Tomi Lahren accuses UT students of ‘barfing on conservative speakers,’ no instances reported
The Turning Point USA speaker claimed students tried to assault her by over-eating refried beans and watermelon.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Conservative speaker and television personality Tomi Lahren took to Twitter Monday to accuse University of Tennessee students of “gorging themselves on watermelon and refried beans in an attempt to barf on conservative speakers.” University of Tennessee Police officials disagree, however.
Lahren is associated with the university’s Turning Point USA chapter. Turning Point, a non-profit aimed at spreading conservative ideals at colleges and universities, hosts speakers like Lahren, who spoke on April 21 at UT’s Dabney-Buehler Hall, often. Lahren is also the host of Fox News’ Final Thoughts and No Interruption, where she hosts personalities that commentate on news.
Lahren has faced controversy for her political takes. She previously compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the Ku Klux Klan, saying “It’s just that there are things that need to be said and a lot of people are afraid to say them.”
Lahren was also banned from The Blaze, a conservative media group, for her comments on abortion on The View. On the show, Lahren claimed she was “pro-choice,” saying “I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government, but I think the government should decide what women do with their bodies.”
WVLT News reached out to the UTPD for clarification on Lahren’s claims of assault. There were no instances of students throwing up on conservative speakers, according to UTPD representative Lola Alapo. Kerry Gardner with the university also confirmed that they had not been made aware of any instances of assault, either by students or Lahren’s team.
UT student Nick Martindale spoke with WVLT News about the event, saying one student brought beans and a watermelon, but was not trying to assault anyone. “It was just one guy, not all the liberal freaks,” Martindale said. “And he didn’t throw up/wasn’t trying to make himself throw up.”
Twitter user Kurt Schelzig claimed to be the student that brought the watermelon and beans to the event. He did not, he said, try to assault her. “I didn’t try to puke on her though she made that up,” Schelzig said on Twitter.
The student also said that event security took his watermelon and can of beans before he entered the event. Schelzig spoke to UT’s student-run newspaper The Daily Beacon, saying he was inspired by comedian Eric Andre, who is known for acting absurdly at conservative rallies and events.
The event was not without protest, however.
The “Talking with Tomi” event distributed free tickets through Eventbrite. Those interested only needed to reserve a spot, unless they wanted a $10 VIP ticket. Twitter user @hayleed33 posted a ticket link leading up to the event, asking her followers to reserve spaces for Lahren’s event to “steal the seats.” The goal being to reserve all the spots available, then skip the event. @hayleed33′s tweet ended up getting 93 retweets, 35 quote tweets and 215 likes.
WVLT News also spoke to several UT students, who confirmed that they did indeed reserve seats with no intention of attending. They told WVLT News that Lahren’s history of spreading misinformation and far-right political opinions inspired them to protest the event. While Gardner was not able to provide how many tickets were reserved, they did tell WVLT News that between 50 and 100 students attended the event.
Bailee Paxson, Turning Point USA’s UT Chapter President, also spoke to the Daily Beacon, where she claimed that the event was listed on Eventbrite with a 200,000 reservation cap before it sold out, so the protesting seat-reservers did not affect the turnout significantly. She also said that Turning Point’s goal is not to cause controversy, but rather to spark conversations between politically-minded students.
WVLT News has reached out to both Tomi Lahren’s representatives and Turning Point USA’s UT chapter for comment, but has not received a response back.
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