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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Sen. Ted Cruz event moved off campus due to UW-Madison masking policy, sparking controversy

United States Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, visited Madison, Wisconsin for a live recording of his podcast “Verdict with Ted Cruz” with co-host Michael Knowles Wednesday night. The event was hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). 

The event, which was originally scheduled to be held at Shannon Hall at Memorial Union on campus, was shifted to the Wisconsin Masonic Center — off campus — to avoid UW-Madison’s “double-standard mask policy,” according to the YAF. 

On Tuesday, Cruz tweeted that the university was trying to “stifle free speech” and that their “Marxist COVID mandates” would not stop the event, describing it as “academia's war on conservatives.”

In a statement to The Daily Cardinal, Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Communications John Lucas said that the Wisconsin YAF had previously agreed to ensure that attendees would follow university COVID-19 guidelines such as masking. Student Life staff, the University of Wisconsin Police Department and other university officials had “worked to support a successful event, meeting with organizers, planning and providing security,” Lucas said. 

“UW-Madison was advised [Tuesday evening] that organizers [had] opted to move their event to a different location in Madison,” said Lucas, underscoring that “the medical evidence is clear: wearing masks saves lives by preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

YAF national spokeswoman Kara Zupkus said that a request for an exemption from the masking requirement for the event was denied by the university. 

At the Wednesday event, American conservative political commentator Liz Wheeler reiterated Zupkus’ statement, describing face masks as “face diapers.” 

“We recognize that [masking] creates some inconvenience, but it is consistent with the approach we’ve taken for our instructors and other public events, such as convocation, this semester," Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs John Karl Scholz wrote in a Monday letter to YAF about the masking requirement, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. "The only exemptions we are granting at the present time involve artistic performers whose performance itself would be impossible or significantly compromised with a mask.”

This decision sparked controversy about the university in conservative circles — nationally and locally

“[University officials are] liberals willing to do anything in their power to muzzle your voice, '' said Wheeler to the crowd Wednesday. “I have a message for the University of Wisconsin-Madison tonight: we will not comply.” 

Kicking off the live tour of “Verdict with Ted Cruz,” president of the Wisconsin YAF Blake Weiner discussed the campus climate, describing calls to take down the “beloved” Abraham Lincoln statue on Bascom Hill as “radical.” 

Following the introduction from Wisconsin YAF and Wheeler, Cruz and Knowles began recording the conservative podcast, touching on issues relating to the economy, COVID-19 and required vaccinations, as well as several other current political issues. 

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During the event, an audience member yelled at the speakers calling Cruz an “ignorant ass” before promptly leaving. Knowles and Cruz concluded the evening by taking questions from the audience. 

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Sophia Vento

Sophia Vento is a former editor-in-chief of The Daily Cardinal. She previously served as the college news editor. She has covered breaking, campus, city, state and sports, and written in-depth stories about health, culture and education. She previously interned with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Any newsroom would be lucky to have Sophia on staff. Follow her on Twitter at @sophiasvento.

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