University of Florida student leaders are taking a lot of incoming over a move to impeach student body President Michael Murphy over his decision to bring Donald Trump Jr. to campus last month.
But , a senator in the Gator student government, penned an op-ed in The New York Times to defend the inquiry, which comes amid congressional impeachment proceedings into President Donald Trump.
Chou, who admits in the piece that he ran against Murphy earlier this year and lost, wrote that the student president has become a “conservative martyr.”
“For many of his supporters, this is simply another story of campus leftists gone berserk and threatening free speech. In fact, it’s a much more complicated story, one that throws into question the use of public funds for partisan ends,” Chou wrote.
Murphy came under fire after emails disclosed by the university’s student newspaper showed the campaign of the president reached out to Murphy to bring the younger Trump and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, a Trump campaign adviser, to the school.
Student activity fees were used to pay $50,000 for the appearance. The impeachment resolution said Murphy “not only endangered students marginalized by the speaker’s white nationalist supporters, but also abused his power to advance a particular political party at the expense of the student he should represent.”
Murphy’s enlisted the aid of Tallahassee’s Daniel Nordby, a Shutts & Bowen partner who served as general counsel to former Gov. Rick Scott and is now the chairman of the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.
Earlier this month, Florida GOP leaders issued a blast email to supporters in support of Murphy.
“If it was Chelsea Clinton, they’d be praising him. Enough is enough!” the party, which called Murphy’s impeachment “completely outrageous,” said.
But Chou provided some insight into the student government’s rationale:
Michael Murphy has posted photos of himself on social media at President Trump’s inauguration and with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the White House. He is the son of Dan Murphy, who works for the lobbying firm BGR Group. Dan Murphy maxed out donations to President Trump’s 2020 campaign, and is a known associate of Donald Trump Jr. The $50,000 that paid for the speaking fee came from mandatory student fees.
Chou noted that Scott, now a U.S. senator, called Murphy’s pending impeachment “shameful,” and also pointed out the RPOF website where supporters can add their name to support Murphy. On Nov. 14, Trump Jr. “tweeted colorful language about the Murphy impeachment inquiry and added, ‘Enough of this nonsense,’ ” Chou wrote.
The UF student newspaper, The Alligator, first reported on the emails linking the Trump campaign to the Trump Jr. speech.
“Many people saw these emails as the smoking gun, as proof that Mr. Murphy had colluded with the Trump campaign to funnel student fees toward a partisan cause.
The emails were the final straw for me and my colleagues in the Student Government Senate,” Chou wrote.
The story gathered steam, “bolstered” by the national impeachment proceedings, the student body senator added.
But, Chou argued, the impeachment isn’t based on partisan politics.
“This is about right and wrong,” he wrote.
Donald Trump Jr. made other book-tour stops where he wasn’t paid $50,000, Chou said.
Paying $50,000 for a speech that could have literally been a free speech is ethically questionable, especially seeing how Ms. Wren, a financial consultant for the Trump re-election campaign, was involved in setting up the speaking event — and that Michael Murphy’s lobbyist father has already maxed out his contributions to the campaign.
At the end of the day, had Donald Trump Jr. come to the University of Florida in the same way that he visited other universities, we would not had initiated impeachment proceedings against our student body president. It is the money questionably spent, conflicts of interest and shady Trump campaign collusion that are the sole ingredients in this recipe for impeachment.
Just as they are doing with the hearings in Washington, Republicans will try to pass this off as another day of partisan politics, but it’s not. This is about right and wrong, and just like our counterparts in Congress, we are taking a stand for ethical behavior in politics. We demand accountability.”
Here’s another excerpt from the op-ed:
“Conservative commentators have glanced in our direction and bemoaned the death of free speech on college campuses. The Florida Federation of College Republicans lamented that our student government has used “funds for years to promote liberal speakers.”
Reality doesn’t quite match up with the assertions of those who claim to be persecuted; as I’ve written previously, the vast majority of the political speakers that our student government has brought in and paid for in the last three years are conservative. On the conservative side, the former Ohio governor John Kasich came to campus in January; the former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and political commentator Ben Shapiro spoke in 2017. On the liberal side, we held events with Kal Penn, associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration, and the comedian Chelsea Handler in 2017.
For the record, we do not try to impeach our student body president after every conservative speaking event on campus. Since the University of Florida opened its doors in Gainesville in 1906, there has been only one other impeachment inquiry into a student body president; in 2009, Kevin Reilly was investigated over various concerns, including violations of the Florida Sunshine Law and conspiring to keep minority-party senators out of committee seats. He was ultimately not impeached and, interestingly enough, eventually went on to work in Governor Scott’s administration.
The Florida Republican Party seems to think that the impeachment inquiry is solely about inviting a member of the Trump family to campus, but that is not the case. My fellow senators and I have no qualms with free speech. This is an issue of conflicts of interest and fiscal responsibility, revolving around how $50,000 in mandatory student fees ended up going down the drain, in the direction of the swamp.”