NDSU president addresses bigoted messages from Republican students in video message to campus

MINOT, ND — Last week, I reported on bigoted posts shared in a Telegram messaging group organized by young Republicans in North Dakota, including a student leader from North Dakota State University.

Today, NDSU responds to the controversy, with President David Cook responding to bigoted remarks in a video statement sent to campus this afternoon.

“While comments are protected by free speech, I want to reaffirm that NDSU values ​​an inclusive and collegial community, and these comments do not reflect our values,” Cook said in the video statement. “I encourage everyone to continue working towards a community of respect as we begin our semester.”

North Dakota’s Young Republicans are affiliated with the NDGOP, although they lost their vote on the party’s executive committee in December.

In response to posts on the organization’s Telegram group criticizing state Rep. Josh Boschee, Ben Schirrick, the current president of the NDSU College Republicans, referred to a “fag festival.” Boschee, a Democrat from Fargo, is the first openly gay man to serve in the North Dakota Legislature.

Another user described Boschee and Fargo City Commissioner John Strand, who is also gay, as “creatures from alphabet soup,” a reference to the LGBTQ+ acronym.

Yet another user posted a white supremacist trope about a man who stole a plane in Washington, referencing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews control the media.

A source who is a member of the group and spoke to me on condition of anonymity said there was no criticism of this hateful language from other members of the group, which however includes several prominent Republicans, including party district presidents, legislative candidates and current elected officials. legislators.

When I contacted Schirrick by phone for comment, he posted additional messages on the messaging group referring to our conversation and again using the insult. Carter Eisinger, a Republican candidate for State House in Fargo’s District 11, showed his support for Schirrick’s use of the insult, writing that he was proud that his name was included in screenshots of its use. According to his LinkedIn profile, Eisinger is an electrical engineering student at NDSU with an internship at John Deere.

Schirrick also said using the insult would be the “least triggering” thing he’s done this year. When I spoke to him on the phone for last week’s story, he told me he was going to “hit the ground and go hard” on the NDSU campus this school year.

He acknowledged that his comments were hateful, but maintained that they were legally protected. “Hate speech is freedom of expression,” he told me, which is true, although it should be added that criticism of hate speech is not censorship.

The NDSU Student Government also condemned the messages in an email sent this morning, August 23.

A source at school provided me with a screenshot.

An email sent on behalf of the NDSU Student Government condemning recent racist and homophobic slurs posted by members of the North Dakota Young Republicans, including Ben Schirrick, the current president of the NDSU College Republicans.

Screenshot submitted

“Although this hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, our student government does not condone offensive statements because they do not align with NDSU values,” the emailed message read.

NDGOP President Perrie Schafer condemned the use of slurs over the weekend.

“NDGOP strongly condemns the offensive statements made by a group of young Republicans this week on their chat platform,” the party statement read. “We have always encouraged diversity of thought and respectful speech, as well as respect for our political opponents. What we have seen this week in no way aligns with the views of the NDGOP or the Republican Party.”

My source at the North Dakota Republican Young Group tells me there have been a few defections from the Telegram messaging group, but not many. The group had 102 members when I first reported this story. My source now says they are down to 95, although they added that there have been few new posts since my story was posted.

“They have mostly gone quiet,” they told me.

Grand Forks Legislator Claire Cory and Bismarck-area legislative candidate Dawson Holle are two of those who left the group, though Rogers Rep. Cole Christensen, NDGOP District 38 President Jared Hendrix and Andrea Toman, campaign manager for U.S. Senate candidate Rick Becker, remain members.

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