Conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and the former leader of the far-left domestic terrorist group Weather Underground, Bill Ayers, battled in a contentious debate held at Dartmouth University on Thursday night.
Billed as the “ultimate fight between left and right,” the pair clashed on a variety of topics including, libertarianism, Israel, the Second Amendment and Ayers’ radical past. We’ve compiled a list of highlights from the debate below:
D’Souza questions Ayers about his radical past
D’Souza drew some laughs when he told Ayers that he began his activist career in “bin Laden mode.”
“You tried to bomb the Pentagon, you tried to bomb the U.S. Capitol,” D’Souza said. “You sounded totally different today. You talked about teaching, you talked about being an educator, you talked about Socratic doubt and wonder. So my question is: What happened to that old revolutionary?”
Without directly acknowledging his role in the domestic terror plots, Ayers said he still considers himself a “revolutionary” in his thinking, but that he doesn’t support overthrowing the government.
“I still consider myself as someone who sees the need for fundamental change,” he said, adding that the struggle against “white supremacy” is still ongoing.
D’Souza explains his views on minority rights
A Dartmouth student pressed D’Souza about allegations that he discriminated against members of the LGBT community while working as an editor at the university’s newspaper. He was also asked what he has against the gay community.
D’Souza denied the allegations, calling them falsehoods made up by far-left sources like Mother Jones.
When Ayers pushed for an answer from the filmmaker on the student’s latter question, D’Souza said he believes that everyone in America is a “minority of one.”
He explains: “I don’t believe in racial rights, I don’t believe in rights that accrue to groups. I believe that individuals we have all the rights that we are entitled to under the Declaration of Independence of the Constitution, gay and lesbians included.”
“Amazing,” Ayers replied sarcastically.
Ayers on the U.S. Constitution
During the debate, Bill Ayers argued the Constitution is “there to be changed,” citing voting rights as one of the things the country still needs to fight for.
“One of the things we need to fight of every person to vote,” he said. “One of the things that astonishes me is how much effort goes into suppressing the vote, to trying not let people vote. And this comes largely from the right, but it comes a lot of other directions too.”
The former domestic terrorist called for “universal suffrage” to be included in the Constitution.
“Everyone should have a right to vote and everyone’s access to the ballots should be unrestricted,” Ayers said, adding America has “felony disenfranchisement” because felons in prison aren’t allowed to vote.
D’Souza and Ayers clash on the issue of slavery and the Holocaust
Hitting back at D’Souza’s claim that America’s success is based on massive wealth creation unlike the world has ever seen, Ayers claimed that the nation was founded with a “theft” of the land that didn’t belong to the settlers in the first place.
He said “90 percent of the residents who lived here were murdered.”
But D’Souza said they see America through the lenses two different kinds of exceptionalism.
“If I were talking about great Americans, I would talk about the wealth creators. Benjamin Franklin, Edison, Steve Jobs — I think those three guys, collectively, have done more than the redistributers combined.”
D’Souza also argued against Ayers’ assertion that 90 percent of Native Americans were murdered, saying instead that the majority contracted disease and died. However, he did admit that some atrocities did occur.
Left vs. right on the Second Amendment
Unsurprisingly, Ayers said he is in favor of limiting the Second Amendment and implementing more gun control.
“I think that we’ve gone way too far and we need to find a way to take back some of the extreme gun ownership that exists,” he said. “I think we should disarm.”
He called for “serious background checks” and “serious limits” on what type of weapon Americans can buy — because no one has a right to own a “machine gun.”
Speaking from a constitutional perspective, D’Souza said the Second Amendment is written the way it is for a reason. He made the case that a reasonable person wouldn’t agree with putting seriously restrictive limits on the First Amendment and the same consideration should be given to the Second Amendment.
“I’m not for uzis, I’m not for machine guns, but let’s extend some of the same respect to the Second Amendment that we automatically, instinctively extend to the First.”
Ayers and D’Souza debate the merits of libertarianism
Ayers’ closing argument
D’Souza’s closing argument
This story has been updated.