Trump Tweet on UC Berkeley Funding Attracts Criticism from Democrats

SACRAMENTO -- Democratic lawmakers in the California Senate quickly denounced a tweet from President Donald Trump threatening to withhold funding from UC Berkeley for cancelling a speech by Breitbart News editor and Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos.

His appearance on campus was preceded by riots, which damaged property and resulted in numerous injuries.

“If UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” Trump wrote.

Democratic senators spoke during a floor session to go on the record regarding their disapproval of the tweet, which they saw as punishing the university for the actions of a violent few that could not be controlled by the school.

"Our university, which worked hard to protect free speech rights, was under attack and it's important that that be denounced on the floor of the Senate," said Education Committee chair Dennis Allen.

But Republicans, without referencing the funding threat, said the university did not do enough to protect Yiannopoulos' rights to appear. Many said any controversial liberal speakers appearance would not have been cancelled.

"It's a shameful retreat from the ideals of this country and I denounce it in the strongest possible terms," said Republican Senator Ted Gaines of El Dorado Hills.

Others said the legislature should not over-react to the tweet since legal scholars have said it would be difficult to withhold any of the estimated $400 million in federal funds the university gets for reasons not related to how it is spent. Much of that funding has to do with specific research and is awarded on a competitive basis. An additional $250 goes for student aid.

Democratic Assembly member Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, who watches the University of California budget closely, said lawmakers should continue the task making sure the university is funded and affordable for students, chalking the tweet up to Trump rhetoric.

"If we're responding and looking at tweets everyday from Donald Trump, we're in trouble," McCarty said.