“Well, House Speaker Mike Johnson crashed Hamas’s spring break at Columbia today.”

That quip came from the Fox News host Jesse Watters, who was interviewing Mr. Johnson on his prime-time show Wednesday.

In response to a standoff between student protesters and the university’s president, Mr. Johnson had visited Columbia University’s campus, where students had set up encampments in solidarity with Palestinians. He was booed during a brief news conference on the steps of a school library.

“So many of them, Jesse, don’t know what the heck they’re talking about,” Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Johnson’s appearance on “Jesse Watters Primetime” embodied the chiding and often adversarial tone of conservative media toward the latest wave of protests on college campuses over Israel’s campaign in Gaza. In the conservative media sphere, the protests are fresh evidence of the disorder and unrest that have long gripped liberal institutions — particularly at Ivy League schools — as social movements like Black Lives Matter, and now pro-Palestinian activism, spread their influence.

“There’s a difference between educated people and smart people,” Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and Fox News host, said on the network Tuesday. “A lot of these college kids are educated, but they’re not real smart.”

It’s an old line that has met a new moment.

For years, conservative commentators have routinely pointed to incidents on campuses as illustrative of elite, liberal hypocrisy. Instances of conservative speakers being shouted down by students during events were grist for the idea that university administrators were intolerant of dissenting views, while coddling students.

In 2016, then Fox News host Todd Starnes pointed to a Black Lives Matter protest inside a Dartmouth College library as evidence that white students were being “verbally assaulted.” Two years later, Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist, said on Fox: “I find on college campuses, the most intolerant people are those people that preach tolerance.”


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