J.K. Rowling has been outspoken about her disdain for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Though she has made clear that the brash real estate mogul is not her cup of tea — she once tweeted that "Voldemort was nowhere near as bad" as Trump — she recently rose to his defense, saying that Trump had a right to speak freely despite her frequent opposition to what he has to say.
At the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Gala on Monday night, Rowling referred to an online petition banning Trump from entering the U.K. that was widely circulated last year. When the audience cheered at its mention, Rowling said:
Now, I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot.
"Unless we take that absolute position without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination," Rowling continued. "If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed a line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justifications."
The debate surrounding freedom of speech is one most heatedly played out on college campuses across the country. Student activists have pushed for bans on prominent speakers with radical viewpoints (or, at least, ones that they don't agree with), called for disciplinary sanctions for their peers who attend "culturally insensitive" parties, and demanded the shutdown of a student-run newspaper for publishing an op-ed criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement.
Many see this growing trend as a suppression of freedom of speech in the very institutions where robust debate and plurality in thought and expression should thrive. But as college administrations continue to grapple with the fine line between restricting things like offensive speech and ensuring an open learning environment, Rowling's defense of Trump's right to free speech makes a vital point. "His freedom," she said, "guarantees mine."
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.