Conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza faced off with retired liberal professor Bill Ayers Wednesday evening at the University of Michigan — and appeared to briefly get the better of him during a back-and-forth on the criminal justice system.
The two political commentators were asked if they felt the criminal justice system “has become too political.” Ayers responded first.
“Our political justice system is a catastrophe. It’s a catastrophe,” he said. “And what was exposed in Ferguson, that the criminal just system is kind of powered … by the kind of targeting of poor people. That’s true in Ferguson, that’s true in Chicago.”
“One of the things that I think is catastrophic in it, is that our political system is now for sale — it’s on the auction block,” Ayers added, referring to a campaign finance violation committed by D’Souza. “I think the criminal justice system is deeply corrupt and it’s corrupted by politics.”
D’Souza fired back with a response that prompted the crowd to erupt in applause.
“The inequity of our criminal justice system is on full display right on this podium right here,” he said. “So I gave $20,000 of my own money over the campaign finance limit. I got 8 months in overnight confinement. You bombed the Pentagon and tried to bomb all kinds of other things — how much time did you do in the slammer?”
Ayers served no time in prison as charges were dropped because the government failed to obtain the proper warrants for some surveillance against the Weather Underground. The liberal academic, nonetheless, pressed D’Souza.
“The fact is that you admitted to committing a felony, which you did. And it’s a felony pretty serious in a democracy,” Ayers said. “It was an attempt to buy an election.”
D’Souza noted that Democratic fundraiser Sant Singh Chatwal, who committed similar campaign finance violations, received no prison time for his crime.
“Here’s my point. Yes, justice is a matter of, ‘Did you break the law?’ But it’s also a matter of, ‘Does the penalty fit the crime? Do other guys who do the same thing get roughly the same offense?’ Under the Obama administration I will say that progressive justice is a complete sham,” D’Souza argued.
The debate between the two was sponsored by the Young Americans Foundation, an organization that supports young conservatives.
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