Right-wing conservatives masterminded the violent upheaval at Berkeley this week to make progressives appear opposed to free speech, according to a conspiracy theory floated Thursday night on CNN.
CNN Tonight's Don Lemon invited the former secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, to explain his theory that it was actually "right wingers" behind the violence that upstaged a planned speech by Breitbart author, Milo Yianoppoulos.
"I’ve heard there was some relationship here between these people and the right wing and the right-wing movement that is affiliated with Breitbart News," Reich claimed.
Reich said Berkeley allowing Yianoppoulos on campus proves it's supportive of free speech.
Here's the transcript:
LEMON: “I’ve been wanting to have this conversation because this has been a big issue about free speech on campus and conservative voices being heard. Mr. Reich, my first question to you is, there’s a violence that we saw at Berkeley. We had it live here on CNN last night. It ultimately plays right into the hands of the right-wing white supremacist, someone like Milo Yiannopoulos.”
REICH: “It absolutely does, Don. And I want to be very, very clear. I was there for part of last night and I know what I saw. Those people were not Berkeley students. Those people were outsiders, agitators. I’ve never seen them before. There’s rumors that they actually were right-wingers. They were a part of a group that were organized and ready to create the kind of tumult and danger you saw that forced the police to cancel the event. So Donald Trump, when he says Berkeley doesn’t respect free speech rights, that’s a complete distortion of the truth. I mean, Berkeley opened its biggest auditorium to this right-wing Breitbart News character, this hateful odious person. They said, ‘Free speech is the most important thing we stand for,’ and it was these outsiders who caused the police to finally come in and have to cancel it.”
LEMON: “You think it’s a strategy by Yiannopoulos or right-wingers? They put this on in an effort to show there’s no free speech on a college campus like UC Berkeley?”
REICH: “I wouldn’t bet against it, Don. Again, I saw these people. They all looked almost paramilitary. They were not from the campus. And I’ve heard — again, I don’t want to say factually, but I’ve heard there was some relationship here between these people and the right wing and the right-wing movement that is affiliated with Breitbart News.”
LEMON: “It is interesting because there have been protests but nothing this violent. We haven’t seen anything to this level.”