Famed political prankster Vermin Supreme is not welcome to speak at Liberty University —but he showed up anyway Monday night.
Vermin Supreme, a political satirist who wears a rubber boot on his head and has run in every presidential election since 1992 — campaigning on a promise of free ponies for all Americans and mandatory tooth brushing laws — was invited to speak to LU’s Young Americans for Liberty group yesterday, but students said that appearance fell through after LU denied its speaker request form. However, after he allegedly was denied permission to speak at an official campus event, Vermin Supreme stopped by LU to meet with students as a visitor.
Vermin Supreme appeared at the invitation of students, adorned in his customary boot, promising free ponies and preaching the virtues of mandatory tooth brushing laws and zombie apocalypse awareness.
“It’s unfortunate I was unable to make a full presentation today,” Vermin Supreme told about 100 students in the Three Seasons Room in DeMoss Hall, where he spent about two hours speaking with the crowd.
Vermin Supreme’s appearance comes in spite of allegedly being denied permission to speak at an official campus event. According to Matthew Lofgren, an LU student and secretary of Young Americans for Liberty, the organization was told Vermin Supreme’s appearance had “no value” to the university. Young Americans for Liberty has been at LU since 2012 and is self-described as “a student group dedicated to advancing classically liberal, traditionally conservative ideas,” on Facebook.
Lofgren told The News & Advance “They [administration] said they saw no value in Vermin Supreme, so they denied him [permission] to come speak at Liberty as a guest speaker.”
According to an email provided by Lofgren, the speaker request was denied Jan. 6.
“Unfortunately Dr. [Mark] Hine denied the request to bring in Vermin Supreme for your event as he did not see value in bringing him to the university,” stated the email from Jack Heaphy, LU student body president.
Last week Liberty spokesman Len Stevens said the university would not comment on the issue.
Lofgren said an event request form was approved by the university in late November, but a subsequent speaker request application was denied by the university, which would have covered the $1,000 cost to host Vermin Supreme. Speakers on the LU campus require administration approval.
In the past, LU has brought a variety of speakers to campus, ranging from newly elected President Donald J. Trump to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, both of whom visited LU in 2016.
Without university funds to support Vermin Supreme’s appearance, Young Americans for Liberty sought to raise the money online and host Vermin Supreme off campus. Those plans fell through when an online fundraising effort by Lofgren stalled at $105, well short of the target goal of $1,000.
According to Lofgren, students funded Vermin Supreme’s appearance, the fee for which he said was “dramatically decreased.”
Lofgren said he was surprised at the decision by LU officials and had looked forward to bringing Vermin Supreme’s raucous brand of political satire to campus for an event planned for 200 students. Vermin Supreme previously visited the Liberty campus for the 2009 film “Vote Jesus,” in which he caricatured the politics of conservative Christians. The film was never released to the public.
“You hear so much about all the Democrats hating Republicans, all the Republicans hating Democrats, and it gets old. And [with Vermin Supreme] you get a guy who just wants to make fun of everyone,” Lofgren said.
According to Lofgren, the plan was for Vermin Supreme to speak to students and share a screening of the 2014 independent documentary “Who Is Vermin Supreme? An Outsider Odyssey,” which explores the long, strange journey of the political prankster and his history as a fringe candidate.
Vermin Supreme, reached via email, said he was grateful to LU students for the invitation to speak.
“Let me say that this may or may not be a ‘free speech’ issue. As a private institution the decisions they make in terms of content presented on campus is theirs,” Vermin Supreme said via email.
Vermin Supreme regularly speaks at colleges across the country.
LU was one of three college campuses listed as stops on Vermin Supreme’s ongoing 2017 “Victory Tour,” which continues with upcoming stops across the East Coast. Other universities, according to a schedule posted on his Facebook page, are Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, where Vermin Supreme performed Wednesday, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he is scheduled to perform Thursday.
According to Jonathan Blanchard, a Clarkson student and vice president of the Clarkson Union Board, which is responsible for scheduling speakers and events, Vermin Supreme’s appearance was well attended and enjoyed by the students who turned out for his appearance at the university.
“All in all there was a significant amount of lowbrow humor, some clever political references and a brief serious portion of the show. He came as an entertainer, not a speaker. We had well over 400 people in attendance, completely filling the capacity of the performance area,” Blanchard wrote via email.