Jay Leno defends Mizzou protesters: School president was ‘clueless’

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On Friday, Real Time host Bill Maher argued with panelists Jay Leno, Michael Steele and Dylan Ratigan about the university protests at Mizzou.

The protests kicked off around Halloween when a university email asking students not to wear culturally insensitive costumes touched off a discussion of appropriateness and the nature of offense.

“You could call a government operation ‘Wetback,’ and no one said anything about it,” Leno said of the current culture calling out anything that could be deemed offensive. “Now the pendulum swung back, so now the other side gets a taste of what it’s like. Will it come back to the center? I believe it will.”

Maher then criticized the resignation of university president Tim Wolfe.

“Do we purge even clueless people from their job now?” he asked. “Is that where we are with the battle against racism?”

“I say yes,” Leno responded. “You know why? Because if you’re president of the university, you shouldn’t be clueless. When I saw the faces of those African-American young kids when they had won, they looked like Julian Bond in 1965. They looked like all the black students that protested when I was in college that did the sit-ins that didn’t think they would get whatever it was [that they wanted]. It’s just a different version of that. I applaud them. They looked like they won something. One of those people could be a senator.”

Maher and Leno’s discussion came at a time when racial tensions at Mizzou have recently spiked, with the local NAACP setting up a confidential telephone hotline number to student to call in and report racist threats. This was done in the wake of many threats of violence posted to social media at the time.

Friday, nine former employees of MU signed and released a statement describing racist incidents that made them uncomfortable, including when cotton balls were scattered outside the black culture center in 2010.

In addition to supporting the protestors the statement says the university’s inability to retain minority faculty contributes to the problem.