Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos (disclosure) testified before the Senate Education Committee last night, drawing a wide range of denunciations from progressive pundits for her rather mainstream views on education reform.
According to Michigan Capitol Confidential, she was also asked why she donated $10,000 to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, characterized as a “far right” group by a spokesman for Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.
In response, DeVos’s own spokesman said she supported FIRE because she’s an “unabashed supporter of the First Amendment” even if she doesn’t support any particular speech.
CapCon‘s Derek Draplin, a former College Fix writer, delves into FIRE’s history and recent actions to see if the “far right” slur applies:
For many years, FIRE has defended the free speech and due process rights of college students without regard for their party affiliation or ideology. It has represented student activists promoting liberal or left-wing causes on multiple occasions. In one case, FIRE was active in opposing the Catholic University of America for not authorizing a campus chapter of the NAACP, which some students wanted to form.
The group has been active in Michigan, where it found most public universities have at least one policy that “clearly and substantially” restricts speech, and it denounced a university president for encouraging students to tear down flyers they disagree with.
FIRE often gets results when it intervenes in campus infringements on speech, as Draplin notes: Michigan State reversed its refusal to fund a student group’s event because its free-market speaker had a “political agenda,” and Central Michigan rewrote a policy that told student groups they had to accept anyone as a member regardless of “political persuasion.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been amended to include a disclosure.