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House Speaker Mike Johnson calls for Columbia president's ousting, echoing a familiar and effective threat

Grace Eliza Goodwin   

House Speaker Mike Johnson calls for Columbia president's ousting, echoing a familiar and effective threat
  • House Speaker Mike Johnson wants Columbia University's President out.
  • Johnson and other House Republicans have criticized her handling of campus protests and antisemitism.

House Speaker Mike Johnson wants Columbia University's president to resign, calling her "inept" and "weak."

Johnson, who is visiting Columbia on Wednesday, has railed against Nemat "Minouche" Shafik's handling of pro-Palestinian student protests and antisemitism on campus following Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel and Israel's subsequent war in Gaza.

Upon his arrival to campus Wednesday evening, Johnson was greeted by a crowd that booed and heckled him, while a few cheered, according to an Axios reporter who posted a video to X.

Though Johnson does not have the power to directly oust a college president, similar calls from political figures have fueled recent resignations.

After lawmakers and powerful figures urged the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn to resign following their congressional testimony about on-campus antisemitism in December, both Harvard's Claudine Gay and UPenn's Elizabeth Magill did resign, though MIT's president Sally Kornbluth has maintained her role.

"What we're seeing on these college campuses across the country is disgusting and unacceptable," Johnson said on "The Hugh Hewitt Show" on Wednesday. "Every leader in this country, every political official, every citizen of good conscience has to speak out and say that this is not who we are in America, and we have got to have accountability."

"It's unconscionable," Johnson added. "This president, Shafik, is shown to be a very weak, inept leader. They cannot even guarantee the safety of Jewish students? They're expected to run for their lives and stay home from class? It's just, it's, it's maddening."

Columbia students began camping out on campus last week to protest Israel's war in Gaza, arguing that the country is committing genocide against the Palestinian people. They're also demanding that the university divest from companies that support Israel.

As the protests were ramping up, Shafik testified to Congress, where she took a much stronger stance against antisemitism than her college president peers had done at their hearing months before. When Congress asked Harvard's Claudine Gay, for example, whether students calling for a Jewish genocide would violate university policies, she answered with, "It can be, depending on the context."

On the second day of protests, Shafik called in the NYPD, which arrested more than a hundred pro-Palestinian student protesters on suspicion of trespassing. The protests have continued in the days since, with some student groups saying Jewish students have been targeted with offensive, antisemitic rhetoric on campus.

In response to the ongoing campus unrest, House Republicans have been threatening to withdraw federal funding from Columbia and other schools experiencing similar protests, arguing that they've failed to protect Jewish students' safety.

"We're going to call on educational institutions like Columbia, if you cannot control what is happening at your university, if the president at this university is failing to keep students safe, then she shouldn't be eligible for any federal aid coming into this university," NY Republican Rep. Anthony D'Esposito said on Monday after visiting campus, according to The Washington Post.

Johnson echoed those calls on "The Hugh Hewitt Show" on Wednesday, adding that the visas of protesting students can be revoked.

Johnson is scheduled to meet with Columbia Jewish students and the university's Rabbi Yuda Drizin on Wednesday before holding a press conference where he and other House Republicans are expected to formally call for Shafik's resignation, The Washington Post reported.

"The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days," Shafik wrote in a statement on Monday following her decision to call NYPD to campus. "These tensions have been exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas. We need a reset."

Representatives for Shafik did not immediately respond to BI's request for comment.

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