Image: Liberty Hangout
Last Saturday, on April 13th, gun rights activist and InfoWars correspondent Kaitlin Bennett was invited to join a panel at Slippery Rock University to answer students’ questions about concealed carry on campus. Sitting alongside Bennett on the panel was Brian McLaughlin, President of the College Republicans at Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock Mayor Jondavid Longo, and Pennsylvania State Representative Aaron Bernstine.
Despite the President of the university urging the College Republicans not to invite Bennett to speak on campus, the Saturday event went on as planned and drew a crowd of more than 80. William Behre, President of Slippery Rock University, was quoted as saying, “I don’t think inviting her was the best way to have a serious conversation. I will gladly sit down with any student organization and have any conversation, but she’s not a student here and I don’t think she was the best choice to bring onto campus.”
Multiple reporters from the school’s student-run newspaper, The Rocket, were in attendance for the 2nd amendment rally. Hope Hoehler, the Assistant Campus Life Editor, and Hannah Shumsky, the Assistant News Editor, were seen in the audience taking notes throughout the duration of the event, as Paris Malone and Jack Hopey took photos.
The Q&A created an engaging dialogue and lasted for hours. Two members of the audience interrupted the event to lambaste the organizers for inviting someone from InfoWars to participate in the conversation. After Rep. Bernstine and organizers from the College Republicans quickly shot back at them for rudely interrupting the event, Bennett stepped in to say, “I’m proud of myself for what I do. You call this disgusting, inhuman or disturbing, the only person who represents that is you. You took an opportunity to discuss self defense for these students and turn it into something about your feelings. And then you get up and you get your little rant going because you are so emotional you can’t even ask a question; you grab your bag to leave. That is so disgusting and disrespectful, and it shows that you’re a coward.”
However, The Rocket had a much different spin of events. In a hit-piece titled Misfire: Inviting hate to campus, The Rocket lied about the encounter, saying, “Bennett did nothing to further the conversation and went out of her way to belittle and demean members of the audience.”
But their lies about Bennett don’t just end there.
The article refers to Bennett as a “reporter” for InfoWars, with quotes around the word to infer they don’t believe she is actually a reporter. Without providing any citation for their claims, they state, “Bennett is also a ‘reporter’ for InfoWars, a media conspiracy organization that is facing multiple defamation lawsuits for reporting blatantly false information about the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.”
Immediately after this accusation, the authors then go on to lie and say, “At the rally Bennett claimed that her presence at SRU was solely for the purpose of the Second Amendment rally, proceeded to interview students on campus for an InfoWars video published days later on Bennett’s Liberty Hangout Youtube channel.”
The Rocket failed to do any fact checking, seeing as Bennett made it clear on Twitter days before the event that she would not only be attending the 2nd amendment rally, but planned on interviewing students afterwards as well.
Catch me this Saturday answering questions on a panel about Campus Carry and gun rights with @SRUCollegeReps at Slippery Rock in PA. And you already know I’m breaking out the Infowars mic for interviews on campus later ✔
— Kaitlin Bennett (@KaitMarieox) April 10, 2019
After saying that “inviting a radical such as Bennett to campus showcased a disastrous lapse in judgment on behalf of the College Republicans and those associated with the rally”, The Rocket goes on to show their bias against Bennett by agreeing with President Behre that she should not have been invited. “We believe SRU President Dr. William Behre was correct when he said that including Bennett in the rally would take away from any serious conversation being had, and we commend him and members of university administration for not attending the event.”
The Rocket proceeds to lie about another encounter Bennett had on campus that day, as they proclaimed that a member of their staff “was harassed by Bennett for taking her picture”.
While Bennett was interviewing students for a video about Ilhan Omar’s 9/11 comments, The Rocket’s Photo Editor, Paris Malone, followed Bennett very closely without introducing himself or explaining what he was doing. Bothered by him walking so close to her, Bennett asked Malone if he was following her, to which he said yes. Malone continued to follow Bennett around campus despite her making it clear she felt uncomfortable.
At one point, Bennett turns around to ask Malone, “Do journalists usually follow one specific woman around on a public college campus, watching what she’s doing?” Malone stood there in silence instead of answering her question. Bennett followed up by asking, “You can’t defend yourself here, is that what I’m getting?” Malone once again stood there in silence.
Prior to their encounter, Malone took photos of Bennett from a distance while she stood by her car. Bennett expressed concerns about this to College Republican president, Brian McLaughlin, since she did not want the car’s license plate to be seen in any of the photos.
The article then proceeds to accuse Bennett of being a “conspiracy theorist”, without providing any citation. They claim, “Including a conspiracy theorist such as Bennett provided no educational or tangible value to students or the SRU community.”
Then, the most damning accusation against Bennett is where they call her a “white-supremacist sympathizer”, and say “the ideology of a white-supremacist sympathizer who uses social media to attack the survivors of school shootings shouldn’t be welcome anywhere, not just on a college campus.”
Left-wing pundits have repeatedly called for violence against those they label as white supremacists, and this defamatory statement against Bennett unequivocally puts her life in danger.
When the mainstream media falsely accused high school students from Covington Catholic of shouting racial slurs at a Native American elder, blue-check marked liberals took to Twitter to threaten the teenagers’ lives. Kathy Griffin called for the boys to be doxxed. Will Leitch, the founder of Deadspin Sports, called for the teenage boys to all be punched. And Michael Buchanan, a Los Angeles hip-hop DJ better known as House Shoes, said to “LOCK THE KIDS IN THE SCHOOL AND BURN THAT BITCH TO THE GROUND.”
Just weeks prior to Bennett’s visit at Slippery Rock University, CBS released a trailer for their show The Good Fight. The trailer urges Americans to punch white supremacists when they see them. The man in the trailer calls for violence because “some speech is not equal and requires a more visceral response”. He then says not all ideas should be tolerated in public discourse, just as The Rocket’s article says Bennett’s ideology “shouldn’t be welcome anywhere”.
After the Bernie Sanders campaign made the same false accusation against Bennett, people threatened to kill her for her “white power”.
In the final paragraph of the article, the authors accuse Bennett of having “oppressive rhetoric”, and say that she “[seeks] to suppress others through bigotry and hate.” In the last sentence, they say “It’s on us as students to make sure that Bennett and other enemies of human decency don’t have a voice on our campus.”
The hit-piece on Bennett has no name attached to the article, and instead says it’s written by The Rocket Staff. A notation was added to the top of the article after receiving backlash on social media, which states “Our View is a staff editorial produced collaboratively by the entire Rocket Staff. Any views expressed in the editorial are the opinions of the entire staff.“
According to their website, there are 12 members of their 2018-2019 staff. This would mean the defamatory article was written and endorsed by the following:
- Eric Davies, the editor-in-chief of The Rocket and New Media Intern with the Pittsburgh Penguins, according to his public LinkedIn profile. Davies has Bennett blocked on Twitter, indicating an already present vendetta against the conservative icon. Davies has retweeted hate towards Bennett prior to the release of this hit-piece.
- Adam Zook, the news editor of The Rocket.
- Oscar Matous, sports editor of The Rocket.
- Stephen Cukovich, another sports editor for The Rocket.
- Megan Bush, campus life editor of The Rocket.
- Heather Donat, the copy/web editor of The Rocket.
- Paris Malone, photo editor of The Rocket. Malone is the photo journalist that followed Bennett on campus, and continued to do so after she made it clear she was uncomfortable. Malone was formerly an intern with USA Today, according to his public LinkedIn profile.
- Lauren Ault, the advertising manager of The Rocket.
- Hannah Shumsky, the assistant news editor of The Rocket. Shumsky was seen in attendance at the 2nd amendment rally Bennett spoke at.
- Hope Hoehler, the assistant campus life editor. Hoehler sat next to Shumsky at the rally.
- Jack Hopey, the assistant photo editor of The Rocket. Hopey not only took photos of Bennett that day, but liked comments on Facebook which mocked Bennett for feeling unsafe as a result of their defamatory article.
- Sarah Allen, the assistant copy/web editor of The Rocket.
Liberty Hangout reached out to The Rocket’s editor-in-chief, Eric Davies, on four separate occasions to ask for a retraction and apology for their defamatory statements. Since a member of the Rocket Staff responsible for this article was mocking Bennett for feeling unsafe, we asked Davies if it was the publication’s intention to incite violence and put Bennett’s life at risk with their hit-piece. Davies did not respond to a single email.
Liberty Hangout also reached out to the Chair of the Communications Department, Professor Katrina J. Quinn, to ask “do you denounce the author(s)’ lack of ethics in producing this smear piece, and do you believe the students involved should retract their article?” Quinn did not respond to us.
We also emailed the President of the University, William Behre, asking if he would “agree that putting someone’s life in danger to further an agenda is completely unacceptable.” Despite being open to providing comments to The Rocket which bashed Bennett, President Behre refused to provide a comment to Liberty Hangout about whether or not he believes threatening Bennett’s life is unacceptable.
However a student from Slippery Rock University seems to think President Behre shares the same opinions as the Rocket staff.
The Rocket’s hit-piece on Bennett is still up and no retractions have been made. Meanwhile, multiple members of The Rocket staff have made their Twitter accounts private, instead of apologizing for their blatantly false statements, and defamatory accusations.
UPDATE: Since publishing this article, Jack Hopey deleted his like on the Facebook comment that mocked Bennett for feeling unsafe due to The Rocket’s untrue statements.
However Hopey has since liked tweets from fellow SRU students that appear to go after Bennett. Hopey liked an April 22nd tweet from Tommy Carroll that included more false statements about Bennett, and mocked her for “[playing] the victim when [she] got called out”. This is the second instance that Hopey has liked comments mocking Bennett for feeling like their false statements put her life in danger.
Eric Davies, the editor-in-chief of The Rocket, has still not responded to any of our multiple requests for a retraction. However, he has made the time to like tweets attacking Slippery Rock’s Mayor, Jondavid Longo, for defending the 2nd amendment rally he spoke at alongside Bennett. The tweet Davies liked, from Tabitha Giacalone, says, “the mayor of Slippery Rock, PA makes me embarrassed to be a SRU student.”
Meanwhile, Slippery Rock University’s Associate Provost for Student Success apparently sees nothing wrong with The Rocket’s libelous hit-piece on Bennett that endangers her life. Dr. David Wilmes tweeted, “Not sure why some people are getting upset by this one.”
2nd UPDATE: After adding the earlier update to our article which included a tweet from Tommy Carroll that Jack Hopey liked, both Carroll and Hopey made their Twitter accounts private, indicating they have read this article and again been made aware of Bennett’s concerns for her safety. However no retractions have been made.
We also called The Rocket’s office to ask Eric Davies for a 5th time if he would retract the hit-piece on Bennett. Davies hung up as soon as we mentioned we were with Liberty Hangout.
WATCH Bennett pick apart their hit-piece below: