the whole graduation ceremony an annoying spectacle).

      Nobody has to be so credulous to accept that when the cancellation is in its incipient stages what always follows won’t follow in this particular case. Johnson likely wanted to give the administration time to secure a suitable replacement commencement speaker, and not to give the hecklers an opportunity to ruin the commencement for everyone else.

      1. Again with the “us vs. them” mentality, preached by alt-right media, that assumes *most* people agree with you: “not to give the hecklers an opportunity to ruin the commencement for everyone else”. Have you looked at the course offerings at Vassar? Mostly humanities: African Studies, Jewish Studies, Womens’ Studies”, languages and a few sciences….etc. This is a VERY liberal arts institution, and as such, it wouldn’t be surprising that *most* students would be opposed to Johnson’s past practices. In any event, you don’t know that opposition to Jeh Johnson was confined to a small group of “hecklers” or the majority of the graduating students, so you shouldn’t imply that it was just some “hecklers” who didn’t want him to speak at commencement.

    2. The college graduation ceremony is for the parents who paid for the education. The high school graduation is celebrated by students achieving adulthood freedoms

  10. In trying to understand where the Woke cancel culture began or the Woke movement in general, I started to reason it was the Counter Culture movement of the late sixties, which continued into the seventies. The liberals of that era are now in leadership positions or their offspring who learned from their parents now have those positions. These leaders taught their offspring that they could receive awards for participation regardless of effort, that they were special beyond limits, they could bully others towards acquiesce by name calling and a host of many other techniques for submission. This has created a super sensitive classless generation of nitwits with plugs in their ears, only hearing what they perceive as allowed dialogue. They fear others with different views that may unset their learned special status taught by their elders. They were taught to dismiss any countering views as nonsense and to be rejected especially if it affronted their superiority taught perspective.

    The WOKe (!!) movement and its adherents must be mocked, shunned, ridiculed and thrown to the waste bin whenever encountered. They must not be allowed to dictate what is and is not allowed.

    1. They’ve been allowed for decades to the point that for many it’s accepted culture from which we apparently cannot escape or overcome.

    2. Yes. Finally people are beginning to understand how we got here. This did not happen out of the blue or as if by magic. Decades of a tone-deaf political constituency that stopped growing and personally evolving the second JFK was shot, and decades of a great deal of inattention to children and their upbringings, and to a narrative vs. a reality on the ground, got us here. It is generational. History shows us that multi-generational ignorance is notoriously difficult to remedy, it is why we had a Civil War. Those liberal families would likely include the Turleys, who though their intentions were very likely good and noble, certainly, and who are upstanding folks, but with the insularity of even local privilege and connections, were more or less following a script, even if unbeknownst to them. *That* is willful ignorance bred of comfort, IMO, at the least. From the 50s onward, nobody in the counterculture paused to think that the greater good might include people they didn’t like very much.

    1. The same way they do when they don a designer purse or a pair of glasses without lenses.

  11. FACT: 100% of all government-servants at the local, state and federal levels swear a supreme and superseding loyalty oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution – which outlaws cruel treatment and unconstitutional practices. Did he meet his loyalty oath?

    The only exception, that I’m aware of, are the teenagers in the Civil Air Patrol and that is likely an unconstitutional authority (illegal authority). Teenagers flying wartime combat missions should be legally bound by Title 5 US Code 3331 (American Oath of Office) also.

    1. The Constitution prohibits cruel punishments for criminal offenses. It doesn’t outlaw cruelty in any form (nor to your low standards).

      Fun fact: as part of the executive branch of the United States government, Johnson was tasked with enforcing laws passed by Congress including immigration laws (yes, Virginia, immigration laws exist!).

  12. Mespo can’t stand the thought of withdrawing his Johnson from Putin’s butt hole.

    1. Anonymous– whoever you are– your incredibly nasty comment, especially about a person far smarter than you– is something one might hear in grade school as children are learning about bathroom humor. I must admit though it is par for the course given the weak minds that have taken control of the democrat party, led by the weakest mind of all.

      1. Anonymous (S. Meyer),

        Good grief man, chill out. It was funny as hell. Given how you insult others on a constant basis this isn’t the worst that has been posted here.

        1. Svelaz, thank you for associating me with Honestlawyermostly. I agree with what he said, but I am pleased that you associate me with his ability and intelligence.

          You can now return to play with that anonymous.

      2. HLM:
        Don’t fret over butt-hurt Aninny, our resident trashy mouth. Projection is messy and easy. Right up his alley, but remember the words of one of my high school teammates that went something like this but with a tad more colorful language: “ it’s always better to have a [Johnson] and be able to use it, than just being a [Johnson].” As wise today as in 1975.

      3. No kidding.

        Biden stands there today reading his script and calls it “Putin’s Price Hike”—at our gas pumps!!!!…..hahahahaha for the stupid mofo’s who actually believe Biden’s garbage lies. No doubt there are total idiots right here on this blog who buy into it. The stupidity is mind boggling. BUT not to the Democrats! They KNOW how stupid their constituents are. Oh yes, they know their constituents are stupid motherf*cking idiots. They know. Proof is everywhere.

      4. More to the point, Aninny (attribution: Mespo) egregiously violated Professor Turley’s Civility and Decorum Policy, something Mespo has adhered to with consummate fidelity.

        Aninny must now pay the penalty, lest his actions stand to void that policy de facto.

        I propose that Sgt. At Arms, Darren Smith, remove, and ban for life forthwith, the present rendition of Aninny (i.e. March 8, 2022 at 11:10 AM).

        All those in irrefragable concurrence, say aye.

        1. I agree somewhat, I seen his words this morning & felt the words were way out of bounds.

          I’ve seen good msg BBs go to complete hell letting trash talk go on & on to far. A small bit of attempted humor is one thing, but……

          I suggest maybe temporary ban, a couple of weeks , a month & 2 months after “It” comes back posting under the name “Sen Richard of Connecticut” or “Dick of De Nang”?

          Whatever Mespo thinks is fine with me.

          1. Geo & Oky:
            Oh, let Aninny stay. Did Jerry Lewis ever ban his straight man, Dean Martin? What’s Costello without Abbott? I enjoy a good mud throw. Like Adlai said, with every toss “he loses ground.”

    2. 🤣🤣🤣🤣

      Spit out my coffee upon reading anonymous’s comment on mespo. Whew, I’m still hurting from laughing.

    3. We know which thoughts you can stand, though.

      Now go run along and wait to be told what to think about the next outrage, tool.

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