The two frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination criticized protests at the University of Missouri Thursday, arguing that the university administrators who resigned in the wake of racially charged incidents may have set a harmful precedent by acquiescing to students’ demands.
“I think it’s disgusting,” Donald Trump said in an interview on Fox Business Network.
“I think the two people that resigned are weak, ineffective people,” he added, referring to University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe and chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who both announced on Monday that they would step aside under pressure. “I think that when they resigned, they set something in motion that’s gonna be a disaster for the next long period of time.”
The issue’s volatile mix of racial tensions, highly publicized public protests, and debate over political correctness has thrust the school into the political spotlight this week after the university was rocked by renewed charges that school administrators failed to address simmering problems on campus. Those complaints prompted a student’s hunger strike and a nationally publicized boycott by players on the school’s football team, who demanded that Wolfe step down.
Republican candidate Ben Carson also said Thursday that students at the school were giving in to “infantile behavior.”
“We’re being a little bit too tolerant, I guess you might say, accepting infantile behavior. I don’t care which side it comes from. To say that I have the right to violate your civil rights because you’re offending me is un-American,” he said on FOX News’ “The Kelly File.”
“The officials at these places must recognize that and have the moral courage to stand up it. Because if they don’t, it will grow, it will exacerbate the situation and we will move much further toward anarchy than anybody can imagine, and much more quickly,” he added.
Fellow Republican Carly Fiorina echoed concerns about “political correctness” on college campuses, telling reporters Thursday evening that the phenomenon is “choking candid conversations in this nation.”
“One of the things you see going on, on so many college campuses now is kids are taught, you know, if anything offends their sensibilities that they should stand up and say, ‘oh don’t talk to me that about that.’” she said. “They’re called trigger warnings now. This doesn’t help our young people prepare for a lifetime in the real world.”
Speaking in Iowa, New Jersey Republican Chris Christie blamed the unrest on an atmosphere of “lawlessness” fostered by the president.
“When people think justice is not applied evenly and fairly, they take matters into their own hands,” he said during an appearance in Iowa.
Democratic presidential candidates have been generally supportive of the protesters, emphasizing the students’ fight to address the racially charged incidents that originally prompted the tensions in Missouri and at other institutions nationwide.
Bernie Sanders said in a tweet that “it’s time to address structural racism on college campuses.”
And Hillary Clinton retweeted aide Marlon Marshall’s message of solidarity with the protesters.